Present perfect

Present perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like She's called every day this week, I've broken my leg and Have you ever been to Scotland? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

Present perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

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

Present perfect: Grammar test 2

Language level

Average: 4.2 (68 votes)
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Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 22/06/2023 - 08:42

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Hello Team. Could you please help me? Is the following sentence correct using "have had"?
- Doctors keep the health records of all their patients, so they know what illnesses they have had in the past.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Yes, that's correct. You could even omit 'in the past', since the present perfect makes this clear. But it's fine to include it as well.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello again. I appreciate your quick reply. However, I have always thought that "in the past" is an indicator of the past simple as it shows past actions not connected to the present, right?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I'm sorry that my reply was confusing. You're right that 'in the past' is often used with the past simple.

What I meant was that the present perfect already communicated the time period that the sentence is talking about and that 'in the past' was not needed.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello again Ahmed Imam,

I wouldn't say that it is wrong. But if I were writing the sentence, I wouldn't include 'in the past'. The present perfect form and general knowledge about patient histories make this idea clear and in general I think it's better to leave out any unnecessary information.

So in summary it is not wrong, but I think it's better style and clearer to omit it.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by korita1284 on Sat, 17/06/2023 - 16:06

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I have a question in a book I find I've never played squash before/I've never played before moving here. So please
Can you tell me the difference between these two ideas...

Hello korita1284,

I think there's a problem with the second sentence, but let's look at them in turn.

I've never played squash before

> This sentence is fine. It tells us that this is something you never did in your whole life up to now. You might say this just before you do it for the first time, or you might just say it without any intention of changing it.

 

I've never played before moving here

> This sentence is not correct. The phrase 'before moving here' puts the action in the past as it tells us that once you moved to the new place you began to play. To describe actions in a finished past time period we use other forms - the past perfect (I had never played...) would be the best here as it describes an action in the past before another action in the past with a some kind of connection between the two actions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ridhi on Sun, 28/05/2023 - 17:57

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Sir,please help with your valuable feedback for the two sentences mentioned below:

1) She/I lived in Oman twice/many times.

What does this sentence convey:I/SHE is deceased or just the person doesn't live in Oman anymore.

2)He studied hard and became a doctor or He studied hard and have become a doctor.(reference -person is still a practicing doctor)which one would be correct?

Thank you 🙏

Hello ridhi,

In 1, the only thing that is completely clear is that she doesn't live in Oman anymore. It's possible that she is still alive now, but it's also possible that she passed away. Only the context or background information would make it clear.

Out of context, someone might think this sentence implies the woman is deceased because normally when we are talking about life experiences (i.e. the things we have done in our life), we use the present perfect, because we are still alive and there's still room for more life experiences. If we've said nothing else about this woman in our conversation and we say this sentence, the use of the past simple signals that she is no longer alive.

But if you've been talking about how now she lives in Pakistan, for example, or other places she's lived in her life, then 1 would be a simple statement about her past experiences and the past simple would be the correct form.

In 2 it depends on how long ago he became a doctor. If it was in a past time that we regard as finished or not strongly connected to the present, the past simple form is the correct form. Since you say 'this person is still a practicing doctor', it sounds like this is the best choice.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team