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


Present perfect 2


  • 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


Present perfect 4


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


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
(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


Present perfect with time adverbials 2


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


Present perfect and past simple 2


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


Present perfect continuous 2


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.

Average: 4.2 (87 votes)
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Submitted by ashiecajlenreese on Fri, 01/12/2023 - 15:03


I would like to ask regarding the question you have made in the section "Present perfect continuous 1"

why is the question "Stefan has been looking really sad since he came back from holiday. Do you know what's the matter?" using present perfect continuous? isnt it started since in the past bc there is "since he came back from holiday?" why wasn't it written in present prefect?

Hi ashiecajlenreese,

We can use "since" phrases with the present perfect continuous too (not just the present perfect simple). But the present perfect continuous emphasises that the action continues into the present moment. The present perfect simple can also mean that, but the continuous form emphasises the "still happening now" meaning more. It seems like a really current and immediate concern for the speaker. In comparison, if we say "Stefan has looked really sad since ...", the issue seems less immediate.

Also, it's common to use continuous forms for actions that we consider to be temporary, or not the usual situation, which also seems to be the case here.

I hope that helps to understand it.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sokhomkim on Sun, 22/10/2023 - 15:52


Hello, Sir.
I wanted to know why the present perfect simple is the correct option.
A: I'm very hungry.
B: I'm not surprised. You ..... all day.
a. haven't been eating
b. haven't eaten
I think the phrase "all day" is mostly used with the perfect continuous except the stative verbs. Could I use the present perfect continuous in the sentence above? If so, I wanted to know what the difference between them is.
Thank you for your time.
Best Wishes!

Hello Sokhomkim,

The simple form is best here because you are interested in the result of a situation. Generally, the progressive form focuses on the activity, especially an incomplete or interrupted activity, while the simple form focuses on the result. Here are some examples to clarify:

  • I've read War and Peace > I can tell you about it / I don't want to borrow it / I want to see the film
  • I've been reading War and Peace > my eyes are tired / I haven't read another book / I haven't been out much recently
  • I've cooked dinner > you can have some / I'm ready to go out / I don't want to phone for a pizza
  • I've been cooking dinner > the kitchen is a mess / I'm tired / there's a smell in the house


It's generally more a question of nuance than a black and white rule, of course.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zamrasahamed on Tue, 17/10/2023 - 13:25


can you please clarify this? you have mentioned here that present perfect tense can be used when saying something which happened in past but important for now.

Is this sentence correct "I cannot enter my home because I have lost the key yesterday?

I have heard like present perfect tense should not be used when describing an event which happened in definite time in past and simple past tense has to be used instead
Please kindly sort this out

advance thanks

Hi zamrasahamed,

Yes, what you said at the end of your message is right. With the present perfect, the past time is not normally given. Both of these sentences are fine:

  • I cannot enter my home because I lost the key yesterday. (past simple)
  • I cannot enter my home because I have lost the key. (present perfect)

In both sentences, "I lost the key yesterday" and "I have lost the key" are clearly important now, since they are the cause of the current situation ("I cannot enter my home"). However, in the first sentence, the word "yesterday" locates the action "lost the key" at a past moment, so the past simple is used. In the second sentence, no time is mentioned, and the use of the present perfect presents the action as relatively recent and connected to the present topic or situation.

It's not usual to use the present perfect with a defined past time moment, e.g. I cannot enter my home because I have lost the key yesterday, and this may be considered a grammatical mistake.

I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Wed, 04/10/2023 - 12:04


Could you explain why present perfect is used when we use the time adverbial like for the past three days?

Hi Khangvo2812,

If you say for the past three days, the meaning is "from three days ago until now". It is a time period that is unfinished at the moment of "now". We use the present perfect to talk about actions in this unfinished time period. 

You may be interested in our Present perfect page (linked), which has a few more examples and exercises about this. I hope it helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by HLH on Wed, 20/09/2023 - 13:21


This car has been sold ten times
can I say life experience for things ?

Hello again.


Yes, you can use the present perfect to describe things which happen in an unfinished time period (a person's life when they are still alive, an object's history when the object still exists etc). Once the time period is finished (the person dies, for example, or the object no longer exists) you use a past form.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Tue, 19/09/2023 - 17:55


My friend said"I'm hungry" at 3:00 pm, should I ask him have you had lunch or did you have lunch?

Hello Khangvo2812,

Both are possible. I think 'Have you...' sounds better as you are talking about something with a present result. However, I'm a British English speaker and speakers of other dialects may prefer 'Did you...' In US English, for example, the past simple is common in this kind of context.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PN on Wed, 13/09/2023 - 07:09


I have a question. Are these sentences have the same meaning? Is there any difference?

1. I have not been to Qatar.
2. I have never been to Qatar.

Thank you.

Hi PN,

They have a similar meaning, but sentence 2 with "never" is more emphatic. "Never" means "not at any time".


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by capelle on Mon, 14/08/2023 - 14:50


Hello, Is it possible to ask a question about the previous lesson?
Thank you.

Submitted by ismmohit on Tue, 08/08/2023 - 10:14


Good Afternoon Sir. I have gone through the entire lesson on present perfect as well as the comments thereunder.
Although the lesson is well-prepared with lots of practice exercises, still I have some doubts left in my mind.
May I request you to please clear the following doubts:-

1. I have had a headache. Does it mean that "headache started at some unspecified time in the past & continues up to the present moment" i.e. I am still suffering from headache or "headache started at some unspecified time in the past & ended in the past itself" i.e. I am no longer suffering from headache or can it mean both.

2. In the comments section, someone asked "He has been a soldier" and he was told that it means "he was a soldier at some point in time but no longer now". Other person asked "He has been a software Engineer" and he was told it could mean both "He may be a software Engineer now or He may not be". How to interpret the meaning of " He has been a soldier or software engineer or businessman etc."

3. Normally, if a sentence in present perfect is followed by a prepositional phrase (for/since) then it means that the action continues up to the present moment such as He has been married for 30 years (still married) or I have known him for 10 years (still known to me). But It is mentioned in the comment section that "I have waited for 03 hours" means that the action of waiting is completed. How to interpret present perfect tenses with for/since.

Thank You


Mohit Gupta

Hello Mohit,

It's difficult to respond to these questions without knowing the context for the utterances you're asking about. The context is important because it tells us something about the speaker's perspective and purpose. But I'll make some comments that perhaps are useful.

'I've had a headache' would normally have a time clause with 'since' or 'for' accompanying it. In these cases, I would understand it to mean that the speaker still has the headache at the time of speaking. Perhaps you come home and find your brother laying on the sofa. He's normally very active and so you ask him if he's OK and he says, 'I've had a headache for the past three hours and can't concentrate'.

Regarding 2, I'm afraid I don't have time to go and find the comments you've asked about, but I imagine it was due to the context mentioned in them, or perhaps the context we imagined when responding. In a job interview context, saying 'He has been a soldier/software engineer' could be used to refer to a person's specific past work experience, i.e. to say he has experience in that position, but it could also be used to refer to the job they still currently have. It depends.

Regarding 3, it's difficult for me to imagine a situation when someone would say this. People normally use a present perfect continuous form to talk about waiting that is still in progress, i.e. 'I've been waiting for three hours' is what we'd normally say if we're still waiting at the time of speaking.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Mon, 07/08/2023 - 13:24


Could you check this sentence for me?
I haven’t met you for a long time. How’s everything going?

Hello Khangvo2812,

Among native speakers, we'd use 'haven't seen' or some other verb instead of 'haven't met', but in international contexts, people use sentences like this all the time and they are fine.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by AboodKh9 on Mon, 31/07/2023 - 19:55


Hello team!
I have a question regarding "for and since" can I use them at the beginning of the sentence?
For example:
Since 2020(,) I have been a teacher.
For three years(,)I have been a teacher.

And can be written with commas or without?

Hello AboodKh9,

It's fine to start sentences in this way, and it can be a good way to emphasise how long the action or state has been continuing. No comma is necessary.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by priyansh030 on Wed, 28/06/2023 - 13:39


Hello sir,
Could you explain the difference between these sentences as i am unable to understand the exact difference in the meaning,
He has been a soldier.
He was a soldier.

He has been brave.
He is brave.
In the last two sentences ,the state of being brave is continuing till the present so what is the difference?

Hello priyansh030,

If I understand the speaker's intentions correctly, 1a means that the man was a soldier at some point in his life but is not now. It's similar to saying 'I've visited Bangladesh' when you are now in Lahore -- it's a statement about an experience you have had in the course of your lifetime. This sentence shows that this man's life experience includes being a soldier at some point in time. Perhaps another person has said that the man was never a soldier, but this speaker says this sentence to insist that he has experienced being a soldier.

1b simply says that he was a soldier at some point in the past. Like 1a, it shows he is no longer a soldier. Both 1a and 1b could be used to answer many questions, but without knowing more about the situation, it's hard for me to justify using one or the other.

1a and 1b are about a man's work in the past. 2a and 2b are different because they speak about a man's personal qualities. In most cases, we would say 2b because we generally use the present simple to refer to the qualities a person has. It's not explicitly said, but we often assume that these qualities were also true in the past and will be true in the future. Again, without knowing more about the situation, I can't say much more.

2a is much more specific. It could, for example, refer to a recent experience in which a person has behaved in a way that is very brave. It could be that this surprised the speaker, but in any case it refers to a more specific time, a time the context presumably makes clear.

It's quite difficult to explain the differences between verb forms without more context, but I hope this gives you some ideas.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Hello Sir, thanks a lot for the reply.
I think i was confused between having a quality from a specific and unspecific point of time in 2a,2b as simple present talks about talks about having a quality from an indefinite point of time.(Past-present-future)
Thanks a lot.

Submitted by Vijdan Rizvi 17 on Fri, 23/06/2023 - 04:08


Is it grammatically correct "The children play all day long."

Thank you very much and kindly tell me one more thing,Which is more accurate:"The children play all day long." Or "The children have been playing all day long."

Hello Vijdan Rizvi,

Both are possible but have different meanings.

  • 'The children have been playing all day long' tells us about their activity on a particular day.
  • 'The children play all day long' tells us about how they typically spend their time. It is a general statement about the children's habits, not about a specific day.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LitteBlueGreat on Wed, 31/05/2023 - 01:35


Hi, I have a problem. Please consider this

"I have been a software engineer" (I know this is a vague sentence)

if I introduce myself like the above without any complement like "for 10 years, all my life, etc", could it mean :

**for something that started in the PAST and CONTINUES in the present


**when we are talking about our EXPERIENCE up to the present

Or both is possible? Thanks

Hi LitteBlueGreat,

If you say the sentences without any time reference (without 'for' or 'since', for example) then it tells us about your life experience. You can imagine listing achievements in a CV: I have had several jobs. I have been a project manager, I have been a consultant and I have been a software engineer. Note that you may or may not still be any of these things; the sentence by itself does not make this clear.

If you include a time phrase such as 'for ten years' or 'since 2015' then it tells us about something that began in the past and continues into the present.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kay0129 on Sat, 01/04/2023 - 10:34


Hello everyone, I have a question.

According to 'We use present perfect when we are talking about our experience up to the present' and the example ‘I’ve seen that film before.’ If I say ‘I’ve seen that film when I was a child’ does this sentence still correct?
The example (When we were children we have been to California.) in ‘We do not use the present perfect with adverbials which refer to a finished past time’ shows that we don’t use present perfect with past time adverbials. Does it correct If I say ‘We have been to California before’ instead of ‘When we were children we have been to California’ ? Why can’t we consider the sentence ‘When we were children we have been to California’ as an experience up to present?

Hi Kay0129,

No, I’ve seen that film when I was a child isn't considered correct. "When I was a child" refers to a finished past time. Other examples of finished past time references are last year and in 2018, and these are not usually used with the present perfect.

But it is fine to say We have been to California before, because "before" refers to a period of time lasting until the present moment (i.e., an unfinished past time). The sentence When we were children we have been to California isn't an experience up to the present, because "when we were children" is a finished time in the past. It locates the action (going to California) in the past, so it doesn't go with the present perfect.

Does that make sense?


LearnEnglish team

hi Kay0129

The sentence "I've seen that film when I was a child" is not grammatically correct because the adverbial phrase "when I was a child" refers to a specific finished past time. In this case, the past simple tense should be used instead of the present perfect tense. The correct sentence would be "I saw that film when I was a child."

The sentence "We have been to California before" is grammatically correct because the adverbial "before" is not a specific finished past time, but rather a general reference to a time that occurred before now. This is an acceptable usage of the present perfect tense.

The sentence "When we were children we have been to California" is not grammatically correct because it uses the present perfect tense with an adverbial phrase that refers to a specific finished past time. The sentence implies that the experience of going to California is ongoing, which is not the case. It would be more appropriate to say "When we were children, we went to California."

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Submitted by khaledAl5 on Wed, 15/03/2023 - 21:14


Hello everyone!
According to present perfect, we use it for past actions with a result in present.
So, I saw an example here says” Extremists have reached/ seized power in this country. You replied that past simple is more appropriate. But here, there is a result! Now they are running the country. I know that the verbs (reach and seize) occur at a particular moment, but here the focus is on the result that they maybe enact new laws and so on.

Thanks in advance.

Hello khaled,

In his comment, Peter was talking about a situation when the extremists had seized power 30 years earlier. It would be very odd to use the present perfect in a situation like this.

If, on the other hand, the extremists just seized power last and someone were reporting this in the news, the present perfect would be appropriate. We often use the present perfect to report the news because it suggests a change that is affecting the present.

It's a matter of how we conceive of the connection between past actions and the present. One could argue that everything that has ever happened is connected to the present (and I'd agree with this idea!), but language use is not so precise and doesn't consider all of history. We use it in a particular moment for a particular purpose, not to provide a scientific account.

Hope this makes sense.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Thank you so much for your response.
I just want to ask about short and long action verbs when we use them in present perfect simple.

For example;

I have opened the door since 2:00 pm. Up to now.
I have opened the door since 2:00 pm. Result in present (it’s still open)

the verb open is a short verb, so, can I use this verb or other short verbs (to be precise, the verbs that occur at a particular moment)
to mean that this action happened and still continues? Or we consider it as an action that happened in the past with result in present?

And I think that the negative form of these actions is acceptable when we use them to mean that the action hasn’t happened until now.

For example:

I haven’t started my trip since Sunday. Up to now

But in positive, I feel it’s not acceptable…
I have started my trip since Sunday. Up to now

So I am confused about this kind of verbs. Do I consider them verbs that continue up to now OR finished verbs with result in present?

Hi khaled,

I'm afraid I don't know what to say. None of the example sentences you give sound correct to me. 

Perhaps you could say 'I have been opening the door since 2.00' in a very particular situation -- for example, if you're a doorman and open and close the door for guests at a hotel; or if it's a door that for some reason takes 12 hours to open -- but in general opening a door is an action that you perform in a moment and it's done. How can you be doing it since 2.00? 

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

I know but the point that I want is:
For example: when I say that “I have opened the door” I mean that the door is open now, so, the guests can enter the hall. (it’s a past action with a result in present)

Another example: “I have started a new training course” I mean that I will not be free to go with my friends or do things I used to do before this course.(it’s a past action with a result in present)

Thank you for your patience and your help to improve learners of English language.

Hello khaledAl5,

Yes, that's right. That's how I would understand those sentences in those contexts. Of course, other interpretations are possible depending on the context: the first sentence could mean that you've opened the door so your friend does not need to do it, or that you have opened the door so you no longer need the key etc. All of these, as you say, express present results of past actions.

Present results like this represent changes in the world which are news to the listener; what that information means exactly to the listener is the context-dependent part



The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there. You could say "I opened the door at 2 pm" - it was a single action that has finished (past simple). But you might have shut the door again - we don't know. The notes remind us that we don't use the present perfect simple after a time adverbial - for example, yesterday. 2 pm is in the past in the same way that yesterday is in the past.

You could also say "The door has been open since 2 pm." This uses the present perfect because it was an action that happened in the past (the door was opened/you opened it) but the effect of the action is still true - the door is still open now. This uses the passive so that the focus is on the door and not who opened it.

On the trip sentences, I would say "I didn't start my trip on Sunday and I still haven't started it (until now)." Perhaps it is the word 'since' that is confusing? We usually use present perfect continuous after since because it describes an ongoing action that started in the past and is still continuing.

I don't know whether these thoughts will help you. I hope so :) Good luck with your English studies.

Submitted by TommyHoang on Wed, 08/03/2023 - 16:31


"Could I borrow that book some time? It looks really interesting.
Sure, you can borrow it now, I have finished it."

=> Has he finished reading the book yet?
Can we say "I fishined it" ?

Hello TommyHoang,

It's possible to say both 'I finished it' and 'I've finished it', but they can mean slightly different things depending on the situation. The main point is when you finished reading the book. If it was some time ago, then 'I finished it' would be more natural. 

But if you've been reading it recently and recently finished it, 'I've finished it' would probably be better.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by englishlearnin… on Mon, 09/01/2023 - 23:52


Could you please explain this? I was in an office so i couldn’t see outside. then i left the building and i saw wet pavement. Can i say ‘has it rained?’ Or ‘Did it rain?’
I’m little confused.
Thank you!

Hi englishlearningenglish,

Good question. The present perfect ("Has it rained?") would be more commonly used in British English, and the past simple ("Did it rain?") would be more common in American English, but both would be acceptable in both language varieties :)


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by endy23 on Tue, 13/12/2022 - 09:18


Hello, I’m looking for a hep with these please:

Yesterday someone asked for my number and this morning I’ve spoken to friend and said; „She has asked for my number, she needs to contact me first.”
Or should I just say: „ She asked for my number, she needs to contact me first.”
And if the present perfect tense is correct, could you please explain me what’s the connection with the present etc..

Example 2:
Let’s say it’s still morning and I’ve just got to a place I was driving to and the security at the property says: „You don’t have any wheels?” I say: „No, I haven’t taken any.” Or should I again just say: „No, I didn’t take any.” And if the present perfect tense is correct, how does that affect the present or what’s the connection here. Sorry I’m just confused with these because I know that even some British people use any of these interchangeably and it just confuses me. I really want to understand the difference.

And if I may one more..

She says: „ I think our managers may by trying to set us up.”
I say: „Yes, I’ve heard something.” Or should I just say: „Yes, I heard something.” And again.. why?

I’m sorry, I know these might be similar examples but I’m just not sure when to use these and it’s just embarrassing for me.. because even when I watch videos online, at the end of it some people say: „ I hope you have enjoyed this video ( I believe that’s because the event just finished - but even now shouldn’t I say I believe that’s because the event has just finished?) and others would say: „ I hope you enjoyed this video.” But why?
Also I’m so sorry but very last one:

I broke my hand in the past and went to a doctor. While the hand was healing I accidentally fell off and after a month spoke to a doctor again and wanted to say that I think I actually made it worse.
But what should I have said at the doctor?
„I think I have made it worse.”
Or just „I think I made it worse.”

Sorry again for long message but your answer would make it just much more clearer to me.

Thank you for your time and any response you can give me.


Hi Andreas,

I'll try to explain. In short, I think all of these answers are acceptable, the present perfect ones and the past simple ones too (with the possible exception of example 2 - see below).

The present perfect indicates a connection to the present, as you say. That's why it's often used when somebody introduces a new topic into the conversation. It shows that the new topic that the speaker is introducing has relevance to the current or existing topic. So, if you say She has asked for my number, it might be because you and the listener were talking about her just before (i.e. the current topic is "her"), and then you introduce this new topic (her asking for your number). The present perfect shows that this new topic is relevant to the current one. If you say I think I have made it worse, it might be because the current topic of conversation is your injury, and you are introducing a new topic (how you made the injury worse) and want to show the listener that it's relevant to the current topic.

The past simple locates the action in the past, outside the present timeframe. So, you might use this when you want to shift the focus away from the present and more onto the past action. For example, you might say She asked for my number when I saw her yesterday. Here, the sentence gives more detail about that past action. Or you might say I think I made it worse by .... and then explain more details about what you did, using more past simple verbs. These extra past details are not essential, however. Somebody might simply say I think I made it worse because although that's a past action in a past timeframe, the relevance to the present topic of "your injury" is fairly obvious (considering the context of the conversation and the fact that "it" must refer to something else that was just mentioned). Unlike the present perfect, though, the past simple does not grammatically show the relevance.

Another thing to be aware of is that many speakers use the past simple form with the 'relevance to the present' meaning that is typically associated with the present perfect. This is especially common in American English but it is also found in British English and other language varieties.

In summary, then, this isn't a situation where one form is correct and the other is incorrect. There isn't a simple answer here because whether you choose the present perfect or past simple depends on several things: the relationship with the conversation topic, what else is said before and afterwards, and which variety of English you are using. But you can rest assured that whether using present perfect or past simple, the intended meaning in all the examples above is clear.

(The one exception might be example 2, where your answer is a direct response to the security guard's question, so I would perhaps prefer to use present perfect to connect my answer more clearly to the present timeframe used in the question.)

Sorry for the long answer but I hope that somehow helps.


The LearnEnglish Team