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 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

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