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: 4.1 (75 votes)

Hello Peter,
about the second point above, can I use the following construction, using the past simple tense "I LIVED IN SPAIN FOR FIVE YEARS" to mean that this experience is finished and it lasted 5 years?

Thanks for your reply,

Submitted by Odette de C. on Sun, 10/09/2023 - 16:24


Dear team,

I would like to know if the following sentences are correct and if so, whether there is a difference in meaning between sentences with "being" vs "having been".

1a. He has just died after *having been* in a coma for a week.
1b. He has just died after *being* in a coma for a week.

2a. Several geysers erupted after *having been* quiet for years.
2b. Several geysers erupted after *being* quiet for years.

Thank you!

Hello Odette,

These are all correct, though we tend to use the 'b' forms (with 'being' rather than 'having been') after conjunctions or prepositions such as 'after'. The perfect forms (i.e. the ones with 'having') can be used in different ways, but here I understand them to place emphasis on the actions (of being in a coma or being quiet) taking place before the other ones.

In these sentences, I don't think this emphasis is really needed, though perhaps it would be appropriate in a specific context. Most of the time, I would choose the 'b' forms over the 'a' ones.

I hope this helps. By the way, you might find our Participle clauses and Perfect aspect pages interesting, as they are related to this grammar.

Best wishes,
LearnEnglish team

Thank you, Kirk! Much appreciated.

An example of a similar sentence where the "having been" form is preferred over "being" would be very helpful.

Hello Odette de C.,

You're welcome. In sentences such as the following, the participles beginning with 'having' show that the action was finished before the action in the other clause:

  • Having been made redundant, she started looking for a new job.
  • Having closed the door, I realised I'd left my keys inside.

If you do an internet search for 'participle clauses', you'll find plenty more examples.

Note that this language is not at all common in most speaking in writing.

All the best,
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Sylviadz on Thu, 17/08/2023 - 22:08


Thanks for all explanations I've seen here so far. It's all well organized in a very simple way. The only thing I don't like is how quickly the login exits.

Submitted by melvinthio on Sun, 13/08/2023 - 10:24


Hi Kirk,
Thanks so much for your great explanation.

[1] Can I conclude that the following sentences are grammatically correct ?

[a] I've understood what you just explained.

[b] I haven't understood what you just explained. Could you explain it again ?

[c] Have you understood what I just explained ?

[2] Instead of using the present perfect for the above three sentences, I assume that people use the present simple more often (I understand what you just explained. / Do you understand......./ I don't understand.......).
Is my assumption right ?

I'd highly appreciate your explanation.

Best regards,

Hello Melvin,

My sense is that usually people would just say (1a) 'I've understood', (1b) 'I haven't understood' and (1c) 'Is that clear?' instead of your three statements, but they all look fine to me.

After (1b) 'I haven't understood', people will often say specifically what they don't understand. For example, if you explained to me how to change the oil in a car, I might say 'I haven't understood what tools I need' or 'I haven't understood how to find the oil pan drain bolt'. But I think your sentences are all fine now.

Yes, often people will just say (1a) 'Understood', 'Got it', 'I understand', (1b) 'No, I don't understand what tools I need', (1c) 'Is that all clear?', 'Do you understand?', 'Do you have any questions?'.

I'm being really rather picky here and explaining what sounds natural to me, but others might find your statements better than mine. Anyway, take it for what it's worth!

All the best,
LearnEnglish team


Submitted by melvinthio on Thu, 10/08/2023 - 17:41


Hi Peter,
Many thanks for your great explanation.
I'm starting to grasp when to use the word "understand" with the Present Perfect but I want to make sure that I've gained a good understanding by asking for your help again with the following questions.

[1] Is my assumption correct that the word "understand" is mostly used in such affirmative sentences ?

a) I've already understood (what you mean/your explanation, etc).

b) If I've understood you correctly, (the order will be cancelled/you will call him tomorrow, etc).

[2] As you mentioned previously that my example "have you understood what I just explained to you ?" doesn't sound natural, does it mean that we can't start a question with "have you understood.....?" Instead, we have to ask "do you understand..... ?"
Is my assumption right ?

[3] Is it grammatically correct to put it in the negative sentence, like for instance :
"I haven't understood what you mean. Could you explain it again?"

I'd be extremely grateful if you could help me again with your detailed explanation.

Best regards,