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General Writing and Grammar Help/use of: "have been living"

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Question
Dear Ted,

Will you please parse the following sentence:

“They have been living in Canada for many years.”

I do not understand:   “have been living”    Can you please explain this to me.

Thank you   

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Will you please parse the following sentence:

“They have been living in Canada for many years.”

I do not understand:   “have been living”    Can you please explain this to me.


**** "Have been living" is the present perfect, PROGRESSIVE FORM of the verb "to live."

The use of the present perfect progressive requires that an event BEGAN at some time in the past and is STILL happening at "the moment of speaking."  [In other words, NOW.]

What this means in your sentence:

They BEGAN living in Canada many years ago.
Their living in Canada was continuous; they didn't move somewhere else for a year or two and then return to Canada.
At the present time, they are SILL LIVING in Canada.

Here's why using this tense and form is necessary.  Their living in Canada began in the past.  However, using the simple past does not give the meaning you desire:  They lived in Canada for many years.  That version suggests that they NO LONG LIVE in Canada.  The use of "lived" as the verb means that their "living in Canada" is PAST; it is over.

Using the past perfect progressive form shows that they began living in Canada years ago, and they still are living in Canada.

PARSING;

Subject = They
Verb [phrase] = have been living
Two adverbial preposition phrases = in Canada [tells WHERE]
         for many years [tells HOW LONG]

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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