Look at these examples to see how the present perfect is used.
He's been to ten different countries.
I haven't seen her today.
My phone's run out of battery. Can I use yours?
Have you ever dyed your hair a different colour?
Try this exercise to test your grammar.
- Grammar test 1
Read the explanation to learn more.
We use the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.
Unfinished time and states
We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year, etc., and with expressions such as so far, until now, before, etc.
They've been on holiday twice this year.
We haven't had a lot of positive feedback so far.
I'm sure I've seen that film before.
We also use it to talk about life experiences, as our life is also an unfinished time period. We often use never in negative sentences and ever in questions.
I've worked for six different companies.
He's never won a gold medal.
Have you ever been to Australia?
We also use the present perfect to talk about unfinished states, especially with for, since and how long.
She's wanted to be a police officer since she was a child.
I haven't known him for very long.
How long have you had that phone?
Finished time and states
If we say when something happened, or we feel that that part of our life is finished, we use the past simple.
We visited Russia for the first time in 1992.
I went to three different primary schools.
Before she retired, she worked in several different countries.
We also use the past simple for finished states.
We knew all our neighbours when we were children.
I didn't like bananas for a really long time. Now I love them!
Past actions with a result in the present
We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present.
He's broken his leg so he can't go on holiday.
There's been an accident on the main road, so let's take a different route.
They haven't called me, so I don't think they need me today.
Again, if we say when it happened, we use the past simple.
He broke his leg last week so he can't go on holiday.
However, we often use the present perfect with words like just, recently, already, yet and still.
We've recently started going to the gym.
She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two.
Have you checked your emails yet?
Do this exercise to test your grammar again.
- Grammar test 2
Dear LearnEnglish Team,
could you please help me to better understand the rule "We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year"?
I've made 3 reports today. I made three reports today.
Is it correct to use the past simple if I'm not going to make any more reports today? And to use Present Perfect if I am planning to continue making more reports?
I interviewed him twice this week. I have interviewed him twice this week.
Is it okay to use Past Simple if it's Sunday evening and it's clear that I will not interview him again this week?
Thank you in advance. I'll be looking forward to your reply
You could use either the past simple or the present perfect in both of the sentences you ask about. If you see the time in which you were working on reports today as finished, then the past simple form would be fine. You could also use the present perfect then, especially if you think of doing three reports as an accomplishment, i.e. something difficult to do or that you didn't expect to achieve today. If you planned to continue working today, then the past simple would not be a good choice, and with the present perfect you could indicate this more clearly by saying 'so far', for example: 'I've written three reports so far today'.
The principle is the same in the second situation. If you don't plan to interview him any more this week, then either form would be correct, and the past simple would be even more likely on Sunday evening since it's clear the week would be over in most situations.
It sounds to me as if you understand the idea here already, but I hope that helps confirm it for you.
All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team
Thank you very much for your answer, Kirk.
Yes, I needed confirmation that I understand the difference between the tenses correctly. Because sometimes in grammar books they say "today, this week, this year" - just use present perfect and that's it.
You helped me a lot.
I came across this sentence:
I 'haven't visited' Sharm for years, so a month ago, I went there with my family.
I think as long as the action, going to Sharm, finished a month ago, the best tense to use is the past perfect, right?
Is using the present perfect OK here?
Yes, I think the past perfect would express the meaning more precisely and be the better choice. However, I think people do make constructions like this, especially in contexts where accuracy is not strictly important (e.g., informal conversations), since the intended meaning is still clear.
The LearnEnglish Team
I have a question about present perfect tense particularly with the verbs BEEN and GONE. I know the difference between them in positive senteces, but what about in the negative ones? For example is it the same to say " I haven't BEEN to Cancún" and " I haven't GONE to Cancún" ???
Generally speaking, the distinction is the same, with been suggesting a visit and return and gone suggesting that the person has still not come back. However, in informal language in some dialects people occasionally use 'gone' to mean 'visited':
I would say this is a non-standard use which is limited to informal use and which many people would consider incorrect.
The LearnEnglish Team
Thanks for your great efforts you are doing in making students more confident about grammar.
I have seen a ufo when I was in Italy.
I know that the sentence is incorrect
All I want you to do is to please tell me whether I’m correct in my explanation or not about why it is incorrect.
The verb I’ve seen means that I saw it in the past and have a memory of it now so it’s because of this present reference conflicting with the when clause referring to the past that the sentence is not correct. It’s like saying I have a memory of it when I was in Italy the sentence makes no sense .
Hi Tony 1980,
I think you're more or less on the right lines.
'I've seen' is a present form. It describes a present state - memory or knowledge, for example. However, 'when I was' is a past form. It describes a completed historical past time: a time frame which is no longer open. The problem is that there is a conceptual inconsistency in the sentence. The first form tells us that the speaker considers the time frame open (it is still relevant) while the second tells us that the speaker considers the time frame closed.
The LearnEnglish Team
Thanks Peter your explanation was really helpful I appreciate it