Grammar - Intermediate

Present Perfect Continuous Structure

To make the present perfect continuous, we use the present perfect of the verb "to be" and then we use the main verb in the 'ing' form.

She has been working here for almost a year now.
We have been waiting here since over an hour ago!

Here is the verb read in all forms of the present perfect continuous.

Present Perfect Continuous
Positive Negative Question
I have been reading
You have been reading
He has been reading
She has been reading
It has been reading
We have been reading
You have been reading
They have been reading
I haven't been reading
You haven't been reading
He hasn't been reading
She hasn't been reading
It hasn't been reading
We haven't been reading
You haven't been reading
They haven't been reading
Have I been reading?
Have you been reading?
Has he been reading?
Has she been reading?
Has it been reading?
Have we been reading?
Have you been reading?
Have they been reading?

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I have been washing the car. Look at it - isn't it spotless!
They have been wanting to get married for over five years.

You haven't been watching that terrible soap opera again have you!
She hasn't been studying hard enough and will fail the exams.

Have you been sitting here waiting for long?
Why have you been reading my letters?

Present Perfect Continuous Use

We use the present perfect continuous to talk about an action that started in the past and is either still continuing or recently finshed.

I have been reading that new book of mine all morning.

We are more interested in the activity and cannot be sure from this sentence if the person has finished reading or not.

We often use this tense to say how long something has been happening.

I have been learning English for about five years.
John has been working for this company since last October.

Present Perfect Simple or Continuous?

Compare these sentences:

I've been repairing the TV for hours.
I've repaired the TV! Are you happy?

In the first, the activity is being spoken about and we are not sure if the TV is fixed yet or not. In the second, there is no doubt that it has been repaired.

I've been writing letters for two hours.
I've written four letters.

The present perfect continuous is often used to talk about how long. The present perfect simple to talk about how many.

You can't say I've been writing four letters.

I've lived in this town all my life.
I've been living with my girlfriend for a month.

The difference here is that the simple form is used to show permanence whereas the continuous form is used for a shorter period of time. There is a similar difference between the present continuous and the present simple.

Second Conditional

A second conditional sentence is comprised of two halves.

If + Past Simple Then Would   +   Infinitive

We use the second conditional to say what we might possibly do in an unlikely situation.

We have seen in Pre-Intermediate level how the zero conditional and the first conditional are used to talk about possibility and result. The second conditional is another structure used to talk about present or future possibility but it sees the possibility as very unlikely, remote, improbable.

Look at these examples:

If I won the lottery, I would buy a big house in France.
I would take the job if I were you!

The first situation is not very possible. The second is impossible. Both sentences are describing present/future situations. The second conditional is not used to talk about the past. For that, see the Third Conditional!

Often, we use were for every person in the second conditional. It's OK to use was for he, she and it but it is considered "better" to use were:

If she were married, she would understand my situation.
He could play basketball if he were taller.

First or Second Conditional?

We have already discussed how both these conditionals refer to present or future time. So what is the difference? Look at these sentences:

Milton Jones, Politician: "If I become President, I will cut taxes."

John Smith, taxi-driver: "If I became President, I would cut taxes."

Milton uses the First Conditional as he sees the possibility of becoming President as real. He is, after all, a politician. John is a taxi driver and has no chance of actually becoming President. So for him, it is a dream, an imagined situation. And this is where we use the Second Conditional.

Look at these final examples of "unreal" possibility where the second conditional is necessary.

If I met Michael Jackson at a party, I would speak to his monkey.
I would be so much fitter if I stopped smoking.
If you caught the early bus every week, you would have more time at home.

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