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 Abdel El on Sun, 22/07/2018 - 12:28

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hello is it correct to say?: He was the tallest man I ever knew

Hello Abdel El,

Yes, though in some contexts 'He was the tallest man I had ever met' might be better. Your version would be better when a person doesn't expect to meet anyone taller, whereas the version I wrote would be better when a person thinks they might meet someone taller.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Mon, 16/07/2018 - 12:48

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hello are those sentences correct?: 1.i have been home 2.i have been to home 3.i have gone home 4.i have gone to home

Hi Abdel El,

1 and 3 are correct, but 2 and 4 are not. We don't use 'to' before 'home' when we talk about going there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lal on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 11:05

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Hello Sir Out of all the tenses most interesting or the tense I like most is present perfect. Your explanations have helped me a lot and your web site. I am asking the following questions to make sure that I have understood them correctly. For e.g. It has been raining for hours./ It has rained for hours. It has been raining for two hours. It has rained for two hours. I have been living in Nepal for six months./ I have lived in Nepal for six months. My question: If all these are correct, they mean at the moment it is raining and at the moment I am living in Nepal. I am I right or wrong. Please let me know. Thank you. Regards Lal

Hi Lal,

In both of the sentences you are still living in Nepal and both could be used with no distinction in meaning in some contexts. But if, for example, you wanted to emphasise that your stay in Nepal is temporary, the continuous form would be the correct one to use and not the other. We can't explain all the possibilities here because there are just too many and that's not really what we're here for anyway!

In the other sentences, the continuous ones clearly indicate that it is still raining. The present perfect one is not very natural outside of a context that specifies the time period you're in. For example, if the person you're speaking to has just remarked how dry it has been this month, you could say 'Yes, it has only rained for a couple of hours' and that would work because the context (this month) is clear. Without a specific time period like this, however, it would not be a natural sentence.

I hope this helps. We're glad we've been able to help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Mon, 09/07/2018 - 16:44

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hello which sentence is correct of those?:: 1.i have been working here since 1990 2.i have worked here since 1990

Hello Abdel El,

Both sentences are correct. Which is better for your particular context will depend upon that context and your intention.

We have a page focusing on the differences between the present perfect simple and continuous forms. You can find it here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Sun, 08/07/2018 - 13:15

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hello how we can use a sentence with ?: i have gone

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 08/07/2018 - 18:10

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

For example, imagine you are at home and decide to go to the market. Your mother is out and you know that she will wonder where are when she arrives home and doesn't find you. So you could leave her a note saying 'I have gone to the market'.

If you mean just 'I have gone', that would be a bit unusual, though not impossible.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Sat, 07/07/2018 - 12:48

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hello is it correct to say this ?: he has gone since one week

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 07/07/2018 - 15:46

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

No, that is not correct. I'm not sure what you mean, but you could say, for example, 'He has been gone for one week' or 'He went there one week ago'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Fri, 06/07/2018 - 13:41

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hello which sentence is correct here?: 1.is mum cooking dinner yet? 1.is mum cooking dinner already?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 07/07/2018 - 06:45

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The difference is how the speaker sees the action.

In the first sentence, the speaker is waiting for dinner to start.

In the second sentence, the speaker is surprised that the cooking has begun so early.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Arvin2017 on Fri, 06/07/2018 - 07:14

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Dear Sir, If the below sentences are both correct, in what situations should we use one or the other? 1. I lived in Australia for about 2 years. 2. I have lived in Australia for about 2 years. Thank you. Arvin

Hi Arvin,

In 1, you no longer live in Australia because the past simple shows that the action is complete or finished. The present perfect, on the other hand, expresses an action that began in the past but is still true in the present in some way, so 2 shows that you still live in Australia now.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 13:36

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hello is it correct to say : i have already eaten my dinner, or i already ate my dinner is it correct to say :I’ve been waiting for over an hour and the bus hasn’t come yet.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 04/07/2018 - 07:22

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

The first two sentences are both correct. The first sentence (have already eaten) suggests that the eating has a present effect - probably that the speaker is no longer hungry, or is telling the listener that there is no need to cook anything. The second sentence (already ate) is a statement of fact about the past which does not suggest anything necessarily about the present.


The third sentence is perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Mon, 02/07/2018 - 16:09

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hello is it this sentence correct?: It is late ! 11.00 pm !! By the way darling, I have bought a new dress this morning

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 03/07/2018 - 06:45

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hi Abdel El,

If it's now 11pm then it would be better to say 'I bought' instead of 'I have bought' because 'this morning' is clearly in the past. I would also suggest changing 'It is' to 'It's', but that's not strictly necessary.

Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Sat, 30/06/2018 - 17:30

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hello what is the sentence correct of those?: 1.He has been feeling much better since he has taken that medicine. 2.He has been feeling much better since he he took that medicine.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 01/07/2018 - 07:15

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

The second sentence is correct. 'Since' is generally used to refer to a point in past time and so the past simple is appropriate. The present perfect is used in the first part of the sentence because it describes a state which began at that point and continues to the present.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Abdel El on Sat, 30/06/2018 - 14:09

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hello is this tense correct? : Leaving home at 12 was the hardest thing I ever did

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 30/06/2018 - 16:45

In reply to by Abdel El

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Hello Abdel El,

Yes, that is OK, though 'I've ever done' would be a little better since it would indicate that you expect to live longer (if that is the case). If you're speaking about a finished past period in your life, e.g. when you lived in Cairo from 2003–2007, then 'I had ever done' would probably be the best.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zhouyoumin on Thu, 28/06/2018 - 10:15

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What tense do we use with the phrase ‘from that day on’? Which of the following sentences is best assuming that the village still exists at the time of speaking? From that day on, the village was known as Api-Api Village. From that day on, the village has been known as Api-Api Village. From that day on, the village is known as Api-Api Village.

Hello zhouyoumin,

Both was known and has been known are possible here. Strictly speaking, if the village is still called Api-Api and the speaker is conscious of that fact then the present perfect (has been known) should be used as we are talking about unfinished past. However, the speaker may be using known in the sense of given the name, in which case the past simple (was known) would be possible as the name-giving was an action in the past. This is really a question of how the speaker sees this event.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply and for making it so easy to understand. Re your explanation of how it could be used in the past simple — I never thought of it that way. It makes sense! Thanks again.

Submitted by nadhsna on Thu, 17/05/2018 - 10:20

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I have a question. She helped me (to carry/carried/carry) the heavy luggage. Which answer/s are acceptable? I believe to carry and carry are both acceptable but my lecturer thinks i’m wrong and said that the correct answers are either to carry or carried. Please help me.. if i’m correct, how am I supposed to explain to my lecturer?

Hello nadhsna,

In the sentence

She helped me (to carry/carried/carry) the heavy luggage.

the possible answers are to carry and carryCarried is not correct.

 

I can't suggest how this can be explained as it is not part of a larger grammar rule but rather part of the lexical use of the verb help, which can be part of these structures:

help + [direct object] + [to verb]

help + [direct object] + [verb]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rossella Hino on Mon, 07/05/2018 - 16:26

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How, in terms of when, things happened, can i explain the difference between these two sentences below? 1) I made dinner when she arrived 2) I was making dinner when she arrived

Hello Rossella Hino,

The continuous form suggests that the action was in progress at another time in the past, while the simple form describes a single action which may be part of a sequence of actions.

 

In terms of when things happened, the first sentence suggests that first he arrived and then you made dinner, perhaps as a result of his arrival (you may have been waiting for him).

The second sentence tells us that you started making dinner before he arrived and had not finished it when he arrived; he arrived in the middle of the cooking.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by manu17 on Sun, 11/03/2018 - 07:26

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What's the difference between I've watched/I've been watching this programme every week?

Submitted by khado on Wed, 07/03/2018 - 06:16

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hello I wondered if you could do me a favuor? i need mor exercise and example for present perfect tense it's a little bit complicate million of thx

Submitted by Anna Geghamyan on Tue, 27/02/2018 - 10:56

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Hello, Can you tell me please, which is the difference between "The building of the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Armenia has been operating since 1993" and "The building of the Opera and Ballet Theatre of Armenia operates since 1993". Which one is correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 27/02/2018 - 11:46

In reply to by Anna Geghamyan

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Hello Anna,

The first one ('has been operating') is correct and the second one is not. This is because the operation began in 1993 and still continues today, which is an action we use the present perfect or present perfect continuous to describe.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sweetroll on Fri, 23/02/2018 - 12:22

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Hello everyone! I'm so glad that I've chanced upon this wonderful site! And I have a question on the Present Perfect. As Peter M. indicated earlier, we use the Present Perfect "to describe a present result of a past action". So let's suppose I bumped into a tree driving in my car a month ago (an action in the past). The car broke down, and it's still broken (a present result). Now earlier today a friend of mine called me and asked if I could give her a ride downtown. So my reply was, "No, sorry, I can't, because I've wrecked my car". My friend hadn't known my car was broken, so that was new information for her. We hadn't seen each other for months, nor had we checked up on one another in any other way. What do you think of my reply in the Present Perfect?

Hello sweetroll,

Although, as you show, there is a clear connection between the past event and the present condition of the car, it would be unusual to use the present perfect here. I suppose this is because it is not news to you -- unless the circumstances are very unusual in some way, to you it's a past event and so the past simple would be the best form here. It would also be common to focus on the car's condition with a reply like 'I'm afraid my car's in the garage' ('garage' meaning the mechanic's).

I hope this makes sense -- please let us know if you have any further questions about this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by peisy on Thu, 22/02/2018 - 06:38

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Hello Moroz, I actually asked the administrators and hope they will reply to my query. Thank you.

Submitted by peisy on Wed, 21/02/2018 - 08:37

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Hello, may I ask you to explain the difference in time reference between the following sentences: I've seen him somewhere. I've seen him this morning. Also, can you advise what concept check questions I could ask my students to explain this difference. Thank you!

Hello peisy,

In the first sentence, the time reference is to a past action that is important at the time of speaking -- this sentence implies that I see 'him' now as I'm speaking.

In the second sentence, the time reference is to the recent past, specifically to today. Whenever a time expression includes the word 'this', we normally use the present perfect. So even if you're referring to a long period of time, you should use the present perfect -- e.g. 'I haven't seen him this century'.

Without knowing more about your teaching context and students, it's difficult to give advice on specific questions, but I'd say the main concept is that the present perfect is used to talk about a past event that is relevant to the present in some way. Have you considered asking this question on our sister site Teaching English? I expect you could get lots of interesting advice there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moroz on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 04:10

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Hello. Sorry for my poor language. How can explain why in "Have you ever seen a ghost?" used Present Perfect? Where in this sentence is the finished events?

Hello moroz,

In questions like this one, we are talking about our life experience, in other words, a time that begins in the past and continues up to the present moment (since we are still alive). The present perfect is the tense we use to express this kind of time. It is not describing a finished event, because we are still alive when we speak.

You could say 'Did you see a ghost?' when talking about your visit to a haunted house, for example. In this case, it would be a finished event, which is why we use the past simple.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khalifa2007 on Thu, 01/02/2018 - 10:01

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Dear Sir, In scientific papers, we use often the present perfect to talk about previous performed works; however, I think that the past is more appropriate in such situation. Can you give me some clarifications? Best regards

Hello khalifa2007,

You may well be right, but I can't really say for sure without seeing a specific example. If you'd like to submit an example where you think the past simple would be better and explain to us why you think that is, we'd be happy to take a quick look. Please be sure to include a few sentences of context, which is key when choosing verb forms.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Sun, 03/12/2017 - 12:22

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Dear Sir Thank you for your reply. I would like to ask this question again giving you also the way I would like to write with the finished time.and the present perfect.(2 and 3) 1.Thank you for the letter you sent me.(I am not sure right or wrong) 2.Thank you for the letter you sent me last week. 3.Thank you for the letter you have sent me. (We are talking about the effect in the present of something that happend in the past) Please let me know again all are gramatically correct or some are wrong. Thank you. Andrew international

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 04/12/2017 - 07:57

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew,

The first and second sentences are fine. The third one is not correct. We use the past simple here rather than the present perfect because the information (sending the letter) is not new information but a completed action in the past.

If I walk into a room and see for the first time that it has been decorated then I might say 'You've painted the room!' However, if the painting is not news to me - perhaps I have already heard about it, or have seen a photo - then I would not use the present perfect but the past simple: 'You did a good job painting this'.

 

In your example the person you are thanking already knows the letter was sent; there is no news here. On the other hand, if you were writing to a third person then you might use the present perfect because they would not know about the letter yet: 'I've got a letter from Paul about...'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team