The Perfect Continuous Tenses

The Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Form: have/has + been + present participle. Has is used with third person singular number subject i.e. he, she or it.

We use this tense for an action that began in the past, continues in the present and may continue in the future.

Study these examples:

I have been working in this college for the past ten years. (I am still working here).

I have been trying to solve this problem for an hour. (I am still trying to solve it)

We sometimes use the present perfect continuous even when the action is over. Then we want to emphasize that the activity continued without intermission. Or we are giving a reason or excuse for something.

Study these examples:

He has been reading since morning and now he has a headache.

I have been working in the garden the whole morning. Now I am tired and dirty and need a bath.

Adverbs commonly used in this tense form are: since, for, ever, never, always, often etc. remember since is used with a point of time and for with a period of time.

Verbs like lie (down), rest, sleep, sit are used more often in the present perfect continuous than in the present perfect, e.g.

The football has been lying under the bed the whole day (rather than has lain).

The cat has been sitting under my chair all this time (rather than has sat).

The Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Form: had + been + present participle.

The past perfect continuous tense is used for an action which began at some time in the past and was in progress at some time later in the past. This tense indicates that the earlier of the two actions in the past was continuous.

Study these examples:

She had been writing a novel for the past one year when I visited her last year.

Mr. Fernandez had been teaching in this college for 15 years when I joined in 1995.

The past perfect continuous in indirect speech:

The old woman said, “I have been waiting for my son for seven years.”

The old woman said that she had been waiting for her son for seven years.

The Future Perfect Continuous Tense

Form:  shall/will + have + been + present participle.

It denotes an activity partly completed but still in progress over a period of time in future, e.g.

I shall have been working here for 30 years next month.

She will have been talking on the phone for two hours by the time her father arrives.

The Perfect Tenses

The Perfect tenses

Perfect tenses are formed with the helping verb to have and the past participle.

  • Why are they called perfect? Study these examples:

At 8 o’clock we say: “The news will come on the television at 8.30.”

At 8.30 we say: “The news is coming on the television.”

When the news broadcast is over we say: “The news has come on the television.” The action is finished, complete or perfect.

The Present Perfect Tense

  • Form: have/has +past participle (3rd form of verb).


  • We use the present perfect tense for an action that is just completed, e.g.

I have just finished my lunch. (It implies that I am not hungry and cannot have anything more).

They have just reached home. (It implies that they are perhaps tired and need rest).

  • We use the present perfect tense for an action that took  place in the past but we are more interested in the present consequences of the action than in its definite time in the past, e.g.

I have completed my work. (It implies that now I am free to play/watch television etc.).

  • We use the present perfect very often with indefinite adverbials of time. e.g. yet, already, often, never, always, sometimes, etc. We do not use a definite adverbial of time, e.g. ago, a minute ago, long ago, last night, yesterday, on Monday etc. With these we use the simple past.


  • We use the present perfect sometimes for an action which began in the past, continues in the present and may continue in the future, with adverbial phrase beginning with for and since, e.g.


I have been here for the past 15 years.

He has worked here since 1990.

I have not met him since Friday.

  • But we use the present perfect continuous more often for this purpose.


The Past Perfect Tense

  •  Form: had + past participle (3rd form of verb). 


  • The past perfect tense is used for an action begun and completed before another action. It is used for the earlier of the two actions in the past. So we usually need it  only in a sentence with two clauses and not in a simple sentence, e.g.

 The bus had left before we reached the bus-stop.

As we had missed the bus we waited an hour for the next,

I had finished the work before the guests arrived.

He had left for his office when I got to his house.

  • It is used in indirect speech to replace both the simple past and the present perfect in direct speech, e.g.

 She said, “I waited for you for an hour and then I went away.”

She said that she had waited for him for an hour and then she had gone away.

He said, “I have done this work.”

He said that he had done that work.

  • Notice that the present perfect is used in sentences which use after, before, when, until etc. in them.


Future Perfect Tense

  • Form: shall/will + have + past participle (3rd form of verb). 


  • It is used for an action beginning and ending at some given time in the future. So it is usually followed by a phrase like by this time or a clause like before something happens, e.g.  

 You will have reached Delhi by 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.

Mother will have prepared the lunch before we reach home.

The painters will have painted the building before the school re-opens.

My little sister will have gone to school by 8 o’clock.

  • Note that we use this tense when we are thinking of a point in the future time and looking back from it to what happened before.
  • Also note that if there is a second clause it is in the present tense, as is usual after conjunctions of time.

The Little Red Hen – Audio Story

The Little Red Hen

  1. Listen to the story of The little Red Hen and answer the questions given below:

How many chicks did the little red hen have?

What did she find one day?

Did her friends help her plant the wheat?

Who planted the wheat?

When was the wheat harvested?

Did the little red hen’s friends help her harvest the wheat?

 Who harvested the wheat?

Who would grind the wheat?

Did the little red hen’s friends help her take the harvested wheat to the miller?

Who took the wheat to the miller?

What did they bring home?

What did the little red hen plan to do with the flour?

Did her friends help her bake the cake?

Who prepared the cake?

How did they prepare the cake?

When the cake was ready, what did the little red hen ask?

How did the dog, the cat and the duck respond to the hen’s question?

What did the little red hen tell them?

Who ate the delicious cake?

What do you learn from the story? Do you think the little red hen should have shared the cake with her lazy friends?