How to Be A Better Communicator in English Using The Present Perfect Continuous

communicatong snipAre you currently studying English in a traditional school? If you are, I’m sure you learning all about grammar, verb tenses, and all the other ins and outs (technical things) of the English language. But when it comes time to use your English in a real conversational situation, do you feel like you are communicating in a clear and fluent manner?

Most English learners will say NO to this question. The problem with many traditional learning methods is that they focus too much on the grammatical aspect of the language (rules, structures, systems), and are not focusing on how to really use  English in a conversation.

When learning the rules and structural parts of the language, try to think of how you would use this in a conversation, what is the real purpose of this grammar point, as opposed to, what is the rule and the structure behind it.

In this article you are going to learn a cool way to use the present perfect continuous, and how you can apply it in a conversation, improving your English conversation skills immensely.

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What is the Present Perfect Continuous?

The present perfect continuous (PPC) is a great tool for a fast and generalized conversation with someone.

When I haven’t seen someone for a long time, I generally want to know all their news but in a summarized and quick way. This is exactly what the PPC does.

STRUCTURE: Subject (I, You, Bob etc..) + Have/Has (3rd person) + Been + Verb (continuous).

So when I haven’t seen someone in a while I would generally say, “Hey, what have you been doing?”

When I use the PPC in this way, I ‘m asking the person about all their recent news and activities. The response to this question would also be in the PPC, specifying what recent activities they have done. For example:

  • I’ve been working a lot
  • I’ve been studying
  • I’ve been traveling
  • I’ve been feeling a little sick

Without having to say anything else, the other person will interpret all of these activities as recent actions. That is why the PPC is a great conversational tool, and it makes you a really good communicator because it’s fast and succinct.

Let’s go through a typical dialogue between two people who haven’t seen each other in a long time:

Speaker 1: Hey Bro, long time no see!

Speaker 2: Yeah I know, it’s been ages (a long time).

Speaker 1: So, what have you been doing?

Speaker 2: Well, I’ve been working a lot and surfing on the weekends. What about you?

Speaker 1: You know, I’ve been working too. I’ve also been building a house which has been affecting my social life a lot. I haven’t been going out on the weekends because I’m investing all my money into my house.

Speaker 2: Ahh, I see. So I guess you haven’t been surfing at all, right?

Speaker 1: No I haven’t, I really want to go this weekend though.

Speaker 2: You should, the waves have been pumping (surf terminology for really good waves). I’m going to go this Saturday morning, If you’re not too busy I’ll call you and we can go together.

Speaker 1: Ok great! I’m looking forward to it (excited about it). See ya later mate (Australian English).  

Speaker 2: Catch ya later bud!

As you can see in this short dialogue, the two speakesr were using the PPC to summarize all their recent activities in a clear and concise way.

Are you using the expression WHAT’S UP correctly? Find out here

Start to think about what you have been doing recently and summarize it all using the Present Perfect continuous. Have you been studying? Maybe you’ve been going out and partying a lot, or even play sports or relaxing.

I’m sure you can summarize whatever you’ve been doing  simply and quickly using the present perfect continuous.

What Have You Been UP TO?

Often you’ll hear people say:surf time

“What have you been up to?” instead of, “What have you been doing?”

Have you heard this expression in an English speaking country before?

UP TO, is just a colloquial way to say DOING or DO.

You are going to hear this expression in many other ways than just with the present perfect continuous. Here are some other examples to show you how to use the expression “up to”:

  • What are you up to? What are you doing?
  • What did you get up to on the weekend? What did you do on the weekend?
  • He’s up to no good! This expression suggests that the person is doing something bad or suspicious.

Learning grammar can be troubling for many language learners. A great way to help learn when and how to use each verb tense and grammar point is to remember the situations in which you use that rule.

Start to think of all these rules as “tools” for your English. Using the present  perfect continuous is a great example of this, remembering that it is a tool usually used to summarize recent activities.

If you have enjoyed this article and want to learn more about alternative ways of studying English, sign up to our mailing list and you will recieve a free copy of the RealLife English Podcast Power Lesson. We also have a large variety of articles that will teach you many different aspect of the language. See the links below!

  • kartini says:

    hi chad…
    i am an english teacher in my island…i teach for secondary school…
    reading about ur article makes me motivate to learn more about how to teach so my students are easy to catch the subject…
    i want to be like u one day

  • helped me a lot.

  • Gertraud Müller says:

    Thanks a lot…it's a real good topic.

  • Olga says:

    Very useful, thanks a lot. Keep on!