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The Present Perfect Continuous tense refers to an action that started in the past and it's still in progress at the moment of speaking.
We form this tense by using the auxiliary verb 'to be' in the present perfect tense plus the present participle (the -ing form) of the main verb:
The Present Perfect Continuous tense is used for actions that started in the past and are still in progress at the moment of speaking (the moment NOW). So, if I tell you how long the action has been taking place, we are referring to the part of the action that is completed so far, hence the need of the perfect aspect of the verb. However, the action is still continuing, hence the need for the progressive aspect.
They've been playing for 2 hours. [It is now 4pm.] => They've been playing since 2 o'clock.
We can use two different expressions for specifying the time element.
[He is 10]=> He's been studying English for 3 years./He's been studying English since he was 7.
These two verbs are sometimes interchangeable. The main difference is that the Present Perfect Continuous gives the action in question an added sense of continuity in the present. Consider:
In examples 1. and 2. there is a sense of the action still continuing in the present and this is more evident in the first sentence than in the second one. However in examples 3. and 4. (where the element of the duration is absent) the actions are clearly different. In example 3. it is evidently continuing in the present, but in example 4. it is obvious that the work with the company stopped before the moment of speaking.
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