You are here

Present perfect

Level: beginner

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

We use the present perfect:

  • 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.

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

I've seen that film before.
I've played the guitar ever since I was a teenager.
He has written three books and he is working on another one.

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.

and we use never for the negative form:

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

Present perfect 1

GapFillTyping_MTYzMDE=

Present perfect 2

GapFillTyping_MTYzMDU=

  • for something that happened in the past but is important in the present:

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

Present perfect 3

Matching_MTYzMDY=

Present perfect 4

GapFillTyping_MTYzMDc=

have been and have gone

We use have/has been 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's Maria? I haven't seen her for weeks.
B: She's gone to Paris for a week. She'll be back tomorrow.
 

have been and have gone

MultipleChoice_MTYzMTA=

Present perfect with time adverbials 

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

recently just only just

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

or adverbials which include the present:

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

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

After a clause with the present perfect we often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

I've worked here since I left school.
I've been watching that programme every week since it started.

Present perfect with time adverbials 1

MultipleChoice_MTYzMTM=

Present perfect with time adverbials 2

GapFillTyping_MTYzMTQ=

Be careful!
We do not use the present perfect with adverbials which refer to a finished past time:
yesterday last week/month/year in 2017 when I was younger etc.

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 the present perfect with adverbials which refer to a time which is not yet finished:
today this week/month/year now that I am 18 etc.

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

Present perfect and past simple 1

MultipleChoice_MTYzMTU=

Present perfect and past simple 2

GapFillTyping_MTYzMTc=

Level: intermediate

Present perfect continuous

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

We normally use the present perfect continuous to emphasise that something is still continuing in the present:

She has been living in Liverpool all her life.
It's been raining for hours.
I'm tired out. I've been working all day.
They have been staying with us since last week.

We do not normally use the present perfect continuous with stative verbs. We use the present perfect simple instead:

I've always been liking liked John.

Present perfect continuous 1

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYzMTg=

Present perfect continuous 2

GapFillTyping_MTYzMTk=

Present perfect for future

We normally use the present simple to talk about the future in clauses with before, after, until, etc.:

I'll keep looking until I find my book.
We'll begin when everyone arrives.

but we can also use the present perfect:

I'll keep looking until I have found my book.
We'll begin when everyone has arrived.

Comments

Hi, It's the sentence "Monica has loved horses since she was a child present perfect or present perfect continous?

Thanks.

Hello Todarowa,

It's present perfect -- sometimes it's also called present perfect simple. If it were present perfect continuous, the verb form would be 'has been loving' (but that would not be correct here).

You might find our Present perfect simple and continuous page useful.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

“The girl has worked for five hours.” (present perfect)
“The girl has been working for five hours.” (present perfect continuous)

Is there any difference in meaning between the above two examples, or do they both mean the same thing, i.e. something which started in the past and continues in the present (that is to say the girl started working 5 hours ago in the past and continues to work in the present moment)?

Hello again Tim,

There is no difference in objective fact between the two forms. As I said in an earlier reply, the difference is one of emphasis and how the speaker sees the situation. The simple form sees the action as a single event - an achievement, so to speak. The continuous form sees the action as a process.

In some contexts there is a clear difference. The simple form can indicate completion, while the continuous form does not:

I've read War and Peace. [I finished it]

I've been reading War and Peace. [I may have finished it or not]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone. What should I say?

I have waited for you for hours.
I have been waiting for you for hours.

Hello whitekrystal,

Both forms are possible. I think the second is more likely in this context as it emphasises the ongoing (up to the present moment and possible on) duration of the action rather than the completed result. However, the choice is really one of emphasis, and what the speaker chooses to emphasise will depend upon how they see the situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But both "I have waited for you for hours" and "I have been waiting for you for hours" mean that the waiting started in the past and continues to the present moment right?

Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. The difference is one of emphasis rather than fact.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Present Perfect tense can be used for "something that happened in the past but is important in the present". Does "something" refer to an action/event, and "happened in the past" mean that this action/event started and ended in the past?

Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. It's not the only use of the present perfect, however. You can also use the present perfect for actions which began in the past and are not complete (with time markers such as for... or since...).

As an aside, the present perfect is not a tense per se. The tense is present; perfect is an aspect, just as continuous is an aspect.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages