have you lifted or have you been lifting

malgosia

Senior Member
Polish
This comes from an exercise:
Her back hurts. She ___________(lift) a lot of heavy boxes today.

According to the key, the answer shoud be She has been lifting.
But I'm not sure. I'd rather say She has lifted a lot of heavy boxes today.

Which is better?
 
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In order of preference for this particular context:

    1) She lifted...
    2) She's lifted...
    3) She has lifted...
    4) She has been lifting

    If the exercise were a little different, Her back hurts. She ___________ heavy boxes all day I would use has been lifting.
     

    audiolaik

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi,

    To my non-native ears and eyes, the sentence you provided seems to be a typical example of how to use the present perfect continuous. Then "has been lifting" would be my best bet.

    Audiolaik
     

    iconoclast

    Senior Member
    english - anglo-irish
    In this context, present perfect simple (PrPS) indicates completion, that being one of the primary meaning focuses of non-progressive verbforms in general. On the other hand, present perfect continuous (PrPC) may be used here to focus on a "completed, but the effects continue" meaning. So, the answer boils down to whether the speaker is focusing on the completion per se, or on the continuing effects resulting from the completed activity.

    As an English teacher myself, I'm pretty sure the writer of the question was looking for PrPC, but in real life, while the chances of PrPC are substantially higher, PrPS is also acceptable. It is true context plus the state-of-the-moment view of things that will definitively decide.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    In this context, present perfect simple (PrPS) indicates completion, that being one of the primary meaning focuses of non-progressive verbforms in general. On the other hand, present perfect continuous (PrPC) may be used here to focus on a "completed, but the effects continue" meaning. So, the answer boils down to whether the speaker is focusing on the completion per se, or on the continuing effects resulting from the completed activity.

    As an English teacher myself, I'm pretty sure the writer of the question was looking for PrPC, but in real life, while the chances of PrPC are substantially higher, PrPS is also acceptable. It is true context plus the state-of-the-moment view of things that will definitively decide.
    I would like to highlight cuchuflete's point, which, I believe, is that the number of boxes was 'specified' (a lot of heavy boxes), which would add to a sense of completion and generate present perfect simple, while the unspecified number of boxes (heavy boxes) removes that sense of completion, and hence he prefers present perfect continuous in that context.

    Writing exercises where only one solution is possible is not an easy task... :)
     

    iconoclast

    Senior Member
    english - anglo-irish
    Very right, Wilma_Sweden. I'm getting blinder and blinder. If the focus is on the "completed accumulation", then PrPS becomes more likely than PrPC. So I reverse myself, with the caveat that it may just still depend on how it comes out of one's mouth at the point of speaking:

    1. Look at her - her back's hurting something terrible coz she's been lifting boxes today.
    [The lifting of the boxes may or may not be completed, but the effect of it is (already) apparent]

    2. Her back's hurting something terrible coz she's lifted a veritable ton of boxes today.
    [The lifting is (probably) completed, and there was more than a lot of it]

    It's an iffy area, indeed.
     

    newslang123

    New Member
    USA
    English- US
    You could say "She has lifted..." but because the sentence before uses the present tense by saying "Her back hurts", you should stay in the present tense and say "She has been lifting".
     

    iconoclast

    Senior Member
    english - anglo-irish
    If you look more closely, both options use present-tense forms ('has'), newslang123. The formal difference between non-progressive and progressive aspect is commonly (but not always - it's a context-dependent thing) associated with a difference between, respectively, completed and incomplete meaning focuses - or variations on the in/complete aspect parameter.
     

    newslang123

    New Member
    USA
    English- US
    Oh, you're right! I was totally wrong even on the present tense, right? Both phrases are in the past tense, but it's the whole progressive form that makes the difference. Thanks!
     
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