Wednesday 9 May 2007

AAE: Q53: present perfect simple vs continous


Which is correct:
How long have you been working there? or
How long have you worked there?


Hi Marites

I will use your question to briefly explain the difference between present perfect simple and continous:

It is possible to use both the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous to speak about situations that started in the past and are still continuing, and also about situations that have just finished and affect the present.

The difference between the two tenses in these situations is one of emphasis.

The present perfect simple suggests a completed action and focuses more on achievements and results. Consider the following:

'I’ve finished my English and geography homework, but I haven’t started my history essay yet.'

'She’s travelled to a lot of countries, but she’s never been outside of Europe.'

'Have you ever tried Thai food?' 'No, never. What’s it like?'

The present perfect continuous, however, suggests that the activity is not yet completed, or we wish to emphasise the length of time it has lasted or stress the continuous, on-going nature of the activity. Consider the following:

'How long have you been waiting for this bus?' 'I’ve been standing here for over half an hour. These buses never come.'

'I’ve been looking for a summer holiday job for three weeks now, but I still haven’t found one.'

'We’ve been living here in Brighton since 1988 – the year we got married.'

To answer your question:

'How long have you been working there?' and 'How long have you worked there?'
are both correct.

The only slight difference is one of emphasis: the first question emphaisises the on-going, continuous nature of the work whereas the second empasises the achievement and results.

Hope this helps


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