Monday, April 7, 2014

IELTS Grammar Training: When to Use Has Been and Have Been

Has been? Have been? What is happening?!

Grammar has always been defined as difficult for the varied rules it has imposed with regards to using the English language. In grammar, one has to know the eight different parts of speech namely; nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections. Nevertheless, it does not stop there. There are more rules on each of these parts of speech. One part which any ESL or English as Second Language learners think that is confusing is studying the tenses of verbs. 

Verb tenses are important as they show when the action happens, happened or will happen. They indicate the time of the occurrence of the action in the sentence. In the English language, we have 12 different tenses. These different tenses are used differently. Amongst these, has been and have been are both used in the present perfect continuous tense.

Present Perfect Continuous
Form: Subject + HAS BEEN/HAVE BEEN + verb~ing

Has been is used when the subject is singular and have been is used when the subject is plural or more than one.

When do we use this tense?
We use this tense to show an action that started in the past and is still happening at the time of speaking.


  • The government officials have been discussing the current crisis in that room for hours.
  • She has been painting the room since I woke up in the morning.

We can also use this tense to show an action that has recently stopped. There is a result of that action in the present time.  

  • Her eyes are red. She has been crying.
  • Those men are sweating like pigs. 
  • They have been running the oval for an hour.

To show an action that has been repeatedly done over time, the present perfect continuous should be used. 
  • I learned to play the piano when I was 8. I have been playing the piano since that time.
  • They really love meeting in this coffee shop. They have been going here for a couple of months now.

ESL learners should always remember that HAS is for singular subjects while HAVE is for plural subjects. In addition, it is to be remembered that the twelve tenses are used to show different uses. They have to choose which to choose to appropriately express what they want to emphasize in their sentences. Practice more on tenses with free exercises on the web.


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