The difference in use between Present Perfect Continuous vs Present Perfect (Simple)

Present Perfect Continuous vs Present Perfect Simple
Both tenses are used when something STARTED IN THE PAST AND IS STILL CONTINUING NOW. We use present perfect simple when we think about the RESULT OF AN ACTION. We use present perfect continuous when we think about THE ACTION (WHAT WE ARE DOING).

An example of present perfect simple and present perfect continuous used to describe the same situation. The differences in use.

Present perfect continuous used to describe a woman who has been preparing dinner for an hour”
Present perfect simple used to say that she has broken a bottle as a result.

present perfect continuous: “The woman has been preparing dinner for an hour” (we think of the action, WHAT she has been doing, not the result).

present perfect simple: “The woman has broken the bottle of wine” (we think of the result of her preparing the dinner), “The woman has prepared beans and sausages for dinner” (result=they are ready to be eaten, on the plates).

Other examples of present perfect continuous vs present perfect (simple) use in a sentence

  • I’ve been cutting vegetables for 10 minutes. / I’ve cut my finger.
  • She’s been writing a book since last year. / She’s written a new book.
  • They’ve been arguing for 2 hours. / They’ve argued and now they’re not speaking to each other.

More about present perfect continuous

As these 2 tenses are similar because they both started in the past and are still continuing, sometimes both tenses are possible for 1 sentence. With words like “LIVE”, “WORK”, “STUDY” we can use both present perfect simple and present perfect continuous. For example sentences “I have worked for this company for 5 years” and “I have been working for this company for 5 years” are both correct.

Both tenses can be used and are often used with words that express duration like: for 3 years, for a long time, for ages, since 2008.

Present perfect continuous is usually used to EMPHASIZE this duration. “I have been waiting for 4 years for you to tell me you love me” (I want to emphasize the duration of “4 years”, say it is a long time for me). Nonetheless, “I have waited for 4 years for you to tell me you love me” is also possible. It may, in the context indicate more that you don’t want to wait no more, while “have been waiting” can be used more in a context when the person finally tells you he loves you. However, these differences are very subtle, little, and both sentences are grammatically correct.