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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

Hello Source,

The answer to this question is the same as the answer to your previous question, and for the same reasons. Sentence 1 is not correct and sentence 2 is.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is it possible and appropriate to use 'since' in a present simple sentence?

e. g. Since 2007 he teaches at school.

instead of:

Since 2007 he has been teaching at school.

Are both sentences ok? I've come across sentences similar to the 1st one on English web pages...
Which one is rgihtt ?

Hi Source,

"Since 2007 he teaches at school" is not grammatically correct in English - the correct version is the second one that you mention. I'm not sure how to explain how sentences like the first one appear on other English web pages - to me, it is completely clear that that sentence is not correct.

since has many meanings, one of which is similar to because. With that meaning, it is possible to use it with the present simple tense, but with the meaning that refers to time, it doesn't work.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Is there anyone answer to my questions pleasee ??

Hello Source,

As you can see, your questions have been answered.  However, please understand that it can take us some time to answer questions which are posted.  We are a small team here at LearnEnglish and we deal with many comments every day, in addition to maintaining the material on the site and adding new material - and all on a site which is entirely free to use and advertisement-free.  Please be patient after posting a question and we will answer as soon as we are able.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there! I was told that when we use modal verbs ( should, would, must etc.) with perfect : It would have been = in this case the perfect is not the persent perfect but perfect infinitive, and it doesn't change in the 3rd person sg. Is that right? Could someone give me a short explanation about this? Thank's in advance :)

Hello Flora,

You are correct that the form in these constructions is not the present perfect but rather the past participle, also called the third form of the verb or the perfective form. (The explanation on the page describes it as 'the perfect', not the 'present perfect').  As you said, tt does not change form with the third person.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

sir,

1. The result hasn't yet come.
2. The result hasn't been come yet. (passive)

Out of these two, which one is correct?
Could we use verbs like come with the subjects that don't have legs (can't come physically)?

please explain some more information of such subjects.

Thanks & Regards

Krishna

Hello Krishna,

Sentence 1 is correct and sentence 2 is not. This is because intransitive verbs (verbs which do not take an object) such as come are not used in the passive. I'd suggest you read the explanations on our active and passive voice page - I think this should clarify this for you.

Yes, come and other verbs can refer to movement in general, not just physical movement, whether by means of legs or any other apparatus.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi.
I don´t understand the diference between past and past perfect.
For example: 'He had worked...'. Why cannot I say 'He worked on....'.
I already read many things about this, but I don´t understand it.
Thanks
Zaida

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