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 Ahmed Imam on Fri, 23/08/2019 - 07:21

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Hello. Is using present perfect "has appeared" after "since" correct in the following sentence or I must use past simple "appeared"? "There has been a decrease in the number of applications since the report on environmental pollution has appeared in the newspaper." Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The correct form here is 'appeared'. This is because you are describing a single point in time (past simple) from which the continuing action (present perfect) is dated.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by vinod sahu on Tue, 13/08/2019 - 15:39

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Thank You.......really nice post.

Submitted by zenghuy on Thu, 04/07/2019 - 16:11

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Hello "Have you been crying ? Your eyes are red" or Did you cry? Your eyes are red Which sentence is true? Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 06/07/2019 - 13:45

In reply to by zenghuy

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Hello zenghuy

The first one is better. The present perfect form shows that an action that started in the past is still relevant in the present. The fact that the person's eyes are red (present) is connected with their crying (past).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by larissavb on Mon, 17/06/2019 - 16:36

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What if I'm talking about an event in which I lost my keys at some point. In this case it's not really important for the present, should I use simple past?

Hello larissavb,

If the action has no relevant to your current state then the past simple is probably the best choice. For example, if you were just telling an anecdote about the past then you would use the simple past ('Did I ever tell you about the time I lost my keys? It was like this...').

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Crokong on Sat, 27/04/2019 - 11:56

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Thanks, Peter M. On this page, you say: for something that started in the past and continues in the present : She has lived in Liverpool all her life. Note: We normally use the present perfect continuous for this: She has been living in Liverpool all her life. I'm wondering whether there is really not any difference between these. Please tell me the difference so that I can use it exactly.
Hello Crokong, The difference between the present perfect simple [have/has + verb3] and the present perfect continuous [have/has + been verb-ing] is a tricky one. In some contexts both forms are possible and the choice is dependent on the speaker's choice of emphasis (the result of the action or the the process of achieving that result), while in other contexts there is a clear difference in meaning. ~ We have a page on this topic which I think will help to clarify it for you. You can find it here: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar/present-perfect-simple-and-present-perfect-continuous ~ You might also find our page on the continuous aspect helpful: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/continuous-aspect ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Crokong on Sat, 27/04/2019 - 00:10

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Hello sir. What is the difference between the following sentences? I recently met her. I have recently met her.
Hello Crokong, Both sentences are grammatically correct. The choice is between the past simple ('met') and the present perfect ('have met'). ~ We use the past simple when an event is complete and is in the past: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/past-simple We use the present perfect when an event in the past has an effect on the present in some way: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar/present-perfect ~ Thus, if your speaker considers the meeting important in some way in the present (because it has an effect of some kind), then they are more likely to use the present perfect. If they consider the meeting to be something finished and entirely in the past, then they are more likely to use the past simple. I'd also note that US English speakers tend to use the past simple more in this kind of sentence. British English speakers often use the present perfect for very recent events. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by enalia on Fri, 12/04/2019 - 09:09

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Hello, I have come across two sentences in a grammar multiple choice item. The first is "The tennis tournament so far is widely estimated to have cost over $1 million, making it the most expensive so far." The second says "The tennis tournament is so far widely estimated to have cost over $1 million, making it the most expensive so far." According to the book, the first sentence is the correct answer. However I cannot see why the second is not correct. Can't we place "so far" after the verb is, and still have the same meaning? Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 13/04/2019 - 07:19

In reply to by enalia

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Hello enalia, The position of 'so far' is very flexible and both version are grammatically correct. As an aside, the sentence is not very well written stylistically as it repeats 'so far' rather than finding an alternative phrase such as 'thus far' or 'to date'. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LihacheP on Fri, 01/03/2019 - 19:01

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Hello! I have a question about the use of present perfect with periods of time. I know that we can use present perfect to talk about our general experience: "I've lived in London" (but I don't live there now) But can we use it in the same way with periods of time? "I've lived in London for 5 years" (but I don't live there now, I only have such an experience, I moved to a different city 10 years ago). Or the use of periods of time with present perfect necessarily means that whatever I'm describing has been happening up until the moment I said it? Hopefully, I managed to pose my question in a clear way. Thank you for your time! Best regards, Pavel

Hello LuhacheP,

We use the present perfect to refer to a time period which is in some way unfinished.

This could be our life:

I've lived in London. [in my life and I'm still alive]

 

When we use for or since with the present perfect, it always refer to a time extending up to the moment of speaking. If the time is finished then we would normally use the past simple, but with an implied or stated time reference:

He lived in London for five years (in the 1980s/when he was a child/before he moved to Paris)

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by julialachowicz92 on Tue, 19/02/2019 - 13:06

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Good afternoon everyone. I have a small doubt about a simple sentence. My grandma was born in London. She has been living there since then, and now, she suddenly decided to move to another, smaller city. Is this correct or should I better say -> She has lived.... Also, another thing, could we say it in the following way: She lived in London since she was born, and now she is moving/decided to move to a smaller city. I would appreciate a fast answer. Thanks!

Hello julialachowicz92

You could use either 'has been living' or 'has lived' in this case, though the continuous form might be a bit better given the change that the second half of the sentence expresses. Though please note that if you say 'now', it would be better to say 'she has suddenly decided' instead of 'she suddenly decided'. This is because 'now' clearly refers to the present time and the past simple generally only refers to a finished past time (though it can be the very recent past in some cases).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ballou1982 on Sun, 17/02/2019 - 15:37

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I never saw this dog before yesterday Or I have never seen this dog before yesterday . Which is the correct sentence ? I want to understand the use of " never in the past " vs " never in the present perfect " . Many thanks in advance

Hello Ballou1982

The second one is not correct because the present perfect includes the present moment but this sentence mentions a different time period ('before yesterday') that puts the focus on the past, not the present.

You can say 'I have never seen an opera', which refers to your life up until right now. You could also say 'I had never seen this dog before yesterday' (using the past perfect) to refer to the time before yesterday when you had never seen the dog.

Does that help?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Widescreen on Tue, 12/02/2019 - 18:13

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Hello, could you please clarify if i am correct when use the present perfect tense in this sentence as i am confused as to whether past tense or other tense would be more appropriate ? The sentence just does not sound natural to me. “My brother has applied for that scholarship for months, but he has never suceeded yet.” Thank you

Hello Widescreen,

The present perfect is fine, but I think we would probably use the continuous form to show a repeated action, or else use a verb like 'wait' if describing one action:

My brother has been applying for that scholarship for months, but he has never suceeded yet.

My brother applied for that scholarship, but he has been waiting for an answer for months.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Mon, 12/11/2018 - 06:27

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Hello Sir In your answer to my question on 4th Nov, under present perfect 'My hands are paining . . . …'You said ' My hands hurt ' My question is can't we say 'my hands are hurting' I think we can use continues tense. I check in the dictionary : an e.g. given ' you are hurting me.' My hands are hurting I have been painting my room. (I have just finished painting)This is my sentence. Is my sentence correct ? Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hello Lal,

Both 'hurt' and 'are hurting' are possible here and there is no difference in meaning in this context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir Thank you very much for your prompt reply regarding 'hurt and 'are hurting.' Regards Lal
Hello I have read your comment and I want to share what I know (I’m not sure if I’m righ since I’m not a native english speaker myself) This is what I’ve learned, according to your questions; * You are hurting me. [correct: since this “hurt” is a verb, so you can add -ing. It means someone is doing something.] * My hands are hurting. [incorrect: since the word “hurt” in this sentence is not a verb, but “an adjective”. We cannot add -ing to an adjective. So it should be “My hands are hurt./My hand is hurt.] From what I’ve learned; we add -ing in a verb not an adjective. So we can’t use “hurting” in “My hands are hurting.” Because this “hurt” is an adjective. But it is correct in “you are hurting me” cause this “hurt” is a verb. Please correct me if I misunderstood. Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 22/01/2019 - 15:46

In reply to by Krengjai

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Hi Krengjai

Thanks for trying to help another user!

You are right in thinking that 'My hands are hurt' is correct and that 'hurt' is an adjective in this sentence.

'My hands are hurting' is also correct, however. This is because 'hurt' can be used as a transitive verb (meaning 'to cause harm', e.g. 'You are hurting me') and also as an intransitive verb (meaning 'to feel pain', e.g. 'My hands hurt' or 'My hands are hurting').

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Tue, 06/11/2018 - 06:23

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Hello Sir Thank you for your prompt reply to my last question regarding 'present perfect' Please let me know which sentence is correct? 'A' is telling 'B' at bus halt. You look tired. Have you been working hard today./Had you been working hard today?/ Were you been working hard today? Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

Since the time period being talked about here ('today') is still in progress, the present perfect continuous form would be the best one. The past perfect continuous would not be correct in any question about today and the past continuous form would be strange in most contexts. It would imply that B worked hard earlier but now doesn't look tired. But of course A has just said that B looks tired, so it wouldn't make sense to use the past continuous in this specific sentence.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew.int on Sun, 04/11/2018 - 09:14

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Hello Sir Re:present perfect cont. Regarding my last question: I have finished painting my room. Now I have a visitor. I am telling the visitor. " My hands hurt; I have been painting my room for five hours. I have just finished painting. What I want to make clear using the above example is one can use present perfect cont. for one has just finished doing some work I think it is all right to say that but I like your opinion.For e.g The road is wet. It has been raining for sometime but it is not raining now. (completed action but the result is there) Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

In the first situation, the present perfect continuous could be correct if you wanted to emphasise the action -- for example, you were painting for a long time and just recently finished. To be honest, though, I probably wouldn't use the present perfect continuous here. I'd probably say 'I've just finished painting my room and my hands hurt'. Or if you hadn't yet finished painting your room, e.g. there was still one wall to paint but you had finished for the day, then 'I've been painting my room and my hands hurt' would clearly be correct.

In the second case I'd also probably use the past continuous or past simple: 'It was raining for a long time and the road is still wet'. But again, if you want to emphasise the action of raining for some reason (for example, it never rains this time of year but it's rained for the past three days), then the present perfect continuous could work.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew.int on Fri, 02/11/2018 - 05:22

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Hello Sir I went through your website under "present perfect" and I would like to know this sentence comes under " past event important at the time of speaking" e.g. My hands are paining; I have been painting my room for hours. (Now I have finished painting.) Thank you. Regards Lal

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 04/11/2018 - 08:25

In reply to by Andrew.int

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Hello Lal,

I think we would say 'My hands hurt' here.

The focus of the sentence is the pain you feel in your hands, so it is clearly a present result of a past activity. The continuous form emphasises to process (the work) of painting, which is appopriate for the context of and it is not clear from that verb form if the painting is finished or not, unless you say this explicitly in another sentence.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew.int on Fri, 02/11/2018 - 04:38

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Hello Sir If someone asks me the question. Have you had lunch? Are the following answers correct? Yes, I had/ Yes, I have had or No, I haven't had yet/No I didn't have. Please let me know. Regards Lal

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 02/11/2018 - 06:48

In reply to by Andrew.int

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Hello Lal,

The form 'have you had' is a present perfect form and the short answers to any present perfect question are as follows:

Yes, I have.

No, I haven't.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Bengbeng on Sun, 21/10/2018 - 13:32

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Hi there. Can you explain to me which one is correct? I am unsure if I have learned anything from the workshop but I definitely made some new friends! or I am unsure if I learned anything from the workshop but I definitely made some new friends?

Hello Bengbeng,

In general, both sentences are correct. But the first sentence would only be appropriate to speak about a workshop that you recently attended. The second one could be true about one you attended recently or also about one that was more in the past.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Christian23 on Wed, 17/10/2018 - 17:33

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Hello, I have a doubt with a point of this argument. So, when you wrote "She has lived in Liverpool all her life" (in the uses of present perfect tense), I've not understood why you used both of present perfect (the simple and the continuous one)...

Hello Christian23,

When we are talking about a situation which began in the past and still continues we have a choice of forms. Both the simple and the continuous are possible. Thus both of these sentences are grammatically correct:

She has lived in Liverpool all her life.

She has been living in Liverpool all her life.

 

I would say that in the second sentence there is more of a suggestion that the situation may change at some point (she may move out of Liverpool).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jiyi on Wed, 10/10/2018 - 01:45

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hello, can i use present perfect like this: "I have tried to contact her for months?" if I tried in the past and still trying to contact her. Or, is it better to use present perfect continues? if it is so,why? thank you

Hello jiyi,

While both sentences are grammatically correct, the continuous (I've been trying to contact her...) is better in this case as the action is one which is repeated many times over a period of time and this is what you are likely to emphasise.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nisala Jayasuriya on Fri, 07/09/2018 - 20:23

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Hi, I have a family I have got a family need clariifcation on the difference what are the possible instances where we can use above examples seperately? Thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 08/09/2018 - 09:34

In reply to by Nisala Jayasuriya

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Hi Nisala Jayasuriya,

There is no difference in meaning between the two sentences you ask about -- 'have' and 'have got' mean the same thing, though there are some cases where 'have got' can not be used. Please see this page for a more detailed explanation. If you have any other questions, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jamm on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 20:22

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Hello! Could you guys please answer me a question. Is this sentence correct? It feel as tough I had been reading this book forever and I'm only on page 100. Thanks.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 07/09/2018 - 13:31

In reply to by Jamm

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Hi Jamm,

Your sentence is almost correct! You just need to change it to 'It feels as though I have been reading ...' (the rest is correct).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Callista on Wed, 05/09/2018 - 23:42

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Hello, I’d like to ask which one is correct: Since Martha left the country a year ago, she (has/had) called her friends several times. Thank you in advance.

Hi Callista,

The word 'ago' in the first clause of this sentence establishes a reference point in the present -- in other words, it suggests that Martha is here now. Therefore the verb in the second clause should be 'has called'.

If the first clause had a past reference point (e.g. 'Since Marth had left the country'), then the past perfect form 'had called' would be the correct one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Sun, 12/08/2018 - 09:55

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Hello Sir Please tell me whether both these sentences are correct or only the present perfect one. Hi. after a very long time. Where have you been? / Where were you? Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

The present perfect form is more common, as presumably you've just now seen the person you ask this question. The past simple version, however, is not incorrect; it could, for example, show that the speaker sees the person's absence as a past event with little connection to now.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lenalee on Sun, 05/08/2018 - 22:19

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Hi, thank you for your explanation. In your article, you mentioned that 'We often use the present perfect with time adverbials which refer to the recent past: just; only just; recently'. But how would you describe a past job experience? Do you write " My most recent experience as a manager had been at XX Company" or " My most recent experience as a manager has been at XX Company"? It has "recent" in the sentence but it is adj. Note: I am not working in that company anymore. I quit last month. Thank you!

Hi lenalee,

While both present perfect (as there is a present result) and past simple (as the action took place in a finished time period) are grammatically and semantically possible here, the normal choice would be past simple to emphasise that you no longer hold the position.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team