The present perfect is formed from the present tense of the verb have and the past participle of a verb:

The present perfect continuous is formed with have/has been and the -ing form of the verb:


We use the present perfect tense:

  • for something that started in the past and continues in the present:

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

Note: We normally use the present perfect continuous for this:

She has been living in Liverpool all her life.
It’s been raining for hours.

  •  for something we have done several times in the past and continue to do:

I’ve played the guitar ever since I was a teenager.
He has written three books and he is working on another one.
I’ve been watching that programme every week.

We often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

They’ve been staying with us since last week.
I have worked here since I left school.
I’ve been watching that programme every week since it started.

  • when we are talking about our experience up to the present:

Note: We often use the adverb ever to talk about experience up to the present:

My last birthday was the worst day I have ever had.

Note: and we use never for the negative form:

Have you ever met George?
Yes, but I’ve never met his wife.

  • for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of speaking:

I can’t get in the house. I’ve lost my keys.
Teresa isn’t at home. I think she has gone shopping.
I’m tired out. I’ve been working all day.


 We use the present perfect of be when someone has gone to a place and returned:

A: Where have you been?
B: I’ve just been out to the supermarket.

A: Have you ever been to San Francisco?
B: No, but I’ve been to Los Angeles.

But when someone has not returned we use have/has gone:

A: Where is Maria? I haven’t seen her for weeks.
B: She's gone to Paris for a week. She’ll be back tomorrow.

We often use the present perfect with time adverbials which refer to the recent past:

just; only just; recently;

Scientists have recently discovered a new breed of monkey.
We have just got back from our holidays.

or adverbials which include the present:

ever (in questions); so far; until now; up to now; yet (in questions and negatives)

Have you ever seen a ghost?
Where have you been up to now?
Have you finished your homework yet?
No, so far I’ve only done my history.


We do not use the present perfect with an adverbial which refers to past time which is finished:

I have seen that film yesterday.
We have just bought a new car last week.
When we were children we have been to California.

But we can use it to refer to a time which is not yet finished:

Have you seen Helen today?
We have bought a new car this week.





I would have an explanation about the use of there was/there have been, I am always in doubt : for instance, if I say "There has been a lot of change in recent years". Is it correct? Or it is better to say "There was a lot of change in recent years". Thanks, G.

Hello gabrigabri,

This is not really a question about there was/there has been but rather a question about the past simple and present perfect in general. We use the present perfect when we are talking about an unfinished past time (reaching up to the present) or when a past even has a present result or effect. Here, the present perfect (has been/have been) is probably better as the changes are probably still in effect now - they are not historical changes but part of the current world.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


I'm a TEFL teacher and I'm preparing a special lesson on the Perfect Form (Tense) and I'm stumped on how to convey the rule (if such a thing exists) for the situation when we use the perfect SIMPLE to express an action unchanged over time as opposed to the CONTINUOUS which we normally use in time durations.

"It's be raining for 5 hours" (continuous is preferred for a time duration)


"Humans have existed on the planet for over 200,000 years" is more correct than
"Humans have been existing on the planet for over 200,000 years"

So, is there a rule which neatly represents when we should use Continuous over Simple for a time duration? I first thought it might be down to the absolute unbroken nature of the action but now I'm not so sure. Is it abstract vs physical actions?

Please help!


Hello Mike,

First of all, there are a couple of pages that you might find useful here on LearnEnglish – our Quick grammar page and the video on Music Scene 2 - Language Focus – and I'd also recommend browsing around TeachingEnglish, where their A perfect story and Tasking the present perfect pages, for example, might also give you some ideas.

The distinction between present perfect simple and continuous is tricky to explain and is probably not something your students will grasp without a lot of practice. It's also something that takes time to learn to explain! 

One way to think of it is that one form or the other shows the speaker's perspective on the action – the continuous form shows interest in the activity in progress, whereas the simple form shows more interest in the action as a whole. The continuous form in your sentence about the rain shows an interest in the activity of raining, which is still happening; in the case of humans on the planet, the simple form shows more interest in the existence of humans over the course of a defined period rather than their activities during that period.

I hope this helps you. Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it correct that although "was" and "been" are past tenses of "be," when we say 1. "He was a teacher." & "He has been a teacher." The meanings of the two sentences are not exactly the same? The first means, he was but longer is a teacher. The second means he was and still is a teacher. Am I correct, please explain if I'm wrong. Thank you.

Hello Vivianzhng,

'was' is indeed a past form of 'be', and 'has been' is a present perfect form. 'been' by itself is a past participle. What they mean is explained above on this page, on our past simple page and on our talking about the present and talking about the past pages, as well as in the video on Transport and Travel Scene 2- Language Focus. I think especially this last page will help you understand the difference between the two forms.

By the way, we generally only answer one question per user per day, so we will get to your other questions over the next few days.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Please advise on which one of the following is correct. And if there's any mistake in my comment. Thank you.

I haven't recieve your email yet. VS I haven't recieved your email yet.

"Please help me understand the difference in the following expressions 1-3. " And help me check if my request (the part in quotation marks is expressed correctly). Thank you.

1. They are coming after they have had dinner. 2. They are coming after they have dinner.
3. They are coming after they had dinner.


Hello Vivian,

The first two sentences are correct; the third one is not. The request (in speech marks) is correct.

There is actually little or no difference in meaning between sentences 1 and 2 and they can be used interchangeably.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

When you write "It's been raining for hours" or "She's gone to Paris for two weeks" it means "It has been raining..." and "She has gone ...", right?
Do we use the same contraction for the verb to be and to have?