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.




Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

I once saw the two following sentences in a English grammar book:

1. As our new furniture is going to be delivered on Monday morning I'll have to stay at home to check that it [has not been/was not damaged] during transit.

2. By the time you finish getting ready, we [will have missed] the train!

I thought the actions in square brackets are both mentioned when the spaekers are looking back from future. Then why does only the second sentence use the future perfect form?
Thank you in advanced,

Hi Toan,

In sentence 1, the time reference for the verb is brackets is the future time when you're staying at home to check the delivery, which is why the present perfect or simple past works there.

In sentence 2, the time reference for the verb is the time that the sentence is spoken, so the future perfect form is correct there.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Have you eaten something today after you have done the worship ?
Now Could I also use past simple for saying the same thing like this (After you did the worship) ?

Hi SonuKumar,

Thanks for clarifying that. 'have eaten' is not really correct because it clearly refers to a past action that is already finished, since other events have occurred after it (the worship, for example). And if you use the past simple for 'eat', then the present perfect doesn't work in the subordinate clause beginning with 'after'. Also, 'do worship' isn't a collocation in standard English.

In other words, I'd recommend 'Did you eat anything after you worshipped?' In English, worship if often referred to by another word. For example, in a Catholic context, one would say 'after mass'. In a Protestant context, it would be 'after church' or 'after the service'. I've seen some reference to 'after prayer' in Muslim contexts. Something like this would be more natural than 'after your worshipped'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Thank you for clarifying it. I think, we also can't say or write this sentence using the adverb 'Today', which refers to present, like this- Have you eaten something after you've worshiped today right ?

but Can we write this same sentence using participle like this- after worshipping or having worshiped 'today' have you eaten something ?

Hi SonuKumar,

You can use 'today' and the past simple together if the action is clearly in a finished past time, even if it was earlier today. 'After worshipping today' or 'Having worshipped today' are both grammatically correct, though strange. As I explained in my last comment, since the context implies that the eating is a finished past action, 'have you eaten' is not correct -- you should use the past simple instead. If you omit the part about worship, you could ask 'Have you eaten today?', which is a question about a period of time that hasn't finished yet.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Have you had something today after you have done worship or you did worship at 7:30 p.m, a short while ago or in the evening ?

I think in subordinate clause, we can you use either past simple or present perfect, but if you use present perfect, you can't use one of the adverbs or prepositional phrases given above with past simple right ?

Hello SonuKumar,

Could you please write the sentences or phrases that you are asking about inside speech marks ('like this') or in brackets (like this)? That would help us understand your question better.

Also, when you say 'Have you had something', are you referring to food? I don't quite understand what you mean without the context.

Thanks in advance.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

I have 2 questions to you. Sometimes, I dont really understand the difference between perfective aspect and past tenses. For example, what are the differences between those phrases?

It was the best meal I've had all week - vs - It was the best meal I had all that week.
I've got milk - vs - I got the milk.

Secondly, are there some perfect counterparts for the perfect aspect? Some semantic contribution? For phrases like, for example:

I hope to finish soon.
She is very helpful.

I want to find counterparts for "finish" and "is" in sentences above.

Looking forward to your response, it will help me a lot with understanding of grammar!

Best wishes!

Hello Sanuzoku,

Generally speaking, the perfect forms are used to describe a time period which has not yet finished (present perfect) or a time which had not yet finished at a point in the past (past perfect).


For example, the differences between the sentences you quote are as follows:

  1. It was the best meal I've had all week
  2. It was the best meal I had all that week.

In sentence 1 we understand that the week has not finished. You might say this, for example, on Friday and so you can still have more meals before the week finishes. The perfect form here has the meaning of 'up to now' or 'so far'. It describes an unfinished time.

In sentence 2 the week is finished. You are talking about last week, or you are speaking late on Saturday evening (if we say Saturday is the last day of the week) and know that there will be no more meals before the end of the week. The past simple here has the meaning of 'then' or 'in the past'. It describes a time which is finished, over and complete.


  1. I've got milk
  2. I got the milk.

The difference here is how we see the actions. In the first sentence we see getting the milk as something which is still part of the present (still part of an unfinished time). You might have just come back from the shop and have the milk in hand, for example. In some way the information is news to the person you are speaking to - perhaps they are making coffee and don't know that there is milk in the fridge, for example.

In the second sentence getting the milk is done and is no longer part of the present. Perhaps you don't want to go to the shop again and are telling them about the milk to show that it is their turn now. Or perhaps you are arguing about who should pay for something else.

It's hard to be certain without knowing the context, but these are some likely uses of each form.


I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean in your second question by 'perfect counterparts for the perfect aspect'. Perhaps you can explain or provide an example.


The perfect aspect is difficult because there are many languages which have no equivalent, including the Polish language, and because it is usually a choice for the speaker, not something which must be used. There is often a choice of using a perfect form or something else, and our choice depends on what we want to emphasise. This makes it very difficult to grasp through rules. However, the more you read and listen to English then more you will develop a sense of when the perfect form is appropriate, even without explicit rules. After all, native speakers of English (or any other language) do not generally think about grammatical rules when speaking or writing. Instead they rely on a sense of what is appropriate for a given context and intention.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team