Present perfect

Level: beginner

The present perfect is formed from the present tense of the verb have and the past participle of a verb.

We use the present perfect:

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

They've been married for nearly fifty 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.

We often use the adverb ever to talk about experience up to the present:

My last birthday was the worst day I have ever had.

and we use never for the negative form:

Have you ever met George?
Yes, but I've never met his wife.

Present perfect 1

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Present perfect 2

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  • 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.

Present perfect 3

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Present perfect 4

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have been and have gone

We use have/has been when someone has gone to a place and returned:

A: Where have you been?
B: I've just been out to the supermarket.

A: Have you ever been to San Francisco?
B: No, but I've been to Los Angeles.

But when someone has not returned, we use have/has gone:

A: Where's Maria? I haven't seen her for weeks.
B: She's gone to Paris for a week. She'll be back tomorrow.
 

have been and have gone

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Present perfect with time adverbials 

We often use the present perfect with adverbials which refer to the recent past:

recently just only just

Scientists have recently discovered a new breed of monkey.
We have just got back from our holidays.

or adverbials which include the present:

so far     until now     up to now
ever
(in questions)
yet (in questions and negatives)

Have you ever seen a ghost?
Where have you been up to now?
A: Have you finished your homework yet?
B: No, so far I've only done my history.

After a clause with the present perfect we often use a clause with since to show when something started in the past:

I've worked here since I left school.
I've been watching that programme every week since it started.

Present perfect with time adverbials 1

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Present perfect with time adverbials 2

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Be careful!
We do not use the present perfect with adverbials which refer to a finished past time:
yesterday last week/month/year in 2017 when I was younger etc.

I have seen that film yesterday.
We have just bought a new car last week.
When we were children we have been to California.

but we can use the present perfect with adverbials which refer to a time which is not yet finished:
today this week/month/year now that I am 18 etc.

Have you seen Helen today?
We have bought a new car this week.

Present perfect and past simple 1

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Present perfect and past simple 2

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Level: intermediate

Present perfect continuous

The present perfect continuous is formed with have/has been and the -ing form of the verb.

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

She has been living in Liverpool all her life.
It's been raining for hours.
I'm tired out. I've been working all day.
They have been staying with us since last week.

We do not normally use the present perfect continuous with stative verbs. We use the present perfect simple instead:

I've always been liking liked John.

Present perfect continuous 1

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Present perfect continuous 2

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Present perfect for future

We normally use the present simple to talk about the future in clauses with before, after, until, etc.:

I'll keep looking until I find my book.
We'll begin when everyone arrives.

but we can also use the present perfect:

I'll keep looking until I have found my book.
We'll begin when everyone has arrived.

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Hello Janghyeok,

In general, we use the present perfect when there is an identifiable present result and the past simple when the time period is finished. Most of the time we would say 'What did you just say?' as the speech has finished. However, we might say 'What have you just said?' if there is a clear result of the person's speech. For example, if I see that two of my friends are having a conversation and suddenly one of them bursts into tears then I might ask 'What have you just said?' because there is a clear present result. However, 'What did you just say?' is the most common form used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by beachbum on Fri, 16/12/2016 - 15:55

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I would like to understand if the responder to this question is actually correct OR should wait until asked with a Past simple question to give more information.. 'Have you ever been here before?' - Yes I have. I came here last July

Submitted by beachbum on Fri, 16/12/2016 - 15:10

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Hi. I would like to understand if this answer to this question is grammatically correct. " Have you ever been here before?" - Yes I have. I came here last July... My understanding is that the answer shouldn't reflect the time the action happened as I am simply asking whether you have done this action. Surely the responder should wait until asked with a Past simple question as to when they have done said experience? OR is the repsonder correct even when I am not interested as to 'when' they did the experience...

Hello beachbum,

The answer to the question is 'Yes I have'. Whatever follows that is up to the speaker - he or she can add additional information using the past simple if there is a concrete time reference, for example, as here, or using the present perfect ('Yes I have. I've been here many times') if there is no time reference. There is no need to wait for a particular question before adding whatever information you wish.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmedkhairy on Tue, 15/11/2016 - 21:20

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Hey :) What's the difference between - where have the things that used to make me laugh gone? -where did the things that used to make me laugh go? And which one makes more sense! Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 16/11/2016 - 07:20

In reply to by Ahmedkhairy

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Hi Ahmedkhairy,

Both of these sentences are correct grammatically so the question of which one makes more sense depends on the context in which they are used, and we do not have that context.

We use did...go (past simple) to describe completed events in the past. If the things that made you laugh disappeared a long time ago then this would be the most appropriate form.

We use have...gone (present perfect) to describe events in the past which have an influence on the present. If it is a new thing that you no longer laugh, or if this is a recent change in your life, then this would be the most appropriate form.

You can read more about these forms here and here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ryanpaul190 on Fri, 04/11/2016 - 18:34

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I'd just like to know what this means I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU when it says at the moment of speaking in the present.

Hello ryanpaul190,

We use this form (the present perfect continuous) to describe an action which began in the past and is still continuing, or which is repeated up to the present moment. I would guess that the former is the case in this example (the speaker started waiting a while ago) but it would need a time reference:

I've been waiting for you for hours!

When asking about the meaning/use of particular forms it is always better to provide a full sentence as the context is usually very important in establishing the meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Setrah on Thu, 03/11/2016 - 02:46

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hi. what's the difference between: I am pleased to say that his pain has improved. I am pleased to say that his pain is improved. They are confident that his cold has settled down. They are confident that his cold is settled down. thanks much in advance

Hello Setrah,

The first example in each pair has a verb in the present perfect form, which describes the present result of a change. The second example has a verb in the present simple, which describes a current state. In many cases both would be correct; whether or not the change is important or just the current state is a choice for the speaker.

You can read more about present forms on this page (see the links on the right for pages on each form).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 25/10/2016 - 13:15

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Dear Sir After going through your websiite carefully (present perfect simple and cont..) I am still not sure of certain things for me it is puzzeling. Could you please clarify these:1) I have lived in London for two years. This means: I still live in London or not. 2) I have been living in London for two years. This I know I still livie London. My problem is Present perfect simple. Next one: I have worked here for five years. ( This means at the moment not ... ) Next: A friend you met last year has invited you ... I know this is correct but is it not better to say A friend you met last year had invited you. After going through your website again and again I couldn't understand. I am sorry. Please clarify this. Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 25/10/2016 - 17:28

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

1) Yes, if you say that, it means you still live in London. Sentence 2, as you say, also means the same thing. 'I have worked here for five years' also means you still work here. For more on the difference between present perfect simple and continuous, have you seen this Quick Grammar page? And for present perfect and past simple, this video and this other video with Rob might help if you haven't already watched them.

As for your friend inviting you, the two sentences mean different things. In both cases, the time you met your friend is in the past, but the time she invites you is different. 'has invited you' indicates a recent action that occurred in a time period that includes the present. 'had invited you' means the invitation was extended at a time before another past time. This other past time isn't clear here, as your sentence has no context, but it could be, for example, 'before you left your home town'.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Water on Mon, 24/10/2016 - 15:51

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Hello sir, Is there any sequence to learn tenses or just read all forms of present, then past, future. Too make it easy as some forms create confusion.

Hello Water,

Without knowing you better, it's difficult to give you specific advice. In general, though, unless you really like grammar, I'd suggest taking one or two tenses at a time. And in fact, you might want to take an entirely different approach. Instead of reading through this Grammar section, you could watch the videos in Word on the Street. Each episode includes a couple of videos ('Language Focus') where grammar is discussed. It's not always verb tenses, but as you listen to the episodes and to the explanations, pay attention to how verbs are used. You can then refer to this grammar reference for more information.

Anyway, that's an idea for you. You're welcome to use our site in whatever way best suits you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ELP Train on Sat, 08/10/2016 - 05:58

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If I say for example, "Last year, I often go to Singapore." What tense is this? Will it fall on present perfect tense or present simple?

Hello ELP Train,

'I often go' would be present simple, but it is not correct to use this form with a past time reference like 'last year'. If you are talking about last year then 'I often went' would be correct - past simple.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

It is not better to say " I used to go to Singapore Last year ." Thanks

Submitted by morssy2020 on Tue, 27/09/2016 - 10:09

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what is the different between :- I’ve been watching that programme every week I’ve watched that programme every week .

Submitted by Montri on Fri, 16/09/2016 - 09:28

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I can say, 1.I have been to Rome since 2012. 2.I have been in Rome since 2012. Thank you!

Hello Montri,

1 is not correct, but 2 is.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Montri on Fri, 16/09/2016 - 08:29

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What is the different meaning of the following sentences? 1.I have been to visit my nephew. 2.I have visited my nephew. Thank you!

Hello Montri,

1 suggests that you went to visit your nephew and then returned home. 2 is a more general statement which just indicates you visited him but doesn't imply anything more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aaryanpp on Tue, 06/09/2016 - 21:13

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Dear Sir, Can you correct below sentences. 1- I have been studying since my son slept. 2- I have attended several interviews in this week. 3 - She has just slept while playing with me. 4- i have received an interview call from a company but the time they are not mentioned

Hello aaryanpp,

I'm afraid we don't offer a correction service like this. If we tried to do so then we would rapidly find that we have no time for anything else! We're happy to provide further explanations of the information on our pages or to clarify various points of grammar, of course.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by viola2001 on Wed, 31/08/2016 - 18:28

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Dear Sir about this subject is it correct to say: This morning I have waken up at 5 o'clock and I have had breakfast at 9 o'clock or, considering that I fix a time, it is more correct to say: this morning I woke up at 5 o'clock and I had breakfast at 9 o'clock Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 01/09/2016 - 07:30

In reply to by viola2001

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Hello viola2001,

As there is a concrete past time stated, the correct form here is the past simple ('woke up' and 'had').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Quezia Damaris… on Tue, 30/08/2016 - 18:17

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Hi, the word "Been in", with a "IN", exist? Example: I've never been IN the USA. The correct is to use the word "TO", right? The same apply to GONE IN vs GONE TO... Thanks in advance.

Hello Quezia Damaris Vasconcelos,

The confusion here is that 'been' is the past participle of two different verbs:

be - was/were - been

go - went - been/gone

When we are using 'been' as the past participle of 'go' then we use 'to':

I've been to France many times.

When we are using 'been' as the past participle of 'be' then we use 'in':

I've never been in such trouble before!

I've been in many museums, but never one so beautiful.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, i got it, but i still don't understand how to make the difference of when to use the verb BE or GO. In your example: I've been in many museums, but never (SEEN, right? You missed a word) one so beautiful. So, why cannot be: I've been to many museums ... (When i read it out loud i realize that is something wrong, but grammatically how can i know?) Thanks

Hello again,

The sentence I wrote was not missing a word. The verb is repeated and so can be omitted:

I've been in many museums, but [I've] never [been in] one so beautiful.

You can say I've been to many museums, but [I've] never [been to] one so beautiful - the choice is yours to use 'go' or 'be', just as I can say 'My friend isn't here any more - he went home' or 'My friend isn't here any more - he is at home'. This is a choice the speaker makes.

'Be in' tells us about a location; 'be to' tells us about a journey. When there is both a trip to a place and some time in a place the speaker can choose which suits them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tapan100 on Sat, 27/08/2016 - 19:20

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Sir I am very thankful to you. I have one issue , i am not getting any mail from this site even of my comment reply, kindly fix this issue.

Submitted by Tapan100 on Sat, 27/08/2016 - 19:17

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Dear sir, She just had her lunch. She has just had her lunch. (is the two sentence gramatically correct ?)

Hello Tapan100,

The second sentence is more likely in British English, where we tend to use the present perfect to describe very recent events. However, both sentences are possible.

I see you have asked a number of similar questions about pairs of sentences. While it is easy to identify form errors in such examples, without any context it is very hard to comment on the meaning and use of the examples.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tapan100 on Wed, 24/08/2016 - 19:28

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Dear sir, It has come to my notice lately. It had come to my notice lately. which one is correct and why please explain details

Hello Tapan100,

Both of these are possible grammatically, but the second sentence requires a context. We use the past perfect ('had come') when there is some other action in the past (typically a past simple form) which the past perfect action refers to - the past perfect action happened before another past action. On its own, without that other action, the second sentence does not make sense. If there were another action then it would be possible.

The first sentence does not require another action because the present perfect describes actions before the present - i.e. now. There is no need to state this in another sentence.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AzzuCope on Fri, 19/08/2016 - 09:24

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Thank you very much! I have the last question... On my English book they talk about giving general information and the example is "I have spoken to Barbara"; but if we refer to a very recent action/ situation, as also a news. Is it correct? I will have an English exam at university in one month!

Hello AzzuCope,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. The present perfect is not used with a closed time reference, so you can say 'I have spoken to Barbara' but not 'I have spoken to Barbara on Monday'. If the time period is closed (finished) then a past form must be used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AzzuCope on Fri, 19/08/2016 - 01:20

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For example: " I have read a book" and " I read a book". Or "I have seen titanic" and " I saw Titanic". Which ones are correct? And what's the difference?

Hello AzzuCope,

The present perfect tells us about something in the past which has a present relevance. For example, 'I have seen Titanic' tells us something about the present: that the speaker doesn't want to watch the film because they've seen it already, or that they can tell you something about the film, or that they have something in common with another fan etc.

By contrast, the past simple places the action in a completed time frame. We use this form when the action is entirely complete and has no particular effect today. The past simple gives us information about the past; the present perfect gives us information about how the past influences the present. Note that the past simple requires a time reference, either explict ('I went to Spain in 1999') or implicit from the context.

I hope that clarifies it for you. Please also try to post your question in one comment rather than several - it makes it easier to read and answer and takes up less space on the page so that more comments from others are visible.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AzzuCope on Thu, 18/08/2016 - 23:13

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Hello! Which is the difference between present prefect simple and past simple as regard unspecified time?

Submitted by AzzuCope on Thu, 18/08/2016 - 23:10

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*on the contrary, past simple is used when we talk about actions which are not so recent, without sacrificing the time. Is it correct?

Submitted by FranticGlover on Thu, 18/08/2016 - 16:52

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Dear Sir, I understand that for something that we've done several times in the past and continue to do, we can use either presnt perfect simple or present perfect continuous. What's the diffrence then? We've been going out every day since we arrived. or We've gone out every day since we arrived. Thanks in advance.

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 18/08/2016 - 20:04

In reply to by FranticGlover

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Hello FranticGlover,

We actually have a page on this very topic. You can find it here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by buguniao on Wed, 10/08/2016 - 12:52

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Hi,teachers.Please do me a favour,I am puzzeld. The following is part of a dialogue: (Sharon is a gymnast.She is at the doctor's.) SHARON:I was doing some exercises on the high-and-low bars. When i landed,I fell forward and hurt myself. DOCTOR:It's nothing serious. I think you've been very fortunate. The last sentence, Can i say "I think you are very fortunate."or "I think you were very fortunate."please tell me the difference meanings between them.

Hi buguniao,

All of those forms are possible, but have different meanings. However, I'm afriad we can't give in-depth explanations of multiple verb forms in the comments sections. We have pages on each of these forms so I suggest you go to the Verbs section of our Grammar section and look for information on the past simple, the present perfect and the present simple.

After you've looked at the information which is there we'll be happy to try to answer any specific questions you may have.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for teacher's suggestion.I have read the information on the past simple,the present perfect, the present simple several times.And right now i could understand the difference between the past simple and the present simple.But i am still puzzled about "I think you are very fortunate."and"I think you have been very fortunate."Because if these two sentences are translated into Chinese ,they are the same Chinese characters.so please just tell me the difference of their focusing on.Thanks a lot in advance.I am sorry for bothering you with such question.But it really make me puzzled.

Hello buguniao,

In the context you describe both sentences are perfectly fine and the only difference is in emphasis.

I think you have been very fortunate.

- this refers to the fortune the person had before now; it does not tell us anything about what may happen next

I think you are very fortunate.

- this refers to the person in more general terms, suggesting that luck is a characteristic they have - the speaker is effectively drawing a conclusion about the person from the evidence of the situation

 

In this context it does not really make a difference, but it can be an important distinction. Compare:

You've been very stupid (one particular action)

You're very stupid (in general)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team