The past continuous tense in English is used quite often, especially when telling stories!
Here are some examples
|1||A continuous action in the past which is interrupted by another action or a time:I was taking a bath when the telephone rang.
At three o’clock, I was working.
|2||Background information, to give atmosphere to a story:It was a beautiful day. The birds were singing, the sun was shining and in the cafes people were laughing and chatting.|
|3||An annoying and repeated action in the past, usually with ‘always’:He was always leaving the tap running.
(In the same way as the present continuous)
|4||For two actions which happened at the same time in the past:
I was watching TV while he was reading.
[has/have + been + present participle]
- You have been waiting here for two hours.
- Have you been waiting here for two hours?
- You have not been waiting here for two hours.
USE 1 Duration from the Past Until Now
We use the Present Perfect Continuous to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Tuesday” are all durations which can be used with the Present Perfect Continuous.
- They have been talking for the last hour.
- She has been working at that company for three years.
- What have you been doing for the last 30 minutes?
- James has been teaching at the university since June.
- We have been waiting here for over two hours!
- Why has Nancy not been taking her medicine for the last three days?
USE 2 Recently, Lately
You can also use the Present Perfect Continuous WITHOUT a duration such as “for two weeks.” Without the duration, the tense has a more general meaning of “lately.” We often use the words
“lately” or “recently” to emphasize this meaning.
- Recently, I have been feeling really tired.
- She has been watching too much television lately.
- Have you been exercising lately?
- Mary has been feeling a little depressed.
- Lisa has not been practicing her English.
- What have you been doing?
Remember that the Present Perfect Continuous has the meaning of “lately” or “recently.” If you use the Present Perfect Continuous in a question such as “Have you been feeling alright?”, it can sugges
t that the person looks sick or unhealthy. A question such as “Have you been smoking?” can suggest that you smell the smoke on the person. Using this tense in a question suggests you can see, smell, hear or feel the results of the action. It is possible to insult someone by using this tense incorrectly.
REMEMBER Non-Continuous Verbs/ Mixed Verbs
It is important to remember that Non-Continuous Verbs cannot be used in any con
- Sam has been having his car for two years. Not Correct
- Sam has had his car for two years. Correct
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
- You have only been waiting here for one hour.
- Have you only been waiting here for one hour?
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
- Recently, John has been doing the work. Active
- Recently, the work has been being done by John. Passive
The grammar used in written language and the grammar used in conversational language are often quite different. In fact, what’s normal, common, and acceptable in spoken language is often considered unacceptable in written language. For that reason, we’ll take a look, in the next several Hints, at what some of these differences are.
1. Yes / No Questions
BE + subject + other words?
Is anyone absent?
Are you hungry?
Are Joe and Bill brothers?
Was she at work today?
Were Jun’s parents born in Japan?
AUXILIARY + subject + verb + other words?
Is anyone listening?
Are you feeling hungry?
Are Susie and Jill coming to the party?
Can you understand this?
Will you help me?
Should we stay or leave?
Has Fred’s wife had her baby yet?
Have you seen that movie?
Have you had lunch yet?
Had they already left when you arrived?
Do / Does / Did + subject + verb + other words?
Do you understand me?
Does your apartment have air conditioning?
Did Joe call you last night?
Do you do your laundry more than once a week?
Did your brother do well on his exam?
In everyday conversation, Yes / No questions are often “abbreviated” by omitting some of the words. The result is sentences that are common, normal, and acceptable for speaking, but not acceptable in writing. There are two main ways that these “abbreviated” questions are made.
Here’s one of them:
Omitting BE or the Auxiliary Verb
Is anyone absent? ===> Anyone absent?
Are you hungry? ===> You hungry?
Was she at work today? ===> She at work today?
Is anyone listening? ===> Anyone listening?
Are you feeling hungry? ===> You feeling hungry?
Are Susie and Jill coming to the party? ===>
Susie and Jill coming to the party?
Has Fred’s wife had her baby yet? ===?
Fred’s wife had her baby yet?
Have you seen that movie? ===>
You seen that movie?
Have you had lunch yet? ===> You had lunch yet?
Had they already left when you arrived? ===>
They already left when you arrived?
Do you understand me? ===> You understand me?
Does your apartment have air conditioning? ===>
Your apartment have air conditioning?
Did Joe call you last night? ===> Joe call you
Do you do your laundry more than once a week? ===>
You do your laundry more than once a week?
Did your brother do well on his exam? ===>
Your brother do well on his exam?
Eslcafe.com is a great resource for information. They continually help BBE with the format of lessons, including this one!
‘to look after’ means to take care of someone or something.
- When I have to travel on business, my parents usually look after my children.
- I look after the office when my colleagues are away on business.
‘to look ahead’ means to think about and plan the future.
- We have to look ahead and try to estimate our needs for the next few years.
- In this business, it’s very difficult to look ahead and predict what will happen.
‘to look at’ means to read something quickly and not very thoroughly.
- Could you look at my report and tell me if you think it’s OK?
- I looked at your figures and they seem fine to me.
‘to look at’ can also mean to investigate or think carefully about a problem or situation.
- Costs are getting out of control. We need to look at them closely.
- John looked at renting cars but it would be too expensive.
‘to look back’ means to think about something that happened in the past.
- I realise I was very naive when I look back.
- If we look back over the last three years, we can see many times when we were very successful.
‘to look down on’ means to think something or someone is inferior.
- The people who work in Headquarters always look down on the people in the branches.
- Don’t look down on him just because he left school at 16. He has been very successful.
‘to look for’ means to try to find something lost or that you need.
- My assistant is leaving at the end of the month. I’m looking for a new one.
- He has been looking for a job for ages now.
‘to look forward to’ means to feel excited and happy about something that is going to happen.
- I’m seeing him on Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to it.
- We’re looking forward to our English classes.
‘to look in’ means to visit someone for a short time.
- I’ll look in on my way home and we can have a cup of tea.
- Look in on Jenny and check that she is still working.
‘to look into’ means to examine a problem or situation.
Certain vocabulary words are necessary in order to conduct business in English. Here is a list of the most commonly used business nouns.
When learning new vocabulary, it’s important to not translate, rather, learn to visualize. Check out BBE’s principales for a better explanation.
Usage: At, on, in:
At, on and in are prepositions of place and show the position of people, places and things:
e.g. at the cinema on the wall in the shop
at + the + place: the cinema, theatre, school, BBE, cross roads etc.. e.g. at the bank.
at + specific place: Heathrow Airport, Buckingham Palace: e.g. at Notre Dame Cathedral.
at + specific address including the house number/name: e.g. at 33 rue de La Fayette, Paris.
N.B. In English, at is not normally used with names of villages, towns and cities.
on + a/the + surface of a place or object: shelf, wall, floor, ceiling etc.. e.g. on the table.
on + the directions: left/right/other side/nearside/far side: e.g. on the left.
on + levels of a building: first floor, second floor, top floor etc.. e.g. on the ground floor.
on + the + parts of a ship: port side/ starboard side/bow/stern.
on + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. on his left arm.
on + a/the + types of transport: horse, bicycle, train, foot etc.. e.g. on the ferry, on a horse.
N.B. English people say in a car ( not on a car ).
in + names of countries: France, England, Poland etc.. e.g. in Belgium.
in + names of towns, villages, cities: Warsaw, London etc.. e.g. in Brussels.
in + named places: Buckingham Palace, the Louvre etc.. e.g. in Windsor Castle.
in + the + geographical regions: Auvergne, Lake District etc.. e.g. in the Alps.
in + streets, roads, avenues: Moniuszki, Fish Street etc.. e.g. in Stratford Avenue.
in + the + rooms and places: kitchen, bedroom, foyer, auditorium etc.. e.g. in the bathroom.
in + the + weather: sun, rain, hail, snow etc.. e.g. in the fog.
in + parts of the body: his foot, her leg, our heads etc.. e.g. in his foot.
in + a/the + types of transport: car, train, van, lorry, aeroplane, ship e.g. in a train.
A: In English, certain expressions are different, so must be learnt!
at the moment on holiday in a loud/angry/quiet/low voice
at this/that moment on the radio in a good/bad mood
at the same time on television in a bad temper
at no time on the menu in a suit
at present on the agenda in a new dress
at the end/beginning in clean/dirty/new shoes
B: Some expressions are used without a/the, here are some common examples:
at school in bed
at home in business
at school in hospital
at school in prison
at 37 k.p.h.
C: Both on and in can be used for types of transport and parts of the body:
On is used when the part of the body/type of transport is the most important detail.
In is used when position is the most important piece of information.
e.g. Peter travelled to London on the train. – type
John sat in the last carriage of the London train. – position
Joanna has a cut on her left arm. – part of the body
Ania has broken a bone in her wrist. – position in the body
D: At and in can be used with places which can contain large numbers of people: cinema, theatre, church, stadium etc..
At is used when the activity is the most important piece of information.
In is used when the place/position is the most important detail.
e.g. I will meet you for a meal at the usual restaurant.
Richard and Magda met in the foyer of the Royal Theatre.
E: Both at and to can be used with places:
At is used when there is no active movement in the phrase/sentence.
To is used when there is movement in the phrase/sentence
e.g. At school, there are forty teachers and four hundred pupils. – no movement
Marcin is cycling to London to visit his friends. – movement
F: Both at and to can follow certain verbs: the meaning of the verb is different in each case: to throw, run, shout.
e.g. Bill threw a stone to me. ( a friendly action )
Bill threw a stone at me. ( a hostile action: intending to hurt someone )
Maria ran to me. ( a friendly action )
Maria ran at me ( a hostile action: intending to attack )
Eric shouted to me. ( a friendly action )
Eric shouted at me ( a hostile action: intending to express anger )
G: The preposition by is often used with transport when the type of transport is very important: the common examples are: by aeroplane, bicycle, horse, car, ferry, horse, lorry, ship, train
e.g. The businessmen travelled to Africa by aeroplane and in Africa, they travelled by car.
N.B. Walking is travel on foot ( not by foot )
Note: Thanks to world-english.org for the information!
[has/have + past participle]
- You have seen that movie many times.
- Have you seen that movie many times?
USE 1 Unspecified Time Before Now
We use the Present Perfect to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important. You CANNOT use the Present Perfect with specific time expressions such as: yesterday, one year ago, last week, when I was a child, when I lived in Japan, at that moment, that day, one day, etc. We CAN use the Present Perfect with unspecific expressions such as: ever, never, once, many times, several times, before, so far, already, yet, etc.
- I have seen that movie twenty times.
- I think I have met him once before.
- There have been many earthquakes in California.
- People have traveled to the Moon.
- People have not traveled to Mars.
- Have you read the book yet?
- Nobody has ever climbed that mountain.
- A: Has there ever been a war in the United States?
B: Yes, there has been a war in the United States.
How Do You Actually Use the Present Perfect?
The concept of “unspecified time” can be very confusing to English learners. But, in general, remember that the present perfect is used for an action in the past that has a result of now.
It is best to associate Present Perfect with the following topics:
TOPIC 1 Experience
You can use the Present Perfect to describe your experience. It is like saying, “I have the experience of…” You can also use this tense to say that you have never had a certain experience. The Present Perfect is NOT used to describe a specific event.
- I have been to France.
This sentence means that you have had the experience of being in France. Maybe you have been there once, or several times.
- I have been to France three times.
You can add the number of times at the end of the sentence.
- I have never been to France.
This sentence means that you have not had the experience of going to France.
- I think I have seen that movie before.
- He has never traveled by train.
- Joan has studied two foreign languages.
- A: Have you ever met him?
B: No, I have not met him.
TOPIC 2 Change Over Time
We often use the Present Perfect to talk about change that has happened over a period of time.
- You have grown since the last time I saw you.
- The government has become more interested in arts education.
- Japanese has become one of the most popular courses at the university since the Asian studies program was established.
- My English has really improved since I moved to Australia.
TOPIC 3 Accomplishments
We often use the Present Perfect to list the accomplishments of individuals and humanity. You cannot mention a specific time.
- Man has walked on the Moon.
- Our son has learned how to read.
- Doctors have cured many deadly diseases.
- Scientists have split the atom.
TOPIC 4 An Uncompleted Action You Are Expecting
We often use the Present Perfect to say that an action which we expected has not happened. Using the Present Perfect suggests that we are still waiting for the action to happen.
- James has not finished his homework yet.
- Susan hasn’t mastered Japanese, but she can communicate.
- Bill has still not arrived.
- The rain hasn’t stopped.
TOPIC 5 Multiple Actions at Different Times
We also use the Present Perfect to talk about several different actions which have occurred in the past at different times. Present Perfect suggests the process is not complete and more actions are possible.
- The army has attacked that city five times.
- I have had four quizzes and five tests so far this semester.
- We have had many major problems while working on this project.
- She has talked to several specialists about her problem, but nobody knows why she is sick.
Time Expressions with Present Perfect
When we use the Present Perfect it means that something has happened at some point in our lives before now. Remember, the exact time the action happened is not important.
Sometimes, we want to limit the time we are looking in for an experience. We can do this with expressions such as: in the last week, in the last year, this week, this month, so far, up to now, etc.
- Have you been to Mexico in the last year?
- I have seen that movie six times in the last month.
- They have had three tests in the last week.
- She graduated from university less than three years ago. She has worked for three different companies so far.
- My car has broken down three times this week.
“Last year” and “in the last year” are very different in meaning. “Last year” means the year before now, and it is considered a specific time which requires simple past. “In the last year” means from 365 days ago until now. It is not considered a specific time, so it requires Present Perfect.
- I went to Mexico last year.
I went to Mexico in the calendar year before this one.
- I have been to Mexico in the last year.
I have been to Mexico at least once at some point between 365 days ago and now.
USE 2 Duration From the Past Until Now (Non-Continuous Verbs)
With Non-Continuous Verbs and non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the Present Perfect to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Tuesday” are all durations which can be used with the Present Perfect.
- I have had a cold for two weeks.
- She has been in England for six months.
- Mary has loved chocolate since she was a little girl.
Although the above use of Present Perfect is normally limited to Non-Continuous Verbs and non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, the words “live,” “work,” “teach,” and “study” are sometimes used in this way even though they are NOT Non-Continuous Verbs.
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
- You have only seen that movie one time.
- Have you only seen that movie one time?
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
- Many tourists have visited that castle. Active
- That castle has been visited by many tourists. Passive