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 Hashmi on Thu, 21/03/2013 - 08:09

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Hello AdamJK and Jeremy Bee!

I have two question regarding my present perfect tense.

Is this sentence correct

1)"I have  been doing  an online course on ......(course name) by ....(university name)"

Actually I want to convey through this sentence that I am taking a online course but still I'm learning and it's not finished(i.e.will take another one month or more).Is it okay to say "have been doing" or I should say I "have been learning" or "have been taking"

Another sentence which I am not sure about its correctness

2)"I have done an online course on ......(course name)  by....(university name) "

Actually I want to convey through this sentence that I have already completed that very online course.Is it okay to say "have done" or I should say I "have  learnt" or "have taken"

I will be grateful if you help me.

 

Hello Hashmi!

 

Your use of the present perfect continuous and simple is correct in both cases. We only use the verbs take or do with courses; both are OK, but learn is not. We would probably say at or maybe with for the university, rather than by, though. 

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Jeremy Bee for your earlier response. 

Is it okay to use "...... online course on programming offered by .....University".

Hello Hashmi!

 

Yes, we use by to follow offered, so that would be OK.

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by grainman on Wed, 13/03/2013 - 17:34

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Hello,

I'm writing because I have a doubt: which is the correct verb tense to use in this sentence: "studies carried out in the past showed / has shown / shows that  learning languages improves our cognitive skills.

Thanks in advance for clearing out my doubt. 

Hello grainman!

 

You could actually use all of them. You could use the simple past (showed). You could also use show because the information is still true. However, we are most likely to use have shown (studies is plural, so it is have, not has). This is an example of

  •     something that happened in the past but is important at the time of speaking  

The studies happened in the past, but they give us information about the benefits of learning languages, which is important now.

 

A bit confusing, I know!

 

Regards,

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

 

Submitted by Grammarfrog on Fri, 22/02/2013 - 19:48

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Hi all,

regarding the example above:

"I have worked here since I left school."
In which way is that different from
"I've been working here since I left school."

And how about this one:

"I’ve been watching that programme every week since it started."
Where is the difference to
"I've watched that programme every week since it started."

Thanks a bunch

Hello Grammarfrog (& also YumiStern & Davydov_gleb)!

 

You have all asked similar questions about the difference between the present perfect simple and the present perfect progressive. Often, these two tenses are very similar and it makes little difference which one we use; their meanings can be very close.

 

However, there are some differences. Progressive emphasises that the action is continuous. For example:
I have learned guitar since I was a child (note that is not finished, because you can always improve your guitar playing!)
sounds quite neutral.
I have been learning guitar since I was a child
however, sounds like the speaker wants to show that the learning is an active process.

 

This difference is clearer if you compare present perfect for a finished action:
I've done my homework. (= recently finished)
with present perfect for something you're still doing:
I've been doing my homework. (= homework not yet finished)

 

We also use the present perfect progressive when a recently finished activity explains something about the situation now:
I'm very tired, because I've been working all day!
but the present perfect when we want to focus on the action itself.
I've finished 3 reports.

 

The next important difference is to show that something is temporary or short term. For example:
I've been a teacher for ten years, but I've only been teaching at the British Council for 2 years.
Both actions started in the past and carry on until now, but the present progressive in the second part of the sentence shows that this is a shorter term situation. This is why we would probably say
I've played the guitar since I was a child (= long term)
but
I've been watching that program every week (= short term – suggests the program is maybe only a series of 8 programs or whatever)

 

Finally, you can use both present perfect continuous and present perfect to talk about repeated  activities,
I've been going to the gym a lot recently.
I've been to the gym 3 times this week.

but only use present perfect simple if you say how often you've done something with a specific time, like this week.

 

I hope that helps everyone – it's a complicated area! Remember, though, that most of the time it doesn't make a difference to the meaning (started in the past, still on-going), just changes the emphasis slightly. You can see more examples in my answer to Davydov, below.

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, 

Present Perfect/Present Perfect Continuous

As you have mentioned that (Present Perfect Continuous - is for short term and Present Perfect for long term ) hence how could you define the following example:

I have been working since ten years.(Presnt Perfect Cont)

I have worked for ten years.(Present Perfect).

Awaiting your reply. Thank You.

Hello tanveersayyed!

 

As I said at the start of my reply, present perfect and present perfect continuous are often very close. The short term versus long term distinction is only important in some cases. In your example, the meaning is very similar.

 

Regards 

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jeremy Bee,

It's mentioned by you that (we only use present perfect simple if you say how often you've done something) so we say:

I've been watching that program every week.

especially when the two tenses can be used for short and long term actions.

so can we say I've  watched that program every week. as in

I've been to the gym 3 times this week. I am a little bit confused.

appreciate your help and thanks in advance.

Hello Nour3!

 

Yes, we can say that. As I say at the start of the post, the two tenses are often very similar.

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by YumiStern on Wed, 13/02/2013 - 19:47

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Hi! I have read all the present perfect page but I haven't understood the different between present perfect and present perfect continuous yet.

 

Thank you!

Submitted by Davydov_gleb on Mon, 28/01/2013 - 19:45

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Hi, you have some examples above, which i cann't undestand. 1)I’ve played the guitar ever since I was a teenager. 2)I’ve been watching that programme every week. Could you explain, why in 1 we use Pr.Perf and another one Pr.Perf.Con. As for me, it is repeated action in both sentences. 3)They’ve been staying with us since last week. 4)I have worked here since I left school. And could you explain difference in such sentences? As for me, in both is action which has started in the past and continue now?

Hello Davydov!

 

Have a look at my answer to Grammarfrog, above, for more information. For your questions, remember that the continuous form suggests something is short term/temporary or puts the emphasis on the continuity.

1) You could say I've been playing the guitar since I was a teenager, but because play is a very active verb in English, this sounds a little strange - playing the guitar all the time every day???!!? (Continuous sense). Note that I've been learning the guitar since I was a teenager is perfectly OK, though!

 

2) I've been watching... is probably better because it suggests the TV show has only been on for a short time - say, ten episodes. However, I've watched is perfectly OK. 

 

3) They've been staying with us since last week - suggests they will leave again soon (short term, temporary). But again, present perfect is grammatically perfectly OK.

 

4) I've worked here... suggests a long term arrangement. If you change it to I've been working here... it might mean for a short time, or it might mean you have plans to move to a different job soon - but again, the difference is small, and the grammar is correct!

Hope that helps,

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mar-shar on Fri, 21/12/2012 - 20:59

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We have bought a new car this week.

if i say: we bought a new car this week 

is it wrong? 

Hello,

Both of those sentences are good grammar and quite common in English. The difference is whether the speaker wants to emphasise the present situation or the past action. The is some more information about this on our grammar page called Talking about the past.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mahjid on Mon, 10/12/2012 - 06:39

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Hello Jeremy Bee; Thank you for the answer. I'm thinking about it. I'm sure that it'll be useful. Thank you again.

Submitted by mahjid on Wed, 05/12/2012 - 12:11

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Hello, At first I should thank you for providing these materials that are very useful for English learners like me.

Secondly I have some problems with the sentences like "They've been staying with us since last week

Does it mean that they aren't staying with us right now

I ask it because my teacher told me that present perfect continuous suggests that the action has ended just before now. So in this sentence , they left our house and they aren't there now. Is it true (I know that the present perfect continuous suggests that the action is not finished but it doesn't help me with the meaning of this sentence

Also I think that maybe its not important to know whether they are with us or not in the time of speaking

Thank you so much

Hello mahjid!

Those are good questions, but there are two slightly different ways we use the present perfect continuous.

One, as your teacher says, is when an action has ended just recently - but still has an effect on now:

A: Wow, your hair is really wet!

B: Yes - I have been swimming.

B isn't swimming now, but the fact that they went swimming still has an effect on now (B still has wet hair), so we use present perfect continuous to show there is a relationship between the past action and now.

However, we also use present perfect continuous the way you suggest, to mean started in the past but going on until now. In your example, the since suggests it is probably this second meaning, because since means from a time until now.


You can see some more examples of how to use perfect tense on our general page on the perfective aspect.

Hope that helps!

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

Could you please help me with my problem? I couldn't get what you have said.

One, as your teacher says, is when an action has ended just recently - but still has an effect on now:
A: Wow, your hair is really wet!
B: Yes - I have been swimming.

when I say for example:

I can't open the door. I've lost my keys.

Here I am talking about an action has ended but still has an effect on now, why did we use the present perfect and not the present perfect progressive?

Thank you,

Nour

Hello Nour3!

 

The original question was about present perfect continuous, not present perfect simple. It doesn't have anything to do with have lost. In your example, you can't really lose your keys continuously - only once!

 

Regards

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by laxmany on Thu, 18/10/2012 - 12:15

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Hi Adam,

"They have been married for nearly fifty years." is it present perfect? can you explain the role of (have,been,married)?

Hello laxmany, in the sentences you wrote it is present perfect because until now they have been married. It is an action that started in a point in the past and continues until now.

Regards!

Hello laxmany!

 

Yes, you're right; this is an example of present perfect. Have is an auxiliary verb; been is the past participle of be; married is an adjective.

Hope that helps!

 

Jeremy Bee

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Renatus on Thu, 11/10/2012 - 18:15

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Hello MR.Jones,

First of all, sorry for my elementary English and for any mistake in my writing.

I've just created my account in your site, so I can write to you about a problem.

It's the same problem that I've read from Mr.Frid above:

I can't open and do the exercises in my computers. I've got two, and both of them have the same problem today, whereas they didn't until yesterday.

Recently I haven't changed anything in my computers, so I don't know what it depends on.

Thank you for your website

 

Hello Renatus,

I'm afraid that today we are having some technical problems with our exercises. We are working hard to fix this, so please be patient and it will be fixed soon.

Nice to hear from you - thanks for registering!

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Adam,

thanks a lot for your prompt reply.

This morning everything is working correctly, and I'm happy.

I'm new in this site, so I don't know exactly how does it work.

I would ask if you usually correct the mistakes that learners make on their e-mails when you reply.

Have a good day,

Renatus

Hello Renatus,

Happy to help! Yes, we seem to have solved the problems.

We have many thousands of users on LearnEnglish, so I'm afraid we don't have time to correct all their writing.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by samamafahim on Fri, 24/08/2012 - 23:04

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If someone asks me "How long have you lived in Canada?" Then what should I reply? "I have lived there for five years" Will it be correct? Why? There is a time given in this sentence "5 years"? We cannot use Present perfect with those experiences in which the time is given relating to the past and the experience is finished. It finished in the past and this experience of living in Canada for five years has no connection with the present. So should I say, "I lived in Canada for 5 years?" Will it be correct?

Please reply me as soon as possible.

Thank you, 

Samama Fahim.

Submitted by paul29 on Fri, 25/05/2012 - 01:53

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Hi,

Can you please explain the section with "for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of speaking".

Submitted by Survivor on Sun, 20/05/2012 - 06:40

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Hello, I'm Survivor and I would like to know where are the mistakes in the following sentences: "A woman has been shopping at the mall at 5 p.m." and "We have talked about the economy in the coffee shop at 6 p.m."

I appreciate your attention,

Hello Survivor,

In your sentences you made the form of the Present Perfect correctly, but these are not sentences where the Present Perfect is the best verb form. Read about ways to describe the past for more information.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Frid on Mon, 20/02/2012 - 13:24

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Hiii....I'm Frid and I'm just starting to learn English..

what's the different between:

1.He has worked there for three months now
2.He has been working there for three months now

 

Submitted by sasan442 on Wed, 15/02/2012 - 02:10

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hi

are these two sentences  correct???

i have been palying the guitar ever since i was a teenager,

he has been writting three books and he is working on another one.

Submitted by kragchik on Fri, 10/02/2012 - 19:58

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hi Adam,how are you,please if anyone can teach me how to use can or could pls

Submitted by A R Bhat on Wed, 18/01/2012 - 13:15

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Please let me know which among 'Present Perfect' and 'Present Perfect Continuous' tenses is preferable to use.Please provide 'charts' explaining the tenses and their usage in detail, if possible.I would really be grateful to you.

Hello Raashid,

See my reply to magnoly below for more information about the difference between the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect Continuous.

Thanks for your suggestion of charts. I've never seen a good chart of English verb forms, but it might be something worth working on. In the meantime, there are detailed explanations of the usage of English verbs on this site.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by magnoly on Tue, 17/01/2012 - 23:05

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hello

I've just finished learning this lesson;it's such useful and helpful; I've been confused with these two tenses for i started learning English ; It look more clear than before now ; but I have a question.I see that we use  the present perfect and the present perfect continuous in the same cases ; why then there are two forms to express one time? would you explain me; please?

thank you.

Hello,

The difference between the present prefect and the present perfect continuous is, of course, that one uses the continuous aspect (click on that link to find out more) and the other doesn't.

If you think about it. the perfect aspect also can be used to talk about events at the same time as non-perfect verbs. For example, 'She'd met him before.' (past perfect) and 'She met him last week' (past simple) both talk about the same time, the past.

So the continuous and perfective aspects aren't just about time, they are about the way that an event or situation is described. To describe it in a very general way, the continuous aspect describes something as being in progress and the perfective aspect describes something as being completed.

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Adam

The LearnEnglish Team