Present Perfect

Present perfect is a useful tense that talks about an action that happened in an indefinite time in the past. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

intermediate
"Present Perfect" Tense in English Grammar

What Is Present Perfect Tense?

The Present Perfect tense is a very important and useful tense. The present perfect tense refers to an action or state that either occurred at an indefinite time in the past or began in the past and continued to the present time.

Present Perfect: Structure

The present perfect is composed of the appropriate form of the auxiliary verb 'have' (present tense), plus the past participle of the main verb. The past participle is regularly formed with an -ed suffix (e.g. looked, ended, tutored) but has many irregular forms (e.g. broken, made, understood).

Subject Have Past Participle
I/You/We/They have walked
He/She/It has slept

When we use the present perfect tense in speaking, we often contract the subject and auxiliary verb. For example:

I have been to Paris. → I've been to Paris.

She has lost her purse. → She's lost her purse.

Present Perfect: Negation

For negative sentences you put 'not' after the auxiliary verb. Check out the examples:

I have been to Paris. → I have not been to Paris.

She has lost her purse. → She has not lost he purse.

In negative sentences, we can contract the auxiliary verb and 'not'. See the examples:

I have not been to Paris. → I haven't been to Paris.

She has not lost he purse. → She hasn't lost her purse.

Present Perfect: Questions

For yes/no questions sentences, we put the auxiliary at the beginning of the sentence. Look at these examples with the present perfect tense:

I have been to Paris. → Have I been to Paris?

She has lost her purse.→ Has she lost her purse?

For wh- question sentences, do the exact thing you do for yes/no questions and add the proper wh- question word at the beginning of the sentence and omit the part that is the answer.

She has been to Paris. → Where has she been?

She has lost her purse. → What has she lost?

Tip!

If you want to learn more about spelling rules of adding -ed to the base form of verbs, see here.

Using Present Perfect to Talk about Something That Started in the Past and Continues in the Present

Present Perfect: Uses

When someone uses the present perfect tense, they are thinking about:

  1. States or Actions That Started at an unspecified time in the Past, and Are Still Going on
  2. Actions which happened in the past, but have an effect in the present
  3. Repeated Actions in an unspecified period between the past and now
  4. Actions that ended recently

States or Actions That Started at an Unspecified Time in the Past, and Are Still Going on

We use the present perfect tense to talk about an action that the precise time of it is not important or not known. In this case, the exact time is not mentioned for example you cannot use some adverbs of time like [at 09:00 pm].
Check out the following examples:

Someone has eaten my sandwich!

She has studied biology, math and physics.

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about something that started in the past and continues in the present. In other words, they are unfinished actions that started happening in the past and they are still happening at the moment of talking.

We've been married for twenty years.

She has worked in the library for six years.

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about something that has not finished. Or at least you believe they are not finished. Check out the examples.

It has rained a lot this year.

We haven't seen her today.

Actions That Happened in the Past, But Have an Effect in the Present

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about an action that happened in the past but still has a consequence in the present. This means you can feel the effects on your life even now that the action itself does not exist anymore. For example:

I can't pay the cab driver. I've lost my purse.

Kelly's hurt her ankle, so she can't play football today.

Repeated Actions in an Unspecified Time between the Past and Now

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about repeated actions in an unspecified period between the past and now. The action can take place at any time from the past to the present. By repeated actions, we mean that the action has happened regularly and not once. Check out the examples:

It has happened several times already.

She has visited them frequently.

Actions That Ended Recently

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about Actions that ended recently. We do not say when the action happened. We normally use the adverb 'just' with this use. For example:

He has just seen the news.

I have broken the vase.

Grammatical Notions

Since and For

We use 'since' with a fixed time in the past (2004, April 23rd, last year). The fixed time can be another action, which is in the past simple (since I was at school, since I arrived). We use 'for' with a period of time (2 hours, three years, six months).

  • Since → refers to a point in time
  • For → refers to a period of time

I've known Peter since 1990.

I've known Amanda for five years.

Yet and Still

'Yet' is used to refer to an action that we expect to happen soon; it is used in a negative or question present perfect statement to mean 'at any time up to now.'
Note that 'yet' comes at the end of the sentence or question. for example:

I haven't received a letter from him yet.

'Still' is used to refer to an action that we expect to happen earlier; It is used in a negative present perfect statement.
Note that 'still' comes after the subject and before the auxiliary verb. For example:

She still hasn't finished the project.

Ever and Never

The adverb 'ever' is often used to talk about experience up to the present, and we use 'never' for the negative form:

Have you ever met John?

We have never watched the movie 'Titanic.'

Yes, but I've never met his son.

Just

We use the 'present perfect tense' to talk about an action completed in the very recent past. We often use the adverb 'just.' We mean the action has been done in a very short time before now. Here are the examples:

We'll begin when everyone arrives. = We'll begin when everyone has arrived.

Have you just finished work?

I have just eaten.

Already, Recently

We can also use the present perfect to talk about something that happened recently, even if there is not a clear result in the present. This is common when we want to introduce news and we often use these adverbs: already, recently.

I haven't seen them recently.

Jamie has already left the city.

Have Been vs. Have Gone

When a person has gone to a place and returned, we use have/has been, but when a person has not returned, we use have/has gone. See the examples:

I've been to Paris.

It means the speaker has been to Paris in their life, but now they're in, for example, London, where they live.

Where's John? He's gone to the shops

It means he's at the shops now and he hasn't returned yet.

Review

Present perfect has important functions in English. So, it is used a lot in English. The Functions are as followed.

  • To talk about things that happened in past and continues up to now.
  • to talk about things that happened in the past but they are still important.
  • To talk about things that started in the past, but they are unfinished.

Affirmative, Negative, Contraction, and Question Form

structure subject + have/ has + past participle
affirmative They have met Sara at the cinema.
negative They have not met Sara at the cinema
contraction They've not met Sara at the cinema./ They haven't met Sara at the cinema.
yes/ no question Have they met Sara at the cinema?
-Wh question Where have they met Sara?

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