We use the present perfect to show that something has continued up to the present

They’ve been married for nearly fifty years.
She has lived in Liverpool all her life.

… or is important in the present:

I’ve lost my keys. I can’t get into the house.
Teresa isn’t at home. I think she has gone shopping.

We use the present perfect continuous to show that something has been continuing up to the present:

It’s been raining for hours.
We’ve been waiting here since six o’clock this morning.

We use the past perfect to show that something continued up to a time in the past:

When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.

... or was important at that time in the past:

I couldn’t get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect continuous to show that something had been continuing up to a time in the past or was important at that time in the past:

Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.
He was a wonderful guitarist. He had been playing ever since he was a teenager.

We use will with the perfect to show that something will be complete at some time in the future:

In a few years they will have discovered a cure for the common cold.
I can come out tonight. I'll have finished my homework by then.

We use would with the perfect to refer to something that did not happen in the past but would have happened if the conditions had been right:

If you had asked me I would have helped you.
I would have helped you, but you didn’t ask me.
You didn’t ask me or I would have helped you.

We use other modals with perfective aspect when we are looking back from a point in time when something might have happened, should have happened or would have happened.

The point of time may be in the future:

We’ll meet again next week. We might have finished the work by then.
I will phone at six o’clock. He should have got home by then.

the present:

It’s getting late. They should have arrived by now.
He’s still not here. He must have missed his train.

or the past:

I wasn’t feeling well. I must have eaten something bad.
I checked my cell phone. She could have left a message.

 


 

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Comments

Hello Rakesh Kumar,

All of the examples I posted were correct and possible sentences. There is no rule about which tense needs to be used here; it depends entirely on what the speaker wishes to say. For example:

Having fought so long against a repressive government, they were aware of how easily power is used to crush free thought, open discussion, and civil rights.

We use is used in this example because we are talking about something which happens around the world regularly. This is a normal use of the present simple.

Having fought so long against a repressive government, they were aware of how easily power has been used to crush free thought, open discussion, and civil rights.

We use has been used because we are talking about something which was done in the past and has a current effect. This is a normal use of the present perfect.

Having fought so long against a repressive government, they were aware of how easily power had been used to crush free thought, open discussion, and civil rights.

We use had been used because we are talking about something which happened in the past and had an effect on another event in the past. This is a normal use of the past perfect.

Having fought so long against a repressive government, they were aware of how easily power could be used to crush free thought, open discussion, and civil rights.

We use could be used because we are talking about something which is possible but not certain in the future. This is a normal use of the modal verb could.

 

The point is that the tenses use are simply normal tenses, with their normal meaning. Which form is used depends on the intention of the speaker and the situation which they are describing. It is a matter of choice, not grammar requirement.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"Thank you sir, this reply would have cleared so many people's confusions."
Any mistake is there?

Hello Marie,

It is grammatically correct, but without knowing what you mean, I can't say if it communicates what you intend it to.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

" Not only' did 'they 'have 'a better female-to-male ratio than us, their colleges were far more relaxed when it came to discipline" why instead of using had author used did have... Please help me in understanding my problem.

Hello Rakesh Kumar,

The past simple is used here but it is inverted for rhetorical effect. That means using the auxiliary verb in a similar way to how we form a question:

Normal use:

They not only had a better female-to-male ratio than us, their colleges were far more relaxed when it came to discipline

Inverted for rhetorical emphasis:

Not only did they have a better female-to-male ratio than us, their colleges were far more relaxed when it came to discipline

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,

I wanted to know if the use of "have had been" is right or wrong in the following example: "I have had been a part of the team" While trying to say that I used to be a part of a particular team which I am no longer a part of and/or the team doesn't exist anymore. What would be the right way of saying it without using "used to be a part of..." ?

Hello Soumava,

I'm afraid that 'have had been' isn't correct in any situation, as it is not a correct form. In any case, the present perfect always refers to a time period that still has some contact with the present moment and so is not compatible with a team that used to exist.

The simplest alternative would be the simple past: 'I was a part of the team'. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other way to say without using 'used to', though you could say a bit more if you wanted to be more specific, e.g. 'I was a part of the team, but left it in 2005' or 'but it was disbanded in 2005.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,

Why passive voice, present perfect and past perfect use a lot in formal writing style?

With regards,

Hello kyawphonenaing,

Passive voice has a neutral and authoritative tone and so is used a lot in formal writing. It makes statements sound less like one person's opinion and more like authoritative fact.

I don't think present perfect and past perfect are used any more in formal written language than they are in other forms of communication. They are verb forms which express certain time relations and have no particular inherent style or register beyond that.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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