Perfect aspect

Level: intermediate

We use perfect aspect to look back from a specific time and talk about things up to that time or about things that are important at that time.

We use the present perfect to look back from the present:

I have always enjoyed working in Italy. [and I still do]
She has left home, so she cannot answer the phone.

We use the past perfect to look back from a time in the past:

It was 2006. I had enjoyed working in Italy for the past five years.
She had left home, so she could not answer the phone.

We use will with the perfect to look back from a time in the future:

By next year I will have worked in Italy for 15 years.
She will have left home by 8.30, so she will not be able to answer the phone.

Present perfect

We use the present perfect:

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

They've been married for nearly 50 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.

  • 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.

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

It's been raining for hours.
I'm tired out. I've been working all day.

Past perfect

We use the past perfect:

  • for something that started in the past and continued up to a later time in the past:

When George died, he and Anne had been married for nearly 50 years.
She didn't want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

  • when we are reporting our experience up to a point in the past:

My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.
I was pleased to meet George. I hadn't met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

  • for something that happened in the past and is important at a later time in the past:

I couldn't get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn't at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect continuous to show that something started in the past and continued up to a time in the past or was important at that time in the past:

Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.
He was a wonderful guitarist. He had been playing ever since he was a teenager.

Modals with the perfect

We use will with the perfect to show that something will be complete at or before some time in the future:

In a few years they will have discovered a cure for the common cold.
I can come out tonight. I'll have finished my homework by then.

We use would with the perfect to refer to something that did not happen in the past:

If you had asked me, I would have helped you.
I would have helped you, but you didn't ask me.
You didn't ask me or I would have helped you.

We use other modals with the perfect when we are looking back from a point in time. The point of time may be in the future:

We'll meet again next week. We might have finished the work by then.
I will phone at six o'clock. He should have got home by then.

or the present:

It's getting late. They should have arrived by now.
He's still not here. He must have missed his train.

or the past:

I wasn't feeling well. I must have eaten something bad.
I checked my mobile phone. She could have left a message.

Perfect aspect 1


Perfect aspect 2


Perfect aspect 3



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Submitted by rihana555 on Wed, 23/01/2013 - 19:18


Hello everybody, i have a little confusion with the usage of ,(regret) this  word basically has two meaning,one is mean sorry that's i think formal maybe not very spoken so the other meaning is to wish you had not done something you my first question is, when can i use( i'm regretted) even though it's past due to the ed in the end.

the second question, when can use ,about,for,to,ing,not, for example

i regret to call him , for calling him , about calling him or to call him

i hope you would understand me because my explanation is quite poor.thanks

Submitted by rihana555 on Wed, 23/01/2013 - 19:01


Hello everyone, today i'm every exciting and in a quite good -temper for writing English. myself i never fed up with learning new words and also i do  feel so sad whenever  the day passes without learning new words.

So some people have been saying to speak and understanding more important than writing and reading but the reality nothing is insignificant .

if you can't read you can't learn more ,if you can't write you can response to learn how to speak that means  everything is overlapped and related to each other,when i came to uk in mid 2009 i said just let me  understand first ,i never imagined for a moment that i would speak or write a single word but what had helped me was i have mixed  with a lot of different culture.i  had to live a way of my people here in uk to avoid speaking my own language all the time and learn new language which is english because you can never forget you native i suggest to who want learn a new language to notto  close to their culture for while it's quite difficult but that's  best way my point of vew,thanks

Submitted by cnkty on Sat, 24/11/2012 - 18:42


 thanks to The LearnEnglish Team ...

Submitted by Adams22 on Tue, 22/05/2012 - 15:11


I am a new learner to this site i just want to know for how many mins should i learn it everyday please just help me and the tips of learning it very effective..

Hello Adams22!


The important thing is to do a little every day. I usually tell my students to do 20 minutes English every day if they can. More is good, but it's better for learning if you do a little every day than a lot all at once. Try carrying a word book with you to look at when you can, or even our MyWordBook app. If you have a phone or mp3 player, you can download some of our materials like Elementary Podcasts and listen to English, too.


To learn effectively, take your time! Learning a language takes a long time, but you will slowly get better if you keep working at it. Look round our site, and watch or listen to the videos. If you can, talk a little English with friends or classmates.


Good luck!


Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team