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

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Present perfect 2

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  • 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

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Present perfect 4

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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

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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
ever
(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

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Present perfect with time adverbials 2

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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

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Present perfect and past simple 2

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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

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Present perfect continuous 2

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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.

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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 28/02/2021 - 08:17

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. A result could be something that you can see or touch, or it could be something about a person (having knowledge or experience of something) or it could be something less obvious, such as a change in attitude or atmostphere.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Matin on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 18:20

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I mean can i use : who went to japan since covid 19??

Hello Matin,

That sounds unnatural. We tend to use the present perfect with 'since', though I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that it's always wrong to use the past simple with it. I'm not sure exactly what you want to say here, but I'd perhaps suggest 'Who has gone to Japan since the Covid-19 pandemia started?'

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Matin on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 18:15

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Hi, i have a question , : who .... To japan since covid19?? (Go)

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 00:54

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In the example quoted above, (i.e. They've been married for nearly fifty years), is "married" here an adjective? If so, does it mean I can replace "married" with any other adjective to mean express the meaning of something (maybe a state, situation or action etc) which started in the past and continues in the present - for instance "they have been hungry for nearly five hours"?

Hello Tim,

Yes, that's perfectly fine.

 

Sometimes it's ambiguous if a word is an adjective or a past participle functioning as part of a passive construction, but in this case it's clear that 'married' is an adjective, and you can replace it with any other adjective which makes sense in the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sat, 09/01/2021 - 14:41

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Hello, Is the present perfect used "for something that happened in the past but is important in the present"?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 08:22

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes. It can be expressed in different ways. It's really a question of how the speaker sees the event, and I would say that the present perfect is used when the speaker sees an event in the past as having a present relevance and not only as a historical fact.

I went to India in 2002. [a historical fact]

I've been to India. [I have knowledge of it now and can tell you something]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bruce Wayne on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 19:23

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Thank you, Peter M

Submitted by Bruce Wayne on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 00:47

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I have another question. On that same movie, one character said:"I always wanted to find them.".My question here is, why didn't the character use have?Because I think that when you say "always'' you mean your life, but his life hasn't ended, so you should use have.

Hello Bruce Wayne,

It's hard to be sure without knowing the context but it may be that the speaker no longer wants to find them or considers it no longer possible.

The speaker would say 'I've always wanted to find them' if they still want to do this or if they have just achieved their goal.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bruce Wayne on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 15:46

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Thank you, Jonathan R

Submitted by Bruce Wayne on Mon, 04/01/2021 - 01:45

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Hi, I have a question wich I'm not sure if you explained. I saw a movie a few weeks ago, that one of the characters is searching for someone. After losing who they are looking for, the character says: ''I've lost them.''. Why did he say that?

Hi Bruce Wayne,

It's a good example! This use of the present perfect is for something that happened in the past (losing someone) but is important in the present (because the searching is going on now or until recently).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by petrakovacic on Sat, 02/01/2021 - 23:51

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Hi, I am still not completely sure what means if sth is important in the present. How do I know if sth is that important so I must use have + past participle?

Hello petrakovacic,

When we talk about present importance in the context of the present perfect, we mean that the action in the past influences the present in some way. For example:

I went to Spain in 2017.

This is a statement about the past. It tells you nothing about the present.

I've been to Spain.

This statement tells you something about the present. It tells you that I have some experience of Spain and can tell you something about it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by agasavurann on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 21:26

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hello i got a question what is the diffrence between She has been living in Liverpool all her life.She has lived in Liverpool all her life. both of them specifying the Continuity but what is the diffrence

Hello agasavurann,

The difference is very slight in this context and is really only a question of emphasis. I would say that the continuous form emphasises that the action (living) is ongoing, while the simple form could be used to show that her life in Liverpool is ending and that she is moving away. The simple form effectively summarises what has happened to date; the continuous form suggests an ongoing activity.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NANDITA on Mon, 21/12/2020 - 19:01

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The turkey _____ for 3 hours. a) has cooked b)is cooking c)was cooked d)has been cooking has been cooking is the right answer?

Hello Nandita,

More than one of these answers is correct. d) is one possible answer, but c) is also possible. a) and b) would be a little unusual, but in very specific situations, they could also be correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zhangjiacheng38 on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 07:02

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Hi there, I hope you are well! I have a question. In the example of "They've been married for nearly fifty years." Why is there a "been" in the sentence? Isn't the structure of present perfect is "have/has + past participle"? Also, how is "have been married" different from present perfect in passive voice? Best regards, Billy

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 07:11

In reply to by zhangjiacheng38

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Hello Billy,

In this sentence, 'have been' is the verb 'be' in the present perfect tense (active voice) and 'married' is an adjective. If you changed the word 'married' to another adjective (e.g. 'happy'), the structure would be the same. In other words, 'to be married' has the same grammatical structure as 'to be happy'.

It's also possible to use 'marry' as a verb, in which case the word 'married' is a past simple form or a past participle. For example, we could say 'The mayor married them' or 'She married her best friend' (in both of these cases, 'married' is a past simple verb) or 'Today they have been married by the mayor' (in this case, 'married' is the past participle of a passive verb).

When you see the verb 'be' followed by the word 'married', however, it's much more likely that 'married' is an adjective, as we tend to speak more about people's matrimonial status than the actual action of marrying someone.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk, Thank you very much for your explanations! I have another question. Can you use 'marry' as a verb in a present perfect sentence. For example, 'I have married my wife for more than 10 years'? Best regards, Jiacheng

Hello zhangjiacheng38,

'Marry' as a verb means only the act of getting married, not the state of having a husband or wife. To talk about the state, you need to use be + married:

I've been married (to my wife) for more than 10 years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fa_tima on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 16:15

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Hi, I am having trouble understanding the meaning of " the weather has changed". What i understood is that the weather is changed but we don't know when it did changed. It is a complete action at unspecified time. I tried to form a sentence but I still don't get it. My second question is: what is the difference between the weather has changed and the weather changed?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 08:29

In reply to by Fa_tima

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Hello Fa_tima,

When we say the weather has changed we are saying that is it different now from how it was before. As you say, it does not tell us when the change occurred; only that things are now different.

The weather changed places the change at a specific time. This may be explict (the weather changed that afternoon) or implicit in this context.

We use has changed when we are only interested in the result, not when it happened. We use changed when we are also indicating the time of the change.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hello on Thu, 19/11/2020 - 13:00

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Dear Team, Can I use those below? 1)Plz, tell me until you've done more. 2) don't start it until I've told you. Thanks

Hello Hello,

2 is correct, but I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean in 1.

Perhaps 'Don't tell me until you've done more'? That's what you would say if the person should remain silent until they have done more.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You. 1) You've grown. What does that mean? Is that a finished or unfinished action? 2) You've grown since the last time I saw you. What does that mean? Is that a finished or unfinished action? 3) She's lived with us since last week. Is it correct?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The context or our background knowledge often informs what verb forms mean. In 1, the person is bigger now than they were at some unspecified past time, and in 2 since last time you saw them. The present perfect form in itself doesn't suggest an unfinished action, but knowing that people tend to grow (at least until a certain age), often these sentences would suggest an unfinished action.

In 3, and in general when we talk about how long something has been happening, we generally use a continuous form: 'She's been living with us since last week'. This could mean that she's only staying with us temporarily, or it could mean that she'll be living with us indefinitely.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Turki123456 on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 17:51

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Can we use the two tenses both ? 1 - I have (worked/been working) very hard so far 2 he has big match is on Saturday, so he's already (trained/been training)hard in preparation. In general, can we use the adverbs already,so far with present perfect continues

Hello Turki123456,

It's unusual (though I wouldn't say impossible) to use the present perfect continuous with 'already' or 'so far' because both of them talk about a period of time that touches the present moment, but doesn't really include it.

In the first sentence, perhaps you will continue working, but you have finished some work before now and it's not clear whether it will continue or not.

In the second, 'already' makes it sound as if he's finished training. If you wanted to say that he began training in the past and is still doing it now, you could say either 'he's been training hard' or 'he already began training hard' to show this.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hello on Wed, 11/11/2020 - 18:31

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Hello Team, #1Can the Present Perfect Continuous mean Sth is finished recently? #2 We mostly use"How long" with the Present Perfect tense. don't we? #3 A friend is waiting for me to go to school. When I meet with my friend, Should I ask "How long have you been waiting" or " How long have you waited? Why? #4 I feel sick because I haven't slept very well and also I've eaten too much the last night. Is it correct? #5 My favourite video finally comes out. After watching it, should I say " I've waited to come out for 5 months" or " I've been waiting"? #6 I've been working all day. That's why I feel tired. ( It can mean either it is done or it isn't done, Can't it?) Plz, answer all my questions. Thank you so much.

Hello Hello,

1) The present perfect continuous can refer to actions that are unfinished or finished. The context will usually make this clear, or the speaker can specify this using other phrases if they choose to. For example, 'I'm tired. I've been working for 10 hours.' Here probably the person is still working. On the other hand, 'Where have you been? Have you been working?' probably is used after the person has finished working.

2) It might be a little more common to use the present perfect simple with 'how long', but it is possible to use it with a continuous form as well (e.g. 'How long have you been studying English?).

3) 'How long have you been waiting?' because the question is more about the activity (of your friend waiting) than about them not waiting any longer.

4) The verb 'have eaten' is not correct since it refers to a time period that is clearly finished ('last night'). It should be 'ate' instead.

5) If it were me, before I watched it, I'd say 'I've been waiting for months'. After I watched it, I'd say 'I waited for months'.

6) Yes, this is similar to 1) above. It's not clear whether the work is finished or not.

I'd suggest you have a look at our Talking about the past page, which presents many of the issues you've asked about here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Krik, I know it's been a while. I thought I'd learnt enough but recently I've found some confusion again. 1) If we consider the present perfect continuous as a completed action, why don't we use the past continuous instead? Like In this example, I've found my ball pen what I've been looking for. (I'm not looking for it right now) I've found my ball pen what I were looking for. This is not the same with the topic but If You won, I'd give my pc. If You win, I'll give my pc. Whats the difference? Thank You, You've been a lifesaver. Stay Safe.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

Perfect forms are retrospective (looking back) and indicate that an action has relevance in another time period. For example, present perfect forms describe a past action or state which has a present relevance of some kind.

Past forms place the action in a completed past time frame without any evidence connection to the present.

In your examples, the form '...that I've been looking for' tells us that the speaker did not stop looking for the pen. However, '...that I was looking for' suggests that the speaker had finished looking for it, or had been too busy recently. In other words, finding the pen in the second example would be an accident, while in the first it could be the result of the search.

 

The other two sentences are examples of conditional forms. You can find a description of these on this page which I think will clarify it for you:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/verbs-in-time-clauses-and-if-clauses

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Melirma1 on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 07:12

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Hello, if I say "I have just got back from work" is it correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 04/11/2020 - 13:19

In reply to by Melirma1

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Hello Melirma1,

Yes, that is grammatically correct. It would be used correctly in a situation where you arrived from work very recently -- probably sometime in the last half hour.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maya.micheal on Tue, 03/11/2020 - 22:06

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Dear Team, Could you tell me which one is correct ? -where have you been yesterday morning? Or -where were you yesterday morning? I think past simple is more appropiate because we mentioned a past time. Also this question: I was sad when I lost my car.I (have had/had had) it for many years. I think the present perfect here isn't correct because I no longer have the car while saying so. Is that right? Thanks

Hello Maya.michael,

As you say, the past simple ('were') is correct in the first sentence because there is a finished past time ('yesterday morning').

 

With the second sentence you are also correct. The present perfect would tell us that you still have the car, which is not possible if you say that you lost it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir, Could you please tell me which is right here: 1-I'm tired.I.....(didn't sleep/haven't slept) well last night. Shall I choose the present perfect because it has impact on the present or the past simple because there is a past time? 2-it's nearly lunch time and I...(didn't see/haven't seen)Mike all morning.I wonder where he is . This makes me a bit confused Thanks again.

Hello again Maya.micheal,

I'm afraid we don't provide help of this kind. We're happy to explain aspects of grammar and help our users understand the language, but we don't provide answers to tasks from elsewhere. If we did this, we would quickly end up doing our users's homework and tests for them, which is not our job!

 

I can tell you that the key to choosing between the past tense and the present perfect is the time period. If the time period is unfinished (continues to the present) then the present perfect can be used. If the time period is complete (ended before the present) then the past tense is needed.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 01:00

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Dear Team, I confused with these words. They are used in both Present Perfect and Past Simple Form I've got to go/ I got to go Show me what you've got / Show me what you got I've found it/ I found it Is this the difference between British or American English? Or Does it have some kind of different meaning? #As Far As I've learned, we use Present Perfect as the thing in the past that is still true in present. Like I've got( means We have something in the past and possess it till now) I got(means we have something in the past but not sure we possess it till now) Am I correct? Or Am I going wrong too far? Please Help me with this Sir.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

'I got to go' is not correct in standard British or American English -- it is an abbreviated form of 'I've got to go' in which the 'have' has been omitted. It's fine in informal speaking, but is not correct in writing and is not a past simple form. It communicates necessity here.

In 'Show me what you got', 'got' is indeed a past simple form and means something like 'obtain' or 'receive'.

The difference between 'I've found it' and 'I found it' is the difference between the present perfect and past simple, which you can more about on our Talking about the past page. In American English, the past simple is used for some situations when the present perfect is used in British English, but otherwise they are the same.

Hope this helps you make sense of things.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You, Sir, Kirk I've understand well on the present perfect but these kind of situations make me to lose my sences. There is nothing left. I've eaten it all.(related to the Present) Like the example above, 1)There is a letter on our whiteboard. I wonder Who have written it? Should I use Who wrote it or have written it? If 'who wrote this' is correct, explain me why? 2) To mean ' I understand ' Should I use ' I got it ' or ' I've got it '. (I ask this because Some pages say B.E would say 'I've got it) 3) Does ' I've got ' mean 'I possess it/ I own it'? Could you tell me if this have other meanings? 4) Show me what you got ( Does it mean like Show me what you get sth in the past?) Hope you answer all my ques Thank You Have a nice day!!!

Hello DaniWeebKage,

I think that what you're finding difficult is the fact that sometimes it's the speaker's perspective on a situation that makes them choose present perfect or past simple. It's very difficult or even impossible to know another person's perspective if you are working with sentences from a textbook.

There's also the fact that speakers of American English tend to use the past simple in some situations when British English speakers use the present perfect.

In 1, if the speaker views the letter on the board as very recent -- perhaps the speaker saw the whiteboard a minute ago and it was empty, but now there's a letter there -- then 'Who has written it?' would be the sentence most speakers of British English would use. Speakers of American English might also say that, but might also say 'Who wrote it?'.

2 is similar, though it's also important to consider that when we say 'I've got it' very quickly, it often sounds like 'I got it' -- in fact, often people just say 'Got it'.

As for 3, yes, 'have got' can mean that. I'd suggest you read this explanation for more details, though. Although it looks like a present perfect form, its usage is different -- please don't try to understand it as some kind of present perfect.

In 4, yes, 'got' is the past simple form of 'get'. It could refer to a very distant past or, as in this case, probably a recent past.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You, Sir Kirk Your explanation's made me clearer than before. I've read the recent past can mean from yesterday to a few months. 1)In 1, Can I use "Having results in the present by past actions" with the recent past? Not a minute ago, Perhaps yesterday even a month ago. 1.1)What important is about the speaker what he/she wants to refer. Am I right? 2) Have you finished it? Did you finish it? These are also up to the speaker's perspective. Am I correct? (I know in some situations questing with the present perfect may be wrong but in this case, what we use is up to the speaker's time reference) Am I right? 3) I've done it for 5 hours. ( It means the action of what he was doing is completed for 5 hours) Am I right? Thanks a million. Have a perfect day!!!

Hello DaniWeebKage,

1) I think so. As you rightly say, it depends on how the speaker views the action and its relationship to the present.

2) Yes, that's correct.

3) In most cases 'I did it for five hours' would be better, but perhaps in a specific context the present perfect would be OK.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 13:03

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Which is the correct one? Have you seen John come(simple present) here? Or Have you seen John came here? And Why?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first one is correct and the second one is not. In this case, 'come' is not a present simple form, but rather a bare infinitive. We often use the bare infinitive in this way after verbs of perception. The '-ing' form is also commonly used when we want to emphasise the action was in progress when it was perceived.

For example, we can say both 'Did you see John cook supper?' and 'Did you see John cooking supper?'. The first one suggests that we saw John begin and finish cooking, that is the whole time he was cooking. The second one means that we only saw him cooking at one point in time and did not witness the entire action.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team