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Present perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like She's called every day this week, I've broken my leg and Have you ever been to Scotland?

Look at these examples to see how the present perfect is used.

He's been to ten different countries.
I haven't seen her today.
My phone's run out of battery. Can I use yours?
Have you ever dyed your hair a different colour?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Present perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Unfinished time and states

We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year, etc., and with expressions such as so far, until now, before, etc.

They've been on holiday twice this year.
We haven't had a lot of positive feedback so far.
I'm sure I've seen that film before.

We also use it to talk about life experiences, as our life is also an unfinished time period. We often use never in negative sentences and ever in questions.

I've worked for six different companies.
He's never won a gold medal.
Have you ever been to Australia?

We also use the present perfect to talk about unfinished states, especially with for, since and how long.

She's wanted to be a police officer since she was a child.
I haven't known him for very long.
How long have you had that phone?

Finished time and states

If we say when something happened, or we feel that that part of our life is finished, we use the past simple.

We visited Russia for the first time in 1992.
I went to three different primary schools.
Before she retired, she worked in several different countries.

We also use the past simple for finished states.

We knew all our neighbours when we were children.
I didn't like bananas for a really long time. Now I love them!

Past actions with a result in the present 

We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present.

He's broken his leg so he can't go on holiday.
There's been an accident on the main road, so let's take a different route.
They haven't called me, so I don't think they need me today.

Again, if we say when it happened, we use the past simple.

He broke his leg last week so he can't go on holiday.

However, we often use the present perfect with words like just, recently, already, yet and still.

We've recently started going to the gym.
She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two.
Have you checked your emails yet?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Present perfect: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

I have learned although I knew this before still I use every day this tense.
It easy to understand for me.

To improve english for this present tense to use work has done before an h

Hi,
I've tried to do the grammar test 1 and found this question "You've got a new car? How long ___ the old one?" and the correct answer is "did you have". I would like to ask why this is the correct answer, while there is "how long" in the question.

Hello tikah,

If you say 'How long have you had the old one?', this means that you still have the old car. I suppose that is possible, but the idea here is to distinguish between the present perfect, which speaks about something that is still happening (owning the car) and the past simple, which is speaking about something that already finished. 

So 'How long did you have the old one?' means that you no longer have the old car. It is now 2020; if you had the old car from 2007 to 2019, then the past simple is the best form, because it speaks about a finished past time.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Which is correct?

Remembering all the things you have taught me.
Remembering all the things you had taught me.
Remembering all the things you taught me.

The context here is I am remembering/appreciating the lessons taught by someone who already passed away.

Hello angeeeeeeel,

All three of these clauses are correctly formed -- in this sense, they are all correct -- but none are a complete sentence (with a subject, verb and complement), and in this sense, none of them are correct.

The third one is probably the most appropriate for the context you mention.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Is if I say "They have burned and killed everything", does this mean that the second verb "kill" is also in the present perfect tense (that is have burned and killed = have burned + have killed)? or is the verb "kill" in the simple past?

Also, is it possible to have two or more verbs in the present perfect within the same independent clause/sentence (e.g. I have washed the car and have painted the house and have also bathed the cat)?

For that matter, how about two or more verbs of any tense in the same independent clause/sentence, is that possible?

Lastly, if I were to say "I have shaved and have washed and have had breakfast", with all three verbs in the present perfect tense, does this mean that all the actions occurred sequentially in the order I have described (i.e. shaving occurred first, followed by washing and lastly having breakfast)?

Hello Timothy555

It's not completely clear whether 'killed' is 'have killed' or just 'killed', but most of the time I think people would understand it to be 'have killed'. We definitely leave out some words when the meaning is understood to be clear (this is called 'ellipsis').

You could certainly have a sentence with multiple present perfect forms such as the one you ask about, but most of the time people would omit the auxiliary verb.

Many different combinations of verb tenses in the same sentence are possible, but I'm afraid I can't list them out for you. If you have a question about a specific combination, please feel free to ask us.

As for your last question, it could be that the sequence of the sentence is the same as that of the actions, but not necessarily. Most people don't speak so precisely, I'd say, but it could well be true.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Firstly, going by what you've said, and also using back the example I quoted "I have shaved and have washed and have had breakfast", so when you said that most of the time people would omit the auxiliary verb, you mean dropping the "have", and so the sentence will be "I have shaved, washed and had breakfast" and this can mean the same as "I have shaved and have washed and have had breakfast"?

Secondly, regarding your point that it could be that the sequence of the sentence is the same as that of the actions described by my example, but not necessarily - by this you are saying that the possibility exists that perhaps washing occurred before shaving despite me saying that "I have shaved and have washed and have had breakfast"?

Lastly, is it only the simple past which has such a property of actions occurring in the sequence they are mentioned? For instance, if I say "I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim." - I know that all these actions in the simple past happened one after another in the sequence they are mentioned, but it appears that this is not the case if all three actions were in the present perfect tense. Am I right?

Hello Tim,

Regarding your first point, yes, that is what I meant. As for your second and third points, yes, that is also what I meant, but in general I think you can count on people reporting the sequence correctly. I made that comment because some people are not always so precise in ordinary conversation. But in general it's reasonable to assume that people are reporting things in the sequence in which they occurred. Sorry if that was confusing!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi Kirk, sry to ask further, but assuming that the person is indeed being precise, I am then focusing more on the property of the verb - for instance, by stating one simple past tense verb after another (e.g. I finished work, walked to the beach, and found a nice place to swim), I know that these actions happened one after another. My question then is that assuming the person is indeed being precise, is it then right to say that by reading a sentence filled with present perfect simple tense verbs, one after another, such as "I have shaved and have washed and have had breakfast", that these actions took place one after another - and that indeed one of the uses of the present perfect can be to expressed a sequence of actions which happens one after another?

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