Present Perfect vs. Past Perfect

There are similarities and differences between present perfect and past perfect, which might cause confusion. To learn more, click here!

What is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between present perfect and past perfect is that present perfect talks about an action that happened in the past and is still ongoing in the present whereas past perfect talks about an action that has occurred in the past.

Uses and Comparison

1. State of Action

As mentioned earlier, present perfect focuses on events that recently started or started in the past but are still ongoing in the present. Past perfect centers around actions that are set and done in the past.

She had gone to New York.

Here, we are referring to an action that happened in the past is already finished.

She has gone to New York.

Here, we are referring to an action that probably started a while ago and is still ongoing.

2. Past Actions

Present perfect talks about past actions that recently finished, and we are still seeing their results and consequences. Past perfect tense, however, talks about two past actions that happened in order. It simply shows the order of events.

I had called my mother before I cooked dinner.

Here, we are talking about two actions that has been done in order.

I can't call Gina. I have lost my phone.

Here, we are referring to an action and its consequence.

3. Frequent Actions

Frequent actions are those which tend to repeat themselves. When we want to talk about these repeated actions, we use present perfect.

She has attacked him multiple times.

Here, we are referring to an action that as happened multiple times and might happen again.

She had attacked him multiple times.

Here, we are referring something that was set and done in the past.

4. Reported Speech

We use the past perfect tense in reported speech. We can use it after verbs such as told, asked, and said.

He said he had left his work.

Here, we are reporting what another person said.

He said he has left his work.

We cannot use present perfect to say reported speeches.

5. Future Actions

We can use present perfect to talk about the future. In this case, we add clauses like before, after, etc to sentence.

He will keep digging until he has found the treasure.

Here, we are talking about a future event.

He will keep digging until he had found the treasure.

We cannot use past perfect to refer to future events.

Structure

We have talked about the uses and compared the two tenses. Now we will cover their structure.

1. Present Perfect Tense

Creation of present perfect tense consists of adding present tense of 'have,' followed by the past participle of the main verb. Here is the pattern for better understanding: subject + have/has + past participle

Subject Have Past Participle
I/You/We/They have talked
He/She/It has instructed

2. Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense is made through this pattern: subject + had + past participle. We add the past tense of the verb 'have' which is 'had' followed by the past participle of the main verb.

You had gone too far.

She had pierced her ear.

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