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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Present or Past Perfect Continuous?    

Present or Past Perfect Continuous?


Present or Past Perfect Continuous?
Hi Everybody,

I feel a bit silly asking the following question because I�ve found these sentences in a book written by respected native speakers of English, so I guess they are right, but this is not what I�ve learnt about the uses of present and past perfect. So read this extract please:

�He�s been asking me for a mobile for years because all his friends have got one,� explained Lionel. �I finally bought one for his birthday because he�s been doing so well at school, but he ... �

So my question is: Is that correct to use present perfect continuous in that sentence when it�s clear that he has already bought the mobile so his son must have stopped asking for it? Shouldn�t it be: He had been asking me for a mobile.... and finally I bought one for his birthday�?

THanks for your ideas in advance.



4 Feb 2009      


Hi Kriszti,
As far as i know, the use of the present perfect here is due to; 
*The fact that this maybe a spoken part of text and-- of course-- garmmar rules are not
that respected, as you may know..
*Or-- as i notice here-- to the use of the reference point "finally" which can imply that
there is very short time-- if not negligible-- between the two actions.. Just imagine
the situation as such; the father who bought the mobile is in the supermarket and his
son, who hasn�t stopped asking him till that moment, is still with him, too.. Smile 
Please enlighten me whenever you receive more interesting replies..
Take care and have a great time!! Smile

4 Feb 2009     


First of all, it�s a piece of dialogue, and as you know even native speakers don�t always follow the correct grammar rules.


In this case, she may have bought the phone as a present, but she hasn�t given it to him yet, which would make the grammar valid. She has bought the phone and he is still asking for one.


Or perhaps the birthday was very recent and using the present perfect continuous emphasises its recent nature (while not necessarily being the correct grammar) and the speaker wants to keep her story relevant. Using the past perfect would put a distance between now and the story, making it old news. As a native speaker, that sounds right to me.


4 Feb 2009     

sinem t�rkan

Hi Krisztina,
A far as I know the sentence is correct, because the sentence includes a time
expression "for years" and goes on with the sentence includes present simple
tense. So present perfect continous tense is preferable there. If you use past
perfect continous tense in the sentence, it means that the son had been
 complaining about not having a mobile phone before his friends had got, but the
son has been asking for a mobile since his friends have got.
This sentence�s tense  "because all his friends have got one" determines which tense
 should be used in the preceed sentence, so the writer prefers present perfect
continous tense instead of past perfect continous tense.
I hope that it is clear now Wink

4 Feb 2009     


Hi people:

I know, I know.. my resolve has broken somewhat but since this sentence is a curious one, I�d thought I�d put my two cents in - from a grammatical view... not a contextual view since we only have the sentences and not all that surrounds it...

�He�s been asking me for a mobile for years because all his friends have got one,� explained Lionel. �I finally bought one for his birthday because he�s been doing so well at school, but he ... �

First of all, we must remember that it is a Reported Speech type sentence with an "explained" which would normally determine the tense the sentence "should" be in:

Now -  "The time expression" was mentioned - and I must point out that "FOR" can be used with both the present perfect and past - it is not exclusive to the PP like "since".

In other words - "He had been asking for a mobile for years... " is quite correct.

ALSO - the past can go with the present, if the present tense is referring to a "fact" - which in this case would be "his friend all have one" - it is unchangeable even within a Reported Speech type sentence sometimes...since his friends haven�t stopped having one...

BUT all this could be quite meaningless since the context the phrase is in, might be as Paddyofarrel explained earlier... If could be part of a paragraph that explains a whole different situation and then, none of what I said is all that valid... *shrugs* - sometimes grammar is like that too... nothing is quite as ever black or white as one thinks it to be...

Anyways, I will go back to my hole... and watch quietly... LOL

4 Feb 2009     


I agree with sinem t�rkan.   I �d answer exactly the way she did.

4 Feb 2009     


Yes as a native speaker I can honestly say that there is nothing wrong with that sentence.

4 Feb 2009     


Thanks a lot for your ideas.Smile
I�m not saying that it is clear now, but I must say that sinem t�rkan has a point there with referring to �have got� in the second part of the sentence. BUT: the father saying �I finally bought one� puts the whole situation into the past, that�s why I can�t see why we can accept present perfect continuous as a correct tense when it happened clearly before the father said so. 

4 Feb 2009     


I hope to make it clear.
I personally agree with Paddy.By using these tenses,the writer makes it clear that the father is annoyed because his child is still asking and he won�t stop unless he knows that his father already bought it.He still doesn�t know.

4 Feb 2009     


Paddy and Harim, I thought exactly the same while reading the sentence ;)

4 Feb 2009     


*pokes head out*

Actually, if we are talking about "correctness" of tenses then it should be:

�He�s been asking me for a mobile for years because all his friends have got one,� explained Lionel. �I have finally bought one for his birthday because he�s been doing so well at school, but he ... �

Those are the correct tenses for what Harim was pointing out... not the other way around...



5 Feb 2009     

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