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.

 


 

Comments

Hello Lal,

Yes, those sentences are all grammatically correct. Which is better will depend upon your intention and the context in which you use them. The present perfect simple and continuous forms are often both possible and differ not in fact but in emphasis.

We have a page dealing with just this issue. You can find it here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Please tell me whether the following sentence is correct or not.
He is walking to and fro. I think he has been drinking.
Also these two: He is walking to and fro. I think he had been drinking.
He is walking to and fro.( I think) he must have been drinking.
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hi Lal,

The first and third ones are correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Teacher,

Which is grammatically correct? I've heard them both but am not sure which is correct. Thank you.

A. I have never done it until now.
B. I had never done it until now.

Hi learning,

Both of these can be correct, but it really depends on the context. We're happy to help you understand these forms if you can provide us with the context or you can also read more about these forms on our present perfect and past perfect pages.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Let's say I never saw snow all my life. Now suddenly it is snowing, and it's the first time I see snow. Do I say A) I have never seen snow until now, or B) I had never seen snow until now.?

Hi learning,

Thanks for giving more context. What first comes to mind is 'This is the first time I've ever seen snow', but you could also say B. In the case of B, the past perfect is referring to the past time before a few moments ago (which also a past time) when you first saw snow.

I wouldn't say A because 'until now' includes the moment of speaking. In the moment of speaking you are clearly seeing snow and yet the verb is negative – so there is a kind of contradiction in the way the sentence is phrased.

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team
 

Hello!
I wonder if we could say 'Someone has already played soccer (or any other games)' .
At the same time, can we say 'I'm playing soccer now.'?
In Japanese, concept of 'play' is 'do' rather than 'act'. So it is very confusing for us to use 'play'.
Your reply would be great help for me to understand English better.
Best regards,
Hiroko Takebuchi

Hello Hiroko,

Both of those sentences are grammatically correct.

When we say 'Someone has already played...' we are talking about some time in the past during the person's life. It tells us that the person has the experience of playing.

When we say 'I'm playing soccer now' we are talking about the current moment - the moment of speaking.

 

Play is most often used in English to describe participating in games (e.g. chess, cards, board games, computer games) and sports involving a ball (e.g. football, billiards, rugby). We use other verbs for different activities. For example, for activities which involve movement or travel we use go (e.g. go skiing, go running, go horse riding, go cycling), while for activities which focus on the use of the body we use do (e.g. do karate, do boxing, do yoga).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter,
Thank you very much for your clear explanation.
I now understand the meaning of 'play' and when to use.
Very best regards,
Hiroko Takebuchi

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