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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

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Present perfect 2

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  • 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

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Present perfect 4

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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

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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

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Present perfect with time adverbials 2

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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

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Present perfect and past simple 2

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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

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Present perfect continuous 2

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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

Hello. Could you please help me? Are the following two sentences correct? If so, what is the difference between them?
1- Tom has worked for this company since 2008. He’s still working there.
2- Tom has been working for this company since 2008. He’s still working there.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The forms here are present perfect simple and present perfect continuous. The difference is a subtle on which often causes some confusion, so we have a page on this very topic to help learners. You can find it here and I think it will explain the issue for you:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/present-perfect-simple-and-continuous

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir
I have a doubt regarding the use of that and if in indirect speech if we use both in an indirect speech.
Question

The Government warned the shopkeepers that if they persist in charging in high prices, their licenses would be cancelled.
Sir, here, both are correct or incorrect.
Which one is preferable to use. In English Grammar.
Please clarify.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

The use of that if in your example is fine. I think the tenses are inconsisent, however. If you use persist then I think you should use will rather than would; if you use would then persisted would be a better choice to maintain consistency.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, if we use persisted instead of persist.
Then
The Government warned the shopkeepers that if they persisted in charging in high prices, their licenses would be cancelled.
Sir if we use that
If+ V2 is a conditional sentence structure then the main clause also follow "would".

Hello Kapil Kabir

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. The sentence in your last comment is grammatical and sounds natural.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

One of present perfect use is "for something that happened in the past but is important in the present".

My question is on the meaning of "happened". Does "something" refer to an action, and "happened" mean that the action started and finished in the past?

Thank you.

- John Lin

Hello magnuslin,

Yes, that's correct. However, note that there are other uses of the present perfect in which the action is ongoing (unfinished past).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, don't you mean states or situations instead of actions? Meaning that if a state/situation started in the past and continues to the present, for instance "I have loved sweets since I was a child", "love" isn't an action but is a state/stative/non-continuous verb isn't it?

Hi magnuslin,

I used the word 'action' as that was what your original question referred to. It could be actions or states, of course, depending on the particular verb in question.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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