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Perfect aspect

Level: intermediate

We use perfect aspect to look back from a specific time and talk about things up to that time or about things that are important at that time.

We use the present perfect to look back from the present:

I have always enjoyed working in Italy. [and I still do]
She has left home, so she cannot answer the phone.

We use the past perfect to look back from a time in the past:

It was 2006. I had enjoyed working in Italy for the past five years.
She had left home, so she could not answer the phone.

We use will with the perfect to look back from a time in the future:

By next year I will have worked in Italy for 15 years.
She will have left home by 8.30, so she will not be able to answer the phone.

Present perfect

We use the present perfect:

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

They've been married for nearly 50 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.

  • 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.

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

It's been raining for hours.
I'm tired out. I've been working all day.

Past perfect

We use the past perfect:

  • for something that started in the past and continued up to a later time in the past:

When George died, he and Anne had been married for nearly 50 years.
She didn't want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

  • when we are reporting our experience up to a point in the past:

My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.
I was pleased to meet George. I hadn't met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

  • for something that happened in the past and is important at a later 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 started in the past and continued 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.

Modals with the perfect

We use will with the perfect to show that something will be complete at or before 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:

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 the perfect when we are looking back from a point in time. 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.

or 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 mobile phone. She could have left a message.

Perfect aspect 1

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Perfect aspect 2

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Perfect aspect 3

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Comments

Which is grammatically correct

I had spent 50,000 thousands rupees in the last two years on my domestic flights
OR
I spent 50,000 thousands rupees in the last two years on my domestic flights

Hello Satinder,

Whether the past simple or the past perfect is better will depend upon the context in which the sentences are used. Without knowing the broader context I can only say that both sentences are grammatically possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team,
Which sentence is correct?
When you are free in the evening?
When you will be free in the evening? (As we don't use future in time clause)
Thanks
Charneet Kaur

Hi team,
I have a query in this sentence while using it in Present Perfect and Past perfect.
I have been to France in the last year.
I have been to France last year. Which one is correct?

I had been to France in the last year.
I had been to France last year. Which one is correct?
Thanks
Charneet

Hello Charneet

In the first pair of sentences, the first one is correct since it refers to a period of time the speaker is still in (the past year). The second is not correct.

In the second pair of sentences, the first one is correct and the second is not. In the second sentence, if you changed 'last year' to 'the year before', then it would be correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team,
I want to know whether this sentence has been correct or not?
If it's wrong ( as per Grammarly it's incomplete), what can be the possible correct answer?
The sentence is here as follows:
I have been working on this project.
Thanks
Charneet kaur

Hello Charneet kaur,

The sentence

I have been working on this project

is perfectly fine. That's not to say that it necessarily makes sense in a given context, but there's nothing grammatically wrong with it. In context, you might need to add how long you've been working on the project, for example, but that's not a grammar issue.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I often mistake the 3th person.
In the "Modals with the perfect" it was used this example:

I checked my mobile phone. She could have left a message.

Why it's been used "have" instead of "has"?

Hello MarcoDeAngeli

When we use a modal with the perfect, the perfect part ('have' + past participle) never changes. This is a very common mistake. I'd suggest you remember that 'could' is really the verb that agrees with the subject. Since 'could' is a modal, it doesn't take the final -s, but if it were a simple present perfect, it would 'She has left a message', where the verb 'have' is the one that agrees with the subject 'she'.

I hope that helps you remember it, but if you find it more confusing, please ignore what I said!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, In the sentence below why you have used 'been'? if the sentence is Past Perfect Continuous, why married and not Marrying? If the sentence is Past Perfect why 'been' is there?
"When George died, he and Anne had been married for nearly 50 years"
Mersi

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