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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

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?

Hello Tim,

I think most native speakers would use the past simple to express such a sequence of actions in most situations.

If, however, someone was casting some doubt on their statement that they'd carried out these actions, then they might use the present perfect simple to emphasise that they did indeed carry them out. But they could also use the past simple or the past simple with emphatic 'did'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Is the "present perfect tense" also known as the "present perfect simple tense"?

Similarly, is the "past perfect tense" also known as the "past perfect simple tense"?

Hi magnuslin,

 

Strictly speaking, English has only two tenses: past and present (non-past). The future is expressed in a range of ways, including the use of modal verbs such as will, might, could etc.

 

Perfect and continuous are aspects, not tenses. Thus, the present perfect is a present tense with perfective aspect. The past perfect is a past tense with perfective aspect. You can add continuous aspect to each of these.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

This part about aspect is rather hard to grasp. Notwithstanding this, I suppose it is not wrong to call the present perfect a tense (i.e. the present perfect tense) right?

Hello magnuslin

You can read more about this in the Wikipedia entry on Grammatical tense. As Peter said, technically speaking, English has only two tenses. Informally, however, many teachers and grammars speak of many other tenses such as the 'present perfect tense'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,
I've found this frase in an exercise book: "And you haven't had a job since then?". Why not "haven't you had"?
The frase is part of a dialogue.

Hello ch14r4,

Both forms are possible. We can form questions by using question word order, as you suggest, or by adding a tag question. In conversation we can also use intonation to make a sentence into a question, and that is what is happening in your example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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