Learn English – “How long have you [had/been having] this?” – Cont. or Simple


I'm studying Present Perfect tenses at the moment and have been wondering what tense should I use in this example:

How long have you [had/been having] this thing?

So I know that in some cases (with verbs like know, like, seem and another dozen of those) it's preferred that you don't use Cont. like "I've been seeming", even to me it sounds very unnatural.

But what about the "have" verb? I'm studying with "English Grammar in Use" by Raymond Murphy and his book doesn't have the word have in the list of those exception verbs that you should use with Present Perfect Simple instead.

Though there's an example:

How long have you had that camera? (not have you been having)

What should I stick with? In which cases and why? "Have you been having" seems to be a normal construction for me, but my experience is surely insufficient.

Is it just an exception like "I've known for a long time" instead of "I've been knowing for a long time"? Is there any cases where I should still stick with Present Perfect Continuous while using the have verb?

Thanks in advance!

Best Answer

You don't normally use Present Perfect with stative verbs (have, be, like, seem, prefer, understand, doubt, know, etc.) Here's a longer list - in general, they apply to states that last for some time.

In some contexts, such as "How long have you had/been having these symptoms?", there's no real difference. Arguably, been having calls more attention to the fact that you're still having the symptoms, but I doubt many people would consciously either make or hear that distinction.

A "rule of thumb" for to have is: when it means to experience, you might want to use Present Perfect; when it means to own, you almost certainly don't.

Here's an example for to be using the "slightly unusual" Present Perfect in a construction which is perfectly valid, and is probably the most succinct way of expressing the intended meaning...

By now the new cook will have been being introduced to her duties for several weeks.