Difference Between Have And Have Been
To have done an action is used in the present perfect tense, which means that the action has been completed in the past. For example “I have visited France” indicates that I was in France sometime in the past. It may also be used to describe an action which began in the past but there is no indication whether the action has stopped in the present or continues in the present. The sentence “I have lived in this house for 40 years” conveys that in the past I lived in this house; however it is not known whether I continue to live in this house or when I stopped living in this house. The best way to recognise the present perfect tense is to see if the second verb ends in “ed” (like visited).
On the other hand, to have been is used in the present perfect continuous tense, which conveys an action which began in the past and is still continuing in the present. Consider the sentence “I have been living in this house for the past 40 years”. The person moved into this house 40 years ago and continues to live in the same house. In the present perfect continuous tense, the verb after “been” ends in “ing” such as “living”.
Examples of “to have” to describe actions which have been completed or are unclear if they are continuing:
- John has retired from his job. (Action is completed)
- Mary has received her pay check. (Action is completed)
- We have owned this car for five years. (Not known if we still own this car, although we owned it in the past.)
- They have finished their concert tour. (Action is completed)
- Sarah has left her husband. (Action is completed)
- We have eaten all the cookies. (No cookies are left, Action is completed).
- I have loved my dog like my own child. (Action started in the past but unclear if it continues in the present – Do I still love my dog?)
- Your unreasonable attitude has resulted in this quarrel. (Action started in the past and perhaps continues in the present)
- I have traveled to many countries in Europe. (Action started in the past and not clear if it continues in the present)
- You have neglected your children. (Action started in the past – unclear if the action of neglect continues in the present).
Below are examples of “have been” indicating an action that began in the past and is probably still continuing in the present.
- I have been going for a walk every evening. (I still continue to walk, an action which was started in the past).
- He has been working here for more than twenty years. (He started work more than twenty years ago and continues to work here).
- Natalie has been reading romantic novels. (Natalie started reading romantic novels in the past and may still continue to do so).
- We have been listening to music every afternoon. (We started listening to music in the past and may continue to do so).
- My parents have been writing me letters asking me to come home. (My parents started writing letters in the past and possibly continue to do so).
- I have been running around all week looking for suitable dress for the party.
(An action begun in the past and not yet completed).
- People have been stealing flowers from our garden. (An action begun in the past and not yet completed).
- She has been crying all day because her cat died. (She started crying when the cat died and she possibly continues to cry).
- John has been eating ice-cream almost all his life. (John started eating ice-cream in the past and continues to do so in the present).
- She has been sitting in front of the TV set for the past four hours. (She started sitting in front of the TV set four hours ago and continues to do so).
There are some verbs such as love, like, hate, which cannot be linked with “have been”. For example, it is bad English to say:
I have been loving my dog like my own child.
Reframe the sentence: I have loved my dog like my own child.
He has been liking me for many years.
Reframe the sentence: He has liked me for many years.
Mary has been hating her schoolmates.
Reframe the sentence: Mary hates (or hated) her schoolmates.
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Wren and Martin English Grammar