How To Define The Recent Past: How Recent Is Recent?

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I have a question about the meaning of "recent past" in relation to the use of the present perfect continuous.

For example: "I am tired because I have been cleaning my house." I am not cleaning now, I have finished cleaning recently, but I am tired in the present because of the past action. The past action has to be recent to justify the present perfect continuous.

How recent is recent? If I stopped cleaning an hour ago but I am still tired now, can I use the present perfect continuous?

olive file 673If I stopped cleaning an hour ago but I am still tired now

If you are going to continue the cleaning process, and have paused temporarily to take a break, you can use the present perfect continuous.

olive file 673How recent is recent?

Recency is relative to the temporal scope of the action you are reporting.

Does it take a long time to clean your house? Four hours? Then you can probably say that you have been cleaning your house up to about two hours after you have finished cleaning your house. But after four hours, probably not.

How long does it take a glacier to carve out a valley? Twenty-thousand years? So about ten thousand years after the carving process has finished is probably enough to be recent if you want to say that the glacier has been carving out the valley.

But if you are really taking out your calculator to compute all this before you speak, then you haven't really understood the use of the present perfect continuous.

It's more of an instantaneous feeling about the situation, not a computation.

olive file 673The past action has to be recent to justify the present perfect continuous.

After reading what I've written above, you should probably see that you can't take this literally.

CJ

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what would you say if you wanted to say you are tired of the cleaning you finished an hour ago?

"I am tired because I was cleaning my house."

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It's more of an instantaneous feeling about the situation .

Could you explain this feeling, please?

olive file 673

It's more of an instantaneous feeling about the situation .

Could you explain this feeling, please?

Sorry. I cannot. After speaking English for many years, it becomes instinctual.

You measure recency in terms of what you find reasonable for the situation you are talking about. Most of the time you don't even think about recency. Most of the time you're just repeating grammatical patterns you've heard a thousand times. As a learner maybe you haven't heard or said these patterns enough for them to have made their mark in your mind yet, but eventually it becomes automatic.

CJ

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I don't understand when the present perfect continuous becomes inappropriate because too much time has elapsed and when the past continuous becomes the better choice like Alpheccastars suggested.

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I don't understand when the present perfect continuous becomes inappropriate because too much time has elapsed ...

It's a judgment call. There is no strict dividing line. Sometimes it's a matter of common sense. I can't talk about yesterday's breakfast today, saying "I've just been having breakfast". But I can talk about the book I was reading yesterday, saying "I've been reading a really interesting book lately". That's because it takes longer to read a book than it takes to have breakfast.

When we choose the present perfect continuous, we're subconsciously thinking about two points in time.

1) the ending time of the action we are reporting