I do understand that both tenses, the Present Perfect Simple and Continuous, are used for repeated actions. I started researching the topic a long time ago and found out a lot of differences between the two. The difference that I need to ask you about is the following:

This is from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan.

I've understood from it that we don't use the Present Perfect Continuous when we say how often we have done something.

However, I came across the following sentence, yesterday, on this website:
https://grammar.collinsdiction...ect-continuous-tense

I 've been getting this magazine every week for a year.

So now I'm confused! I hope you have the time to clarify things for me.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP.

 

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Original Post

Hi, Rasha,

It is a matter of 'focus / emphasis'. In your example above "I've  been getting this magazine every week for a year", we use the progressive form to indicate / emphasize that an action is ongoing and repeated. The focus here is on the process or the duration. The present perfect isn't wrong here, by the way, but the present perfect progressive works much better depending on the speaker's perspective. The present perfect is particularly preferred when there is a specific number of occasions.  For a similar question, see: https://thegrammarexchange.inf...-perfect-progressive

Last edited by ahmed_btm

Hello Rasha,

It seems the photo attachment you provided was insufficient. I looked at the book Practical English Usage and believe the only relevant example sentence here should be the last one (see my attachment):

”I’ve played tennis three times this week.”

The sentence you would like to discuss, “I've been getting this magazine every week for a year.”, is actually a combination of both how often (every week) and how long (for a year), to use Swan’s wordings. And I judge that the present perfect continuous is a justified choice.

In fact I realise the word choice by Swan is inaccurate and you are right to be confused; “how often” should be rewritten as “how many times” (as in Cambridge “Grammar in Use”) for your clarification, and it’s easy to note that there’s always a number, whether rough or exact, in these simple present perfect sentences. Examples:

Lisa has sent lots of emails this morning.
We’ve painted two rooms since lunchtime.
I’ve played tennis three times this week.

If I rewrite your sentence as: ”I’ve got 52 issues of this magazine this year.” the simple form, not the continuous form, will be justified. Again, number is the key  to constituting “how many”, and we’d better forget about “how often”.

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Last edited by Kinto

Hi, Rasha.

I was puzzled by the same issue.

I agree with my pre-speaker that Mr Swan must have made a mistake when he said that the present perfect simple is used for "how often," and let me explain why.

It is simple because the answer to "how often?" is once a week, on the weekend, three days a month, every week, etc., and this means that the action is performed HABITUALLY.

And, which may seem not so obvious, the present perfect CONTINUOUS is used for HABITS.

I know it may be surprising because continuous tenses are used for actions in progress, but the point is that the habit itself is in progress (I started getting this magazine every week A YEAR AGO and it HASN'T BEEN INTERRUPTED, thus it has been continuous).

So the present perfect continuous is used to show that a habit has been in progress.

I hope it clarifies everything

@Rasha Assem posted:

The difference that I need to ask you about is the following:

This is from Practical English Usage by Michael Swan.

I've understood from it that we don't use the Present Perfect Continuous when we say how often we have done something.

Hello, Rasha—Those who have pointed out above that Swan really means this restriction to rule out the use of the present perfect continuous in verb phrases specifying how many times something has happened are correct, and this is a very real restriction on the use of the present perfect continuous.

(1a) How many times has this happened?
(1b) *How many times has this been happening?

(2a) How many times a week has this happened?
(2b) How many times a week has this been happening?

Only one of those four sentences—namely, (1b)—is ungrammatical. The present perfect continuous cannot be used to talk about how many times something has happened in total. This is because the present perfect continuous refers to what has been taking place throughout a period of time.

When "a week" is added, as in (2a) and (2b), the meaning shifts. The question no longer inquires about how many times something has happened in total but about how many times a week something has happened. The weeks keep repeating, throughout the period up to the present, and so does the quantity.

Swan is trying to be helpful to nonnative learners, of course. In reality, it is possible to say, grammatically, "Look at all the rose bushes I've been planting!" Such a sentence could be used to point out how hard the speaker has been working, with the implication that the rose-bush planting is going to continue.

Likewise, Swan crosses out the sentence "We've been painting two rooms since lunchtime," whereas that sentence is not ungrammatical, either. It could be used if the speakers meant that they have been painting the same two rooms ever since lunchtime and have not finished painting either room.

 What is insanely ungrammatical is when a sentence with the present perfect continuous is used to try to speak of what has happened in total, not in recurring periods of time. Contrast the sentence "I have seen her twice in my life" with *"I have been seeing her twice in my life." The latter is insane.

Last edited by David, Moderator

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