We use the present perfect to show that something has continued up to the present

They’ve been married for nearly fifty years.
She has lived in Liverpool all her life.

… or is important in the present:

I’ve lost my keys. I can’t get into the house.
Teresa isn’t at home. I think she has gone shopping.

We use the present perfect continuous to show that something has been continuing up to the present:

It’s been raining for hours.
We’ve been waiting here since six o’clock this morning.

We use the past perfect to show that something continued up to a time in the past:

When George died he and Anne had been married for nearly fifty years.

... or was important at that time in the past:

I couldn’t get into the house. I had lost my keys.
Teresa wasn’t at home. She had gone shopping.

We use the past perfect continuous to show that something had been continuing up to a time in the past or was important at that time in the past:

Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.
He was a wonderful guitarist. He had been playing ever since he was a teenager.

We use will with the perfect to show that something will be complete at some time in the future:

In a few years they will have discovered a cure for the common cold.
I can come out tonight. I'll have finished my homework by then.

We use would with the perfect to refer to something that did not happen in the past but would have happened if the conditions had been right:

If you had asked me I would have helped you.
I would have helped you, but you didn’t ask me.
You didn’t ask me or I would have helped you.

We use other modals with perfective aspect when we are looking back from a point in time when something might have happened, should have happened or would have happened.

The point of time may be in the future:

We’ll meet again next week. We might have finished the work by then.
I will phone at six o’clock. He should have got home by then.

the present:

It’s getting late. They should have arrived by now.
He’s still not here. He must have missed his train.

or the past:

I wasn’t feeling well. I must have eaten something bad.
I checked my cell phone. She could have left a message.

 


 

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Comments

Hi ... you say that we use the present perfect to show that something has continued up to the present. So, in this sentence "They’ve been married for nearly fifty years", is there a meaning that they are now divorced or one of them is dead? Thanks.

Hello Ogeday,

The present perfect is used in this example to describe an unfinished past, so when we say 'They've been married for nearly fifty years' we mean that their marriage began in the past (fifty years ago) and is still continuing at the moment of speaking. In other words, they are still married.

If the marriage was over then we would not use the present perfect but rather say 'They were married for fifty years' or 'They had been married for fifty years', depending on the context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter. If it is unfinished and if we are expecting that it will go on sometime in the future, can we use present perfect continuous tense here ... "They've been marrying for nearly fifty years"?

Hello Ogeday,

No, we would not use the continuous form here. The verb in the original example is not 'marry' but rather 'be'; 'married' is an adjective. You could replace 'married' with other adjectives:

They have been happy for a long time.

They have been unemployed for a year.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear English team,
In my english test I am supposed to talk about a recent experience using the Present Perfect. I would like to talk about my trip to Amsterdam in March. Could you please clarify, if I can start the conversation with the Present Perfect and then continue with the Past Simple because the trip is now in the past? For example, I have been on a trip to Amsterdam recently. They were street parties throughout the City and people were celebrating. I also saw a big rock concert….

many thanks
Freya

Hello Freya,

You're right in thinking that you'll probably mostly need to use the past simple instead of the present perfect. If you use 'recently' in your first sentence, the past simple is really the best form. If you want to use present perfect in your first sentence, then I'd recommend starting with a time expression that includes the time you wre in Amsterdam as well as the present moment, e.g. 'this month', 'this spring' or 'this year', e.g. 'This spring I've been on a trip to Amsterdam. It was in early April, and there were street parties ...'.

It sounds as if you already understand this topic well, but if you want to brush up on it, I'd recommend taking a quick look at our talking about the past page and the videos on Jobs Scene 2 – Language Focus and Transport and Travel Scene 2 – Language Focus.

Good luck on your exam!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

And one more question.
Can I say "I hope you understand that we will have made less job today"?
Thx

Hello ivarsps,

When you say 'we will have made less job', I think what you mean is 'we will have done less work'. There is a good explanation of the difference between 'work' and 'job' on this BBC page. We use the verb 'do' (not 'make') with the word 'work'.

If I've misunderstood you, please let me know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello.
May I say "We stopped working 20 minutes ago. We haven't been working for already 20 minutes"?
Thank you.

Hello ivarsps,

I think the best way to express this would be as follows:

We stopped working 20 minutes ago. We haven't been working for 20 minutes already.

or

We stopped working 20 minutes ago. It has been 20 minutes since we were working.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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