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 Tharanga,

That sentence is not correct - it has two past participles (been and come) where it should have only one. You could say I have been home for one year or I have come home for one year, but they mean different things. The first sentence says what you mean, i.e. is appropriate after you have been home for one year. The second sentence (with come) is what one would say upon arriving at home with the plan to stay there for one year.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Wong Lei Yoke on Thu, 29/05/2014 - 13:34

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Hi! I am very confused when using present perfect and present perfect continuous. Both have the meaning for something that started in the past and continues in the present. e.g 1. She has lived in London since 2000. 2. She has been living in London since 2000. So which one is correct? Please help me. Thank you very much.

Hi Wong Lei Yoke,

This is an area which is not straightforward and is very often really a question of the speaker's perspective.  In other words, as in your example, both forms are possible and the speaker can choose what he or she wants to emphasise.  We generally say that the present perfect gives a sense of completion (but that does not mean the action cannot continue, merely that you are describing a certain time period), while the present perfect continuous emphasises that an activity is ongoing and unfinished.

It's a very subtle distinction.  Fortunately, we have a page devoted specifically to this question.  You can find it here and I hope it helps to clarify the point for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ankita2219 on Wed, 28/05/2014 - 10:24

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1. Can I write "I have been playing guitar ever since I was a kid" for the statement "I’ve played the guitar ever since I was a teenager"? 2. Can we write "My last birthday was the worst day I have ever had" as "My last bday has been the worst day I have ever had" or "My last bday had been the worst day so far".

Hi ankita2219,

1. This sentence works if you are much older at the time it is spoken. The issue is that kid usually refers to a child. Although it can be used to refer to a teenager, normally only people who are middle-aged (about 40+), would say kid to refer to a teenager.

2. Your first version of the sentence is a bit unnatural, though comprehensible. This is because last birthday implies a time that has already passed, whereas the present perfect has been implies a time that hasn't yet passed - this incongruity is unnatural. I'd suggest changing the verb to was or say this birthday. The version with had been works in a context in which you are reflecting on that birthday when you had already had other birthdays after it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by raghelhiga on Tue, 20/05/2014 - 13:46

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Hi teachers I'm confused when we should use have,has,and had. Your help is needed :)\ -rachel

Hello raghelhiga,

These are all forms of the verb 'to have'.

'Have' is a present form used with I, you, we and they.

'Has' is a present form used with he, she and it.

'Had' is the past form used with all persons.

We can also use different forms of 'have' to make various perfective forms.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by keanit on Mon, 28/04/2014 - 08:11

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Hi, I'm really difficult to use present perfect and present perfect continuous. Ex- I have been working for AIM since 2013 - I have worked for AIM since 2013 which one is correct, Teacher?

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 28/04/2014 - 21:27

In reply to by keanit

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Hello keanit,

Both forms are possible in this context.  The simple form focuses on the fact of the work and the time - on the achievement or result; the continuous form emphasises the activity and its duration.  It is a relatively minor distinction in this context, but sometimes the choice can be more concrete.  You can find more information on this, and an exercise to practise it, on this page.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Verony on Tue, 15/04/2014 - 05:46

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Hi, is this sentence correct? " I have done too much household works before I go to the office" Thank you

Hi Verony,

No, I'm afraid it is not correct.  The time reference is past here - a finished time in the past, so past simple is needed rather than present perfect.

A correct version would be as follows:

I did too much housework before I went to the office.

Best wishes

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Source on Wed, 02/04/2014 - 22:04

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1.I have talked to him and he agrees with mee 2.I have been talking to him and he agrees with me 1. I was talking to him 2. I have been talking to him these sentences are the same for me i can't find difference ? please help me thank you very much in advance

Hi Source,

In the first two sentences, the difference is subtle. In both, you have spoken with him recently - the difference is that in the second, the use of the continuous aspect emphasises that you've spoken with him repeatedly or in ongoing way.

In the second two sentences, the first one refers to a time that has no connection with the present moment, i.e. that is past. The second sentence suggest some connection with the present, i.e. that the speaking has taken place recently.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tharuka on Fri, 21/03/2014 - 07:47

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Hi I have some doubt about have and have been. Let's see these sentences. 1) They've married for nearly fifty years 2)They've been married for nearly fifty years Are these both sentences meaning same?? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 21/03/2014 - 16:15

In reply to by Tharuka

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Hello Wagisha,

Only the second sentence is correct: it is the present perfect of used for unfinished past (the verb is 'be', the present perfect is 'have been'), plus the adjective 'married'.  'Marry' as a verb is used to describe what the person who conducts the ceremony does.  For example, we might say 'The priest married them in a ceremony at the local church.'

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by harshit629 on Fri, 07/03/2014 - 15:48

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hi...this site is really helpful for me. i am very confused in present perfect or in present perfect continuous tense.you should make 2 different page for perfect and perfect continuous.

Hello harshit629,

Having separate pages for the present perfect continuous and simple would be useful for dealing with the form, but not really the meaning, as the choice of which to use is only clear when they are contrasted together.  Fortunately, we have a page devoted to exactly this question.  You can find it here and I hope it will help to clarify the difference between the two.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrea_Rubio on Thu, 06/03/2014 - 02:07

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hi I want to know if in present perfect I have to use has with the third person, I'm not talking about present perfect continuous, I'm just talking about present perfect. thanks

Hello Andres_Rubio,

Yes, you need to use 'has' (or 'hasn't) with the third person present perfect.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by meheee2008uiu on Thu, 27/02/2014 - 11:10

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We have been to Dhaka since we are children. Is this sentence correct or not? Thanks

Hello meheee2008uiu,

This is a grammatically possible sentence, but a continuous form ('We've been going to/visiting...' or a different preposition ('...in Dhakar') would seem more likely alternatives, but with different meanings.  What the correct sentence is depends upon the context and upon what you wish to say.  Could you clarify what exactly you are trying to say and we'll confirm if this sentence is the right way to say it?

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter Thanks for reply. I would like to mean the mention sentence, I still live in Dhaka since that time. Best wishes meh

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 02/03/2014 - 08:10

In reply to by meheee2008uiu

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Hello Meh,

The correct form here would be the present perfect, as you are talking about an unfinished past - something that began in the past and is still true today:

I have lived in Dhaka since that time.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by meheee2008uiu on Mon, 10/03/2014 - 04:53

In reply to by Peter M.

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Hello Peter We have been to Dhaka since we are children. I don't understand the meaning and used of the above sentence. Could you please describe it? Best wishes meh

Hello meheee2008uiu,

This sentence means that we have travelled to Dhaka regularly from the time when we were children to the current time.  For example, we might say this is we make regular trips to Dhaka for a holiday, or to visit a relative every year, or travel there on business for some reason.

The present perfect for unfinished past can refer to an ongoing state (e.g. 'I have lived in London since 1980') or a repeated regular event (e.g. 'We have been to Dhaka (every summer) since we were children').

I hope that clarifies is for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter Thanks peter. I am indebted to you for your help. Beast wise meh

Submitted by nilang-hope on Sat, 22/02/2014 - 04:18

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What are the differences between these two sentences :-- 1) I had been taking preparation for exam.... 2) I was taking preparation for exam.... meaning is same or not ?...if not , then what is the difference ? ....may be it's a quite childish question , but please help me out.... thanks in advance...

Hello nilang-hope,

Have you looked at our pages on the past continuous, past perfect and talking about the past? You'll find some detailed explanations with examples on these pages. It's also important to consider the context - these two sentences could both refer to the same action, just from different perspectives.

After working through those pages, if it's still not clear, please feel free to ask us again. The more specific your question is, the more likely our answer is to help you. I also want to point out that "to take preparation for exam" is not standard English - you could say "to prepare for an exam" instead.

Finally, please know that it can take us a day or two to respond to comments, so there's no need to post the same comment on more than one page.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SUDHISH on Thu, 20/02/2014 - 09:57

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My friends and family have always been supportive and encouraging. Is this correct????

Submitted by rajesharya on Sat, 18/01/2014 - 07:00

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Hi, I want to know how does this sentence fall into present perfect tense - "She has lived in Liverpool all her life". This sentence has been given "for something that started in the past and continue in present". How does this confirm to continuity in present. Please explain, thanks!

Hi rajesharya,

The action in this sentence continues into the present because the subject (she) still lives in Liverpool. In other words, from the time she was born (in the past) and still now (in the present), she has lived in Liverpool.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Theresa Andrew on Thu, 09/01/2014 - 14:51

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Hi,

Is this sentence right or wrong?

I've worked there until 2005.

theresa

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 10/01/2014 - 12:10

In reply to by Theresa Andrew

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Hi Theresa,

The sentence is not correct.  We use 'until' to signify a finished time; we use a past verb form (such as the past simple) with finished time, not the present perfect.  The correct sentence would be: 'I worked there until 2005'.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alexvthooft on Wed, 27/11/2013 - 11:31

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Hello all,

I was wondering about the following sentences:

You read it up there. They cancelled our flight, because of the weather last night.

You read it up there. They have cancelled our flight, because of the weather last night.

My understanding is that if they are talking about cancelling the flight last night (i.e. the cancelling happened last night) it should be the first option (i.e. past simple).

But if they are talking about cancelling the flight at a not specified time, but the weather was last night it should be the second option (i.e. present perfect). (And what I mean here is that the flight could have been cancelled at any time, but the cancelling is due to the weather of last night)

 

Can any of you help me out here. Which is correct, which should I use?

Cheers,

Alexander

Submitted by Alexvthooft on Thu, 28/11/2013 - 09:16

In reply to by Alexvthooft

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P.S. I think the sentence is ambiguous so both answers should be correct. 

Hi Alexander,

Your analysis of the verb tenses is very good. I would only add that the present perfect is often used to report news, especially in British English, so the present perfect in the second sentence could have this added shade of meaning to it.

Which verb form you use depends on what exactly you want to communicate - both are possible and depend on the context and what you are trying to say.

I hope this helps. If anything remains unclear, please don't hesitate to ask about it.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zagrus on Wed, 20/11/2013 - 19:48

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Hello,

Is the usage of the present perfect correct in the following situation:

- I carried a heavy cotton bag 10 years ago and consequently hurt my back. My back still hurts me. So can I say " My back hurts me because I have carried a heavy cotton bag."

Thanks in advance

Submitted by Alexvthooft on Thu, 28/11/2013 - 09:25

In reply to by zagrus

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Hello Zagrus,

I would say yes for two reasons.

 

A. You are allowed to use the present perfect here for there is no (specific) time specified in the sentence

 

B. I would say this is a Resultative Present Perfect (and under that assumption I would even say the original sentence could be " I carried a heavy cotton bag 10 years ago and HAVE consequently hurt my back)

 

Hope this answers your question.

Submitted by zagrus on Wed, 20/11/2013 - 19:42

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Hello,

is the usage of the present perfect in the following situations correct:

- I talked to the parents of a student yesterday and told them that their son doesn't pay attention during the classes. Today he was angry at me so I asked him " are you angry at me because I have told your parents that you don't pay attention during the classes?"

- I asked a student to memorize 3 lines of a poem a week ago, but he didn't. Today he came asking me to give him some marks for memorization, but I told him " I cannot give you any marks on memorization because you have not memorized the required lines"

thanks in advance

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 21/11/2013 - 07:51

In reply to by zagrus

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Hi zagrus,

I'm going to answer your question in the comment above (1) and your two questions in this comment (2 and 3).

First of all, I wanted to make one small correction of a different issue in 1: normally we don't say our body part hurts us, we just say our body part hurts (with no object): instead of saying my back hurts me, you should say my back hurts. As for your question, to me it sounds better to use the past simple here, because you carried the bag ten years ago, which is a past time with no connection to the present. One could argue that there is a slight connection with the present in the form of the pain in my back, but the action of carrying the bag is clearly in the past. In fact, I'd recommend putting in some other more specific time reference in your last sentence, e.g. ...because I used to carry a heavy cotton bag or ...because I carried a heavy bag 10 years ago.

In question 2, both the past simple and the present perfect are possible, though I myself would use the past simple because the student seems to know that you spoke with his parents (due to the fact that he is angry). However, the present perfect is acceptable if you want to emphasise a connection between the past action of talking to the parents and the present moment.

In question 3, both the past simple and the present perfect are possible. Speakers of British English would more likely use the present perfect because there's a clear link between the student's failure to memorise the lines and the result of this, and the situation is still ongoing (the student still hasn't memorised the lines). Speakers of American English would more likely use the past simple here, as although there is some connection with the present, the time reference to a week ago is clearly in the past. One other point is that using the present perfect makes it sound like the student could still memorise the lines to improve his grade, whereas the past simple emphasises that it's now too late for him to do that.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fizazack on Fri, 15/11/2013 - 02:57

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hello.. I have a question but this question is not about this podcast. I have a problem using past perfect tense and present perfect tense. Can anyone here tell me the easiest way to understand this rule? and i'm confused with this sentence "I've been using" and "I've been used"..what is the difference? thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 15/11/2013 - 08:58

In reply to by fizazack

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Hi fizazack,

Did you perhaps mean to ask about the difference between the present perfect simple and present perfect continuous? I ask you this because neither of the forms you mention is past perfect: I've been using is present perfect continuous and I've been used is the present perfect simple in the passive voice. I'm going to explain the difference between the present perfect simple and present perfect continuous, but if I've misunderstood your question, please accept my apologies and please ask us again!

Actually, this topic is explained in some detail on the perfective aspect page. The difference between the present perfect simple and continuous is more of a difference in emphasis or perspective than a difference in meaning. For example we can say the economy has done well this year and also the economy has been doing well this year. In the first phrase, the perspective is more on the whole year, like when the speaker is someone giving a report on the economy, whereas in the second there's a bit more emphasis on the past year related to the present moment, like when someone is trying to emphasize that things are improving every day.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by english_learner456 on Fri, 01/11/2013 - 06:22

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Hi, I want more present perfect & present perfect continuous exercisers.
Hello english_learner456, I think this page will be useful for you: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/grammar-reference/present-perfect-simple-and-present-perfect-continuous There are also exercises on different grammar points as part of many of the audio and video lessons on LearnEnglish. Try using the search window on the right and you'll find some of them. For example, I typed in 'present perfect' and found many exercises listed: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/search/apachesolr_search/present%20perfect I hope that helps you. Best wishes, Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by carminuccio70 on Fri, 09/08/2013 - 20:31

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Hi Teachers

I wish the past tenses were easiest.

Do you think it is correct if I use past continuous after WHILE and then past perfect to explain that I always worked before I took a degree? 

a) While I was studying I had worked for restaurants, pizzeria,....

or maybe better

b) I had worked for restaurants since I was student.

  Thanks in advance

 

Hi carminuccio70,

Neither sentence is fully correct, I'm afraid.

'While' is used with events that happen in the same time period, whereas the past perfect is used to describe events which happened before another point in the past.  Therefore the first example is inconsistent; to correct it, you would need to use the past simple (I worked) instead of the past perfect.

'Since' tells us that one happened after (from a certain point) another.  The working in your second sentence happened after becoming a student; therefore as the sentence stands the past perfect should be replaced by the past simple (if the working is finished) or the present perfect (if the speaker still works in the restaurants now).  However, the sentence would be possible in certain contexts, where the working was before another event or change in the past.  In other words, as part of a narrative this sentence might be possible as the other events might provide an appropriate time reference.

I hope this helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hannan.k on Thu, 01/08/2013 - 15:05

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Hello I would like to ask you about the items that explanation about "something that happened in the past but is important at the time of speaking "it makes me confused to choose a present perfect or present perfect continuous? how should i know which one is suitable ? And could you explain for me about the difference of their meaning. Thanks in advance Hannan