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Writing Tenses: Prompts for Present Continuous and Present Prefect Continuous

Updated on November 20, 2012

Why Hello There! And What Brings You To This God-Forsaken Desert?


As requested! A Spotlight on Present Continuous and Present Perfect Continuous

For those of you just tuning in, I've offered to share materials and lessons I've developed over the last few years of teaching English as a foreign language. If you have any requests, please leave a message in the comments section with a note about the question and general language level needed.

This one, however, will focus on exploring the subtle differences between the Present Continuous (am/is/are + verb-ing) and Present Perfect Continuous (has/have been + verb-ing) through the writing prompt I mentioned here, and other examples.

Hi there! How have you been?
Hi there! How have you been? | Source

First Situation

You run into an old friend on the street; you haven't seen each other for years! Write a dialogue in which you two get reacquainted.

What kind of information can you give using the present continuous? (am/is/are + verb-ing)

  • What you are currently doing in the present. Can continue into the future, but doesn't have to. For example: "I am running errands" or "I am going to my sister's graduation ceremony."
  • Note that while technically you are in the middle of both of these actions (running errands and going to your sister's graduation), the graduation is actually in the future. Although admittedly it's the "near future".
  • If you add a specific time, you can stretch something out into the not-so-near future. For example: "I am retiring next year." For things much farther in the future, you can say "I will be retiring in the coming year."

What kind of information can you give using the present perfect continuous? (has/had/have been + verb-ing)

  • Something that you are doing now but which began in the past. For example "I have been writing a novel."
  • If you want to, you can be specific: "I have been writing a novel for the last few months/since last March."
  • If you are NOT specific, then your audience will assume a duration based on the task. For example: "She has been hopping on one leg" (for a very short time) or "She has been thinking about trying out for a part in the school play" (for a few years, since her sophomore year, etc.)

Model Dialogue

A - Hey! How have you been? I haven't seen you since last Christmas. What are you up to?

B - It surely has been a long time. Well, I am working on a screenplay, but I have been having trouble with the character development. Since then I have been thinking about branching out into non-fiction. What about you? What have you been doing?

A - I'm sorry to hear about the difficulty you've been having. I think you should definitely take a break and try something new. I am thinking about moving in with my boyfriend. He has been asking me to move in for a couple months.

B - How exciting! Moving in would help you save money, and we all know how important that is in this economy...

Keep Going

Think carefully about the difference in the situations described by the two different tenses, and the two tenses together.

If you have trouble, try to "diagram" the situation. Draw a line, mark the present, and then see if you can figure out what parts of the timeline are included in the example.


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    • pen promulgates profile image

      Imran Khan 2 months ago from Mumbai, India

      Hey mistakenly posted the second comment. It was for a new Hubber struggling to clear QAP. Please ignore :)

    • pen promulgates profile image

      Imran Khan 2 months ago from Mumbai, India

      Also, follow Hubbers like theraggededge and Marisa Wright. Read their hubs. They have useful advice for everybody. Good luck with your venture :)

    • pen promulgates profile image

      Imran Khan 2 months ago from Mumbai, India

      Quite helpful. Thanks Dorothy.