I've been doing this exercise a lot. 
I've been doing this exercise many times.

I have read that we use the perfect progressive to talk about repeated events that are still true in the present. So do the two sentences above mean that the actions are still true? Or do you think it's better to use the perfect simple instead?

Thanks!

Original Post
Mo.Anwar posted:

I've been doing this exercise a lot. 
I've been doing this exercise many times.

I have read that we use the perfect progressive to talk about repeated events that are still true in the present. So do the two sentences above mean that the actions are still true? Or do you think it's better to use the perfect simple instead?

Hi, Mo.Anwar,

The first sentence ("I've been doing this exercise a lot") works well if you want to express that you are still doing the exercise regularly and frequently.

If you changed it to "I've done this exercise a lot," the sentence would not indicate that you are still doing the exercise. It would be neutral about that.

The second sentence does not work well. With "many times," the sentence wants the present perfect simple: "I've done this exercise many times."

David, Moderator posted:

The first sentence ("I've been doing this exercise a lot") works well if you want to express that you are still doing the exercise regularly and frequently.

If you changed it to "I've done this exercise a lot," the sentence would not indicate that you are still doing the exercise. It would be neutral about that.

The second sentence does not work well. With "many times," the sentence wants the present perfect simple: "I've done this exercise many times."

Hello, David!
Why does it work with "a lot", but not "many times"? I think "a lot" means "many times". And I also think that it's better to use the present perfect in the sentences mentioned above, especially when we mention the number of times an action takes or to say that it simply happened a lot. It's really confusing!

Mo.Anwar posted:
Why does it work with "a lot", but not "many times"? I think "a lot" means "many times". And I also think that it's better to use the present perfect in the sentences mentioned above, especially when we mention the number of times an action takes or to say that it simply happened a lot. It's really confusing!

It doesn't work with "many times." To hear how bad it is, create sentences with other verb phrases. For example, "He's been playing basketball a lot" sounds  (and is) perfectly fine, whereas "He's been playing basketball many times" sounds absolutely terrible. I find it outright ungrammatical.

If you are not a native speaker of English, you may not be sensitive to the difference. You might consider taking a native speaker's word for it. As to a reason, "a lot" is more of an intensifier than a quantifier; so although we can infer "many times" from "a lot" here, that doesn't imply that substitution should work.

Mo.Anwar posted:

Why does it work with "a lot", but not "many times"? I think "a lot" means "many times". 

Hi, Mo.Anwar,

I agree with David and find his explanation perfectly convincing. I especially like this definition of his:

As to a reason, "a lot" is more of an intensifier than a quantifier.

"many times" expresses the repetition of an action (an action that starts and finishes, then starts and finishes again, and so on) and this does not fit in with the present perfect continuous which indicates, as the name of the tense goes, continuity.

If instead of "do an exercise" (or "do exercises") we used "practice" (which can be deemed to be a close synonym of "do exercises," for instance as preparation for a test), we could perhaps see even more clearly that "a lot" works but "many times" does not:

- I've been practicing a lot.

BUT NOT:

- I've been practicing many times.

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