There are only two pure tenses in English, despite what your grammar book or teacher might say. They are the present simple and the past simple. Everything else requires an auxiliary or a modal verb. In a way, all the variations that are possible in English other than these two pure tenses are modal.
Most of you are familiar with the difference between I do and I am doing, but have problems with I have lived in France for 5 years and I’ve been living in France for five years.
The difference is the same as I live and I am living. Both of these are correct and mean more or less the same thing. We would normally say “I live in Paris” if that is our permanent home, while you could say “I am living in Paris” to suggest that it may or may not continue indefinitely.
In all the progressive variations – present perfect progressive, past perfect progressive, present progressive and future perfect progressive we are showing that the time the action began and the time the action finished is not important. We choose not to give this information.
Look at these examples with my attempt at French translation:
When I arrived at the party, john had already left
Quand je suis arrivé à la fête, John était déjà parti
Here the moment John left is important to my story, because I wanted to communicate the idea that he wasn’t there when I arrived
The ground was wet so I could see that it had been raining
Le sol était mouillé, donc j’ai pu voir qu’il avait plu
Here it doesn’t matter when the rain started or stopped. The important part of my story is the fact that the ground was wet. There is no equivalent of this tense in French, so in both examples I use the plus-que-parfait
We make grammar unnecessarily complicated for ourselves. I would even go as far as to suggest that there are no progressive “tenses”. If you consider the participle “..ing” to be an adjective (which it is in many cases) you can eliminate these tenses.