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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Submitted by bainsoo on Tue, 09/08/2016 - 05:42

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Hi there, I understand that we can use present perfect tense to describe experience. If I say “I have lived in Vancouver in 1990s” Can that mean I have experience of living in Vancouver? If not, what can I say to emphasize the experience of living in some particular time?

Hi bainsoo,

I'm not quite sure what you mean. The present perfect describes here experience, as you say. However, we do not use it with a concrete finished time reference, so your example is incorrect. You can say:

I have lived in Vancouver. (There is no time reference and the sentence refers to your life - which is not yet finished!)

I lived in Vancouver in the 1990s (There is a finished time period here so we use the past simple)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lisa Tran on Mon, 08/08/2016 - 10:23

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hello I don't know that I should use BEEN or GONE in two sentences 1. I haven't..... to the cinema for weeks. 2. Katie's .... to live in Greece give me reason why BEEN or GONE, please. thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 08/08/2016 - 15:19

In reply to by lisa Tran

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Hello lisa,

In sentences like these, 'been' means that you have gone to a place and then returned, whereas 'gone' means that you have gone to the place but not returned. Since in 2, Katie is now living in Greece, 'gone' is the only correct form. In 1, 'been' would make more sense because presumably the person isn't in the cinema at the time of speaking.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ola helal on Sat, 06/08/2016 - 13:26

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hello I read in a last of this tutorial " But we can use it to refer to a time which is not yet finished: Have you seen Helen today?" I need explain about " a time which is not yet finished " why should we use "yet "in this sentence ? and can i use this "a time which has not been finished " instead of "a time which is not yet finished " because it's present perfect? and i think that "yet" is said in last of the negative sentence

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 06/08/2016 - 14:24

In reply to by Ola helal

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Hello Ola helal,

It's true that 'yet' very often comes at the end of a sentence, but it can be used in other positions as well, such as in the sentence you ask about. You could change it to the end of the sentence and it would mean exactly the same thing. 

By the way, it's great that you noticed this, as it means you're really paying attention to language patterns. This will really help you learn.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ali900 on Tue, 02/08/2016 - 11:29

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Hi Please explain to me in this following sentence if the action of arriving and observation happen at same time can we say: "When I arrived home I saw my mom has made a coffee."

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 03/08/2016 - 06:10

In reply to by ali900

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Hello ali900,

No, that is not a correct form. The sentence has a completed time reference ('arrived', 'saw') whereas the present perfect has a present time reference and they cannot be mixed like this. You can say:

When I arrived home I saw my mum had made a coffee.

The arriving and the seeing happen at the same time; the making of the coffee was before this.

You can also say:

When I arrived home I saw my mum was making a coffee.

Now all three events happen at the same time, with the coffee making in progress at the time of arrival.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monimz65 on Mon, 01/08/2016 - 11:40

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Hello, if i write:" I've recived your gift this morning" is it correct? or it's better to write "i recived your gift this morning? tanks a lot

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 02/08/2016 - 06:19

In reply to by monimz65

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Hello monimz65,

In this sentence the past simple is more likely as the action is a completed action in the past.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by wasim on Sun, 31/07/2016 - 07:14

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Difference between "Your account logins have been mailed to you" and "Your account logins have mailed to you"

Hello wasim,

The first sentence is passive and is correct - someone has mailed your logins.

The second sentence is active and is incorrect because it makes no sense. Your logins cannot mail anything to anyone.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saima khan on Fri, 29/07/2016 - 18:45

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Plz tell me which tense is this and when will we use this type of sentense. If its present perfect continuous then why we didn't use ing form of verb here, because present perfect continuous is used with ing form verb. Thanks

Hello saima khan,

I'm not sure which example you are referring to. This page deals with present perfect. The present perfect continuous is a form with an additional aspect (continuous aspect) added to it. You can read about the continuous aspect here and you can read about the differences between the present perfect simple and continuous here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Present perfect Subject + have/has +V3 I have spoken Present perfect continuous S + have/has been + V-ing I have been speaking

Submitted by erjola on Wed, 27/07/2016 - 19:29

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Hello! Why should we use present perfect in that sentences :"we have bought a new car in this week" ,because it seems that the actions is finished. Thanks...

Hello erjola,

That sentence is not quite correct. The correct form would be:

We have bought a new car this week.

We use the present perfect because the time has not yet finished - it is still 'this week'. Remember, we can use the present perfect to describe past actions provided the time reference has not finished. For example, these sentences describe the same action but because there is a different time reference they have different verb forms:

I lived in Spain in 1998. [1998 is a completed time in the past, so we use 'lived' - past simple].

I have lived in Spain before. [there is no time reference stated so it must mean 'some time in my life; my life is not yet finished and so the time reference is unfinished; therfore we use 'have lived' - present perfect].

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pyramid on Wed, 27/07/2016 - 08:09

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hello sir/madam please help me when we use present perfect, can we use do/does fro making negative, yes/no question, wh type question eg i have had i have not had have i had have i not had why have i had why have i not had are following sentences correct? i have had i do not have had do i have had do i not have had why do i have had why do i not have had help

Hello tutorprakash,

When a form already has an auxiliary verb, such as 'have' in the present perfect, we invert the auxiliary and the subject: He has eaten > Has he eaten?

We do not add another auxiliary such as 'do'. Therefore those sentences are incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much sir I have one more question please help USED TO is used to express past discontinued habits I used to do I used not to do Can we use DID NOT? i did not use to do

Hello tutorprakash,

Both of these are possible but have slightly different meanings:

I used to not do it. [this means that I did not do it in the past but do now]

I did not use to do it. [this means that it was not my habit in the past; we do not know if the speaker does it now or not]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Respected peter sir Thank you very much ^ ^ Pls last question It used to do it. [Which negative is correct?] It used to not do it Or It used not to do it ☺
Respected peter sir, Your replied: ^ I used to not do it. [this means that I did not do it in the past but do now] I did not use to do it. [this means that it was not my habit in the past; we do not know if the speaker does it now or not] ^^ ^^ There are two sentences * I used to not do I did not use to do * 1) Is there difference between above two sentences * 2) is the place of NOT correct ??

Hello Pyramid Foundation,

I'm afraid we are not able to function in the way which you expect. You have posted seven quite detailed questions in one day, and we are not able to provide that kind of service. We do not provide online teaching here at LearnEnglish. We provide materials to aid and assist learners of English, and we try to help when users have problems with those materials - explaining answers, providing useful links and so on.

Occasionally, when time allows, we try to deal with other questions from our users. However, your questions go well beyond this. What you require is a personal teacher who will help you in the way you expect. The British Council operates teaching centres in your country (you can see them here) where you can find a teacher to help you. However, I'm afraid that we cannot act as your teacher online in the way that you seem to expect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by padmanabhanbe04 on Sat, 09/07/2016 - 19:59

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Peter, Can you please tell below sentence is correct or not. If it is not what is correct sentence. "I have been involving in UT training after my Level 1 training on May last year." Thanks in advance Padmanabhan.N

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 10/07/2016 - 06:51

In reply to by padmanabhanbe04

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Hello Padmanabhan.N,

It's hard to be sure without knowing the full context, but I would suggest the following:

I have been involved in UT training since completing my Level 1 training in May of last year.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gabrigabri on Mon, 23/05/2016 - 11:39

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'Morning! I would have an explanation about the use of there was/there have been, I am always in doubt : for instance, if I say "There has been a lot of change in recent years". Is it correct? Or it is better to say "There was a lot of change in recent years". Thanks, G.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 24/05/2016 - 06:57

In reply to by gabrigabri

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Hello gabrigabri,

This is not really a question about there was/there has been but rather a question about the past simple and present perfect in general. We use the present perfect when we are talking about an unfinished past time (reaching up to the present) or when a past even has a present result or effect. Here, the present perfect (has been/have been) is probably better as the changes are probably still in effect now - they are not historical changes but part of the current world.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pyramid on Sun, 31/07/2016 - 11:39

In reply to by gabrigabri

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Gabrigabri ## Simple present: ~ there is a king ~there are kings ^^ Simple past: ~THere was a king ~there were kings ## Simple future: ~There will be a king _There will be kings Present perfect: S+ have/has + V3 ~there has been a king ~there have been kings ## Past perfect: ~There had been a king ~There had been kings

Submitted by Buttonman88 on Wed, 18/05/2016 - 07:33

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Hi I'm a TEFL teacher and I'm preparing a special lesson on the Perfect Form (Tense) and I'm stumped on how to convey the rule (if such a thing exists) for the situation when we use the perfect SIMPLE to express an action unchanged over time as opposed to the CONTINUOUS which we normally use in time durations. Example: "It's be raining for 5 hours" (continuous is preferred for a time duration) but "Humans have existed on the planet for over 200,000 years" is more correct than "Humans have been existing on the planet for over 200,000 years" So, is there a rule which neatly represents when we should use Continuous over Simple for a time duration? I first thought it might be down to the absolute unbroken nature of the action but now I'm not so sure. Is it abstract vs physical actions? Please help! Mike China

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 18/05/2016 - 07:56

In reply to by Buttonman88

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Hello Mike,

First of all, there are a couple of pages that you might find useful here on LearnEnglish – our Quick grammar page and the video on Music Scene 2 - Language Focus – and I'd also recommend browsing around TeachingEnglish, where their A perfect story and Tasking the present perfect pages, for example, might also give you some ideas.

The distinction between present perfect simple and continuous is tricky to explain and is probably not something your students will grasp without a lot of practice. It's also something that takes time to learn to explain! 

One way to think of it is that one form or the other shows the speaker's perspective on the action – the continuous form shows interest in the activity in progress, whereas the simple form shows more interest in the action as a whole. The continuous form in your sentence about the rain shows an interest in the activity of raining, which is still happening; in the case of humans on the planet, the simple form shows more interest in the existence of humans over the course of a defined period rather than their activities during that period.

I hope this helps you. Good luck!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivianzhng on Tue, 17/05/2016 - 09:47

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Is it correct that although "was" and "been" are past tenses of "be," when we say 1. "He was a teacher." & "He has been a teacher." The meanings of the two sentences are not exactly the same? The first means, he was but longer is a teacher. The second means he was and still is a teacher. Am I correct, please explain if I'm wrong. Thank you.

Hello Vivianzhng,

'was' is indeed a past form of 'be', and 'has been' is a present perfect form. 'been' by itself is a past participle. What they mean is explained above on this page, on our past simple page and on our talking about the present and talking about the past pages, as well as in the video on Transport and Travel Scene 2- Language Focus. I think especially this last page will help you understand the difference between the two forms.

By the way, we generally only answer one question per user per day, so we will get to your other questions over the next few days.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Write............... wrote................written...writing Be......................was....................been.......being am/is/are........was/were........been.......being Was/were can only be used with simple past tense And been is past participle Can be used for perfect tenses Simple past I worked for 2 years Means now i dont work there I have worked Means i worked i did not give up my work I am working the same work Was and were These are past of the verb BE Can be used for many reasons But past of other verbs have only one use in the english language and it is in the simple past (possitive sentence) British Council, is my answer correct??

Hello tutorprakash,

I'm afraid we can't check such summaries for our users. We deal with specific questions rather than correcting and improving users' own descriptions. What you have written would need to be made more precise and clear to be fully accurate, and our precise and clear information on this topic has already been provided - on the page above.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vivianzhng on Tue, 17/05/2016 - 09:11

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Please advise on which one of the following is correct. And if there's any mistake in my comment. Thank you. I haven't recieve your email yet. VS I haven't recieved your email yet.

Submitted by Vivianzhng on Tue, 17/05/2016 - 08:18

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"Please help me understand the difference in the following expressions 1-3. " And help me check if my request (the part in quotation marks is expressed correctly). Thank you. 1. They are coming after they have had dinner. 2. They are coming after they have dinner. 3. They are coming after they had dinner. Best, Vivian

Hello Vivian,

The first two sentences are correct; the third one is not. The request (in speech marks) is correct.

There is actually little or no difference in meaning between sentences 1 and 2 and they can be used interchangeably.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by C-laudia on Thu, 12/05/2016 - 12:34

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Hello. When you write "It's been raining for hours" or "She's gone to Paris for two weeks" it means "It has been raining..." and "She has gone ...", right? Do we use the same contraction for the verb to be and to have?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 12/05/2016 - 19:57

In reply to by C-laudia

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Hello C-laudia,

That's correct! The contracted forms of both 'is' and 'has' are identical, which means you have to figure which one is being used from the context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by shivam340 on Wed, 30/03/2016 - 04:16

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Hi guys, I am very confused about `have been` and it's use in `present perfect tense`. So far, I know that it can be used to explain about place that you have recently visited e.g - I have been to London. - The doctor has just been here. Apart from above situation, could you please tell me where it is possible to say something using `Been` as past participle of `Be`. Regards, Shivam

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 30/03/2016 - 07:27

In reply to by shivam340

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Hi shivam340,

'Been' is the past participle of both 'be' and 'go' ('go' has two past participles - 'been' and 'gone'). Here are some examples:

He went home.

He's been home.

He was a teacher.

He's been a teacher.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ohanna on Mon, 28/03/2016 - 00:38

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Hello! Could you, please, explain the difference between 'I've been to London' and 'I was in London'. I understand that there are different tenses, but which one is used more frequently in this situation, and what we express using the Present Perfect and using the Past Simple? If it's possible, could you give more examples to understand the difference and the accurate use of both tenses?

Hello Ohanna,

Both of these are possible and which is correct depends not upon the frequency, but what the speaker wishes to express. The present perfect describes past events which are not located only in a finished past time but have an effect upon the present. The past simple describes past events which are historical in nature - in other words, they are in the past, happened at a concrete known time and are finished. Thus we can understand the two sentences like this:

I was in London.  -  This is about a past time which is finished. It tells us about an event in the past and it needs a past time, either known from the context or stated (e.g. 'two years ago').

I've been to London.  -  This tells us not really about London, but about the speaker. It tells us of their experience in life, and has no specific time marker.

You can read more about this on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ErmolinaOlga on Fri, 25/03/2016 - 16:58

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Please explain to me why in the sentence "l gave up drinking coffee. I HAVE NOT DRUNK it for a year" present perfect is used instead of present perfect continuous?

Hello Olga,

There are different ways to look at this and the choice of which form you use really depends on what exactly you mean. In general, however, the simple form can be used to express a sense of completion, which would make sense here – for someone addicted to coffee, not drinking it for a year is an achievement.

For more on this topic, I'd recommend a couple of our pages where it's explained in more detail:

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Cocotiera on Mon, 14/03/2016 - 18:38

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Dear team, I had an interview recently. Can I say for example ' In respect to the interview I have had, I made some research regarding LADO and found that previously LADO was replaced with Designated Officer/ or Team in 2015. This is supported by 'Working Together to Protect Children'. I need help, please. Sometimes I'm getting confused with using the present perfect. I've just found the site and found it so great. Thank you :)