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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Hello. Could you please help me choose the correct answer? I think both are OK, right?
- Mr Ali has worked in this school since I (worked - have worked) there.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

This sentence is a little awkward because 'since' refers to a point in time, i.e. a more specific moment in time, and also it's confusing to say 'this school' with the first verb and then 'there' (which implies a different place) with the second verb.

I'm not sure what to recommend because it's not clear to me who started working in the school first -- was it Mr Ali or the speaker? And it is the same school, right? We're happy to suggest something if you can explain this a bit more.

In general, it's possible to use both the past simple and the present perfect after 'since' in a sentence.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir...
I have a problem regarding the use of 'Such as'.
Yesterday while i was reading a book. This sentence came across to me. The sentence is
He made a long handled hammer of wood, such as is used for pounding rice.
I wanna ask you regarding 'such as'
As far as I've got at, there are two verbs 'made' and 'is'. the subject of verb 'made' is 'He' but I'm not getting regarding the subject of verb 'is'. As i know ' a long handled hammer' is the subject of verb 'is'. I wanna ask you
We should have used a Relative Pronoun instead of 'such as'. I've visited so many dictionaries but i have got only ' We use "such as" for giving examples'. It seems ,here, it(such as) is used as relative pronoun. But as I've mentioned above, I haven't got such kind of meaning in dictionary.
So please let me how it is used here.
Please, Elaborate this
Thankyou

Hello Kapil Kabir,

Here 'such as' is not a relative pronoun. It means 'like' or 'similar to', i.e. 'He made a long-handled wood hammer, like those (that are) used for pounding rice.'

If it were my text, I would change the sentence you found; it's a little awkward in my opinion.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, Again
Proceeding my question further, that I've asked to you.
He made a long handled hammer of wood, such as is used for pounding rice.
If i used 'the' instead of 'a'

Hello Sir, Again
Sir, before asking, i don't know whatever I'm going to ask makes a sense or it doesn't. But I'm curious to know.
Sir as you have mentioned above 'such as' isn't used as a Relative Pronoun.
Proceedings my question further,
If I use Article 'the' instead of Article 'a' in the phrase "a long-handled hammer", then can we use 'such as' instead of a relative pronoun. Because ,in this phrase, article 'a' is being used that makes noun indefinite. But if we use 'the' instead of 'a', then Article 'the' will make the noun definite. After that can we use 'sush as' or will we have to change it(such as) into a Relative Pronoun i.e that/which etc.
Please Elaborate this.
Thanks

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I understand your question to be if it's correct to say 'He made the long handled hammer of wood, such as is used for pounding rice'.

My answer is the same as before: I would recommend changing this sentence, which at least to my ears is awkward. I would probably say 'He made the long-handled wood hammer, one like those (that are) used for pounding rice.' The issue is not the determiner 'the' or 'a' -- it's just that I find the sentence you read a little awkward (because of the use use of 'such as is') and I recommended changing it.

If you wanted to use a relative pronoun, it would need to be 'which': 'He made the long-handled wood hammer, which is like those used for pounding rice.'

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you please help me choose the correct answer? Please explain why!

- He (left - has left) work since last month because his salary was very low.

Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Given that 'since' is used here, suggesting an open time period (from last month to the present), the present perfect would be the better choice.

However, the sentence does not work very well in my opinion as 'has left' is a single completed action, so placing it in an unfinished time period suggests that you do not know when the action occurred - and yet you provide details later in the sentence (the reason why he left) which suggests that you know the situation well. There is a dissonance there and I think a past simple form with a finished time period (not since'') would be more likely.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, Is it possible to use preposition "from" instead of "since" in present perfect structure?

Hi LitteBlueGreat,

Some people might say things like, for example:

  • They have been staying with us from last week.
  • I've worked here from 2018.

The meaning is clear enough, but since would be more commonly used instead of from, and some people might consider it a mistake to use from. I'd definitely use since in these examples. Unlike fromsince has the specific meaning of until the present moment, which supports the the unfinished time period of the present perfect.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, Thanks so much for your great explanation. I take it that words like "for" and "lately" can used with the present perfect tense or the present perfect continuous with two meanings : [1] for an unfinished action, continuing up to now. E.g.: I can't help you now, I've been very busy lately ---> still busy up to now. [2] for a finished action that has a present connection. E.g.: a) (On the phone) I didn't phone you earlier because I've been very busy lately, my boss has been away. --> implying that now, I'm not busy anymore and my boss has already come back. b) John has stopped smoking for a year. He has lung cancer now because he has been smoking heavily for 20 years before. --> continuous smoking in the past. c) Obama has an extensive knowledge about America because he has been President for 8 years ---> life experience. Are all my above descriptions correct? I would be very grateful if you would help me on this matter. Best regards,

Hi melvinthio,

Yes, right! But about examples 2a, 2b and 2c, I would repeat my recommendation in my first answer - the past simple is better because it's 100% clear that the action is finished. Even if the present perfect can mean the past event with present connection that you intend, this intended meaning may not be obvious to readers/listeners in these sentences (despite being grammatically possible) because the present perfect has other meanings too. The past simple, though, would be unambiguous and that is the tense I would definitely recommend using. I hope that helps :)

We appreciate your interesting questions and we always try to help as much as we can! But if possible, it would be great if questions could be a bit shorter because, as you can see, our answers often get quite long and heavy when they require detailed explanations of things beyond the page content above. Thanks a lot :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, I'd like to ask a favour of you for the following questions : [1] Can we use the phrase "in the past" with the present perfect tense with the following implications ? a) He has known many celebrities in the past ---> (life experience) b) This old building looks horrible. It has been used as a deadly prison in the past ---> (past action with present relevance). [2] Can we use "for" with the present perfect tense to refer to a completed action in the past with the following implications ? a) He can fix cars. He has worked at Honda Japan for 20 years and currently is retired in London ---> (life experience) b) Houses in this real estate often have cracked walls. The land around here has been an area of swamp for 30 years in the past ---> (past action with present relevance). I would highly appreciate your help on this matter. Best regards, Melvin

Hi Melvin,

For sentences 1a and b, some people might do. But I wouldn’t recommend it, because “in the past” (i.e. a past / finished timeframe) conflicts with the present perfect timeframe (i.e. unfinished time, continuing up to the present). The “in the past” phrase is actually redundant here – we can simply say “He has known many celebrities” and “it has been used as a prison” with exactly the same meanings/implications that you mentioned. If we want to add a time reference, it would be more usual to add one that is consistent with the present perfect timeframe, e.g. “in his lifetime”.

For sentences 2a and b, it is possible to imagine some contexts for this, e.g. “He’s an car expert and he’s worked for the biggest car companies. He’s worked at Honda for 20 years and BMW for 10 years.” But in sentences 2a and b, and also in my example, there is potential for confusion, because somebody will read/hear “He has worked at Honda Japan for 20 years” and probably understand it as an unfinished action, continuing into the present – and then hear “currently is retired” and realise that it is actually finished. To avoid confusion, the past simple ("He worked ..." / "The land around here was ...") would be better.

In 1b, 2a and 2b, we can use the past simple with “in the past” and the same meanings/implications that you mentioned. I would recommend that, to avoid confusion. Even if the sentence is in the past simple, it will be understood as explaining the preceding present simple sentence (i.e., relevant to the present).

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I’m having trouble phrasing this sentence, I’d be grateful if somebody could help me: For the past ten days I’ve pretended to revise, appeared studious in front of my teacher, and slept on my books when the classroom was/is empty. I’m trying to write it in present perfect. Is the beginning correct, particularly the word “past”, does this make the time duration too specific and therefore an incorrect form of present perfect? And also, I know, or I think I know, I could write: “and slept on my books when he has left the classroom.” But I’d still like to know if “was” or “is” should be used. My word processor tries to change it to “was” but I think it is “is”. Thank you! Jo.

Hello JoAp,

Your sentence is fine. 'Past' here does not refer to a finished time, but rather to a period of time up to the present:

for the past week = the week (seven days) leading up to today

for the past hour = the hour (sixty minutes) leading up to the current moment

 

You can use either is or was in the last part of the sentence, so both you and your computer are right in this case!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, Thank you. Do you mind telling me why I can use either “was” or “is”? Also, if I substitute “was/is” for “has become” would that make the sentence more clear? Or would it be unnecessary and just too wordy?

Hi JoAp,

Normally we would use a present form as the present perfect refers to unfinished time. However, here we are talking about particular instances which are individually complete but form a sequence which repeats up to the present (hence, 'whenever').

I don't think 'has become' works here. A simple present or past form is better.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you help me? I think both sentence are OK, right? What is the difference? 1- I haven't seen Tom since the last summer holiday. 2- I haven't seen Tom for the last summer holiday. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

 

Only the first sentence is correct.

 

In the first sentence, you have an open time reference (since the last summer holiday), so the present perfect is appropriate.

 

In the second sentence you need the preposition 'in' or 'during'. Even then, the sentence is stil lnot correct. The phrase 'in/during the last summer holiday' describes a closed or finished time period. 'Last' here has the same meaning as 'last week', 'last year' etc. Thus a past form is required. You could say this:

I didn't see Tom in the last summer holiday.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Thank you Peter, but you told me in another question "https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/present-perfect" that the following sentence is correct. 1- I haven't seen Ali for the last week. Also, in Egypt, we have the following sentence in our secondary school book. - I've been sick for the last month. So, what is the difference between them and "I haven't seen Tom for the last summer holiday." I appreciate your help. Thank you.

Hello again Ahmed Imam,

A week is a period of time while a summer holiday is an event. Thus, you can use 'for the last week' to describe the seven days leading up to the present, jsut as you can say 'for the last hour', 'for the last month' and so on. However, we do not use this formulation with events. You cannot say 'for the last party', 'for the last football match' or 'for the last summer holiday'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I have just read the following sentence but I think it is incorrect. - Amgad has moved away from this area since 2016 What is correct? Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Yes, it needs a correction to the verb. Here are two possible corrections:

  • Amgad moved away from this area in 2016.
  • Amgad hasn't lived in this area since 2016.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Which form is correct? Why? - It has rained for two hours. Now the sky is clear. - It has been raining for two hours. Now the sky is clear. Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

I wouldn't say either is incorrect. The continuous form is most often used when the activity (the rain) is still continuing, but can be used when it has only just finished and we want to emphasise the duration or effort of the activity, so it is possible here. However, the simple form is more likely.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Please give some details about this sentence and explain its context related to the aspect. 1.Development has had a narrow-minded definition. I know this sentence is in the present perfect tense, but whether is it explaining "started in the past and continuing still", " experience up to present".

Hello Mussorie,

It looks to me as if it refers to a time period beginning in the past and continuing until the present moment.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, sirs. I'd like to know what you think the best answer to this question: She is glad she is a businesswoman. This ___her ambition ever since she was young. a) is b) has been c) was d) had been

Hello aymanme2,

I think the best option here is (c) was.

At first glance, option (b) has been seems the most likely as we have what looks like an unfinished time period ('since she was young'). However, if we consider that her ambition to be a businesswoman is complete then the past simple makes more sense. Presumably now she has a different ambition: to run her own company, to write a novel etc. Thus, the previous ambition is complete and represents finished time.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, sir. Yet, wouldn't "had been" be better as I have learnt that 'since' is usually preceded by 'perfect tense' unless it is used with expressions like: it is a long time / it is years ...?

Hello again aymanme2,

It's certainly possible to use had been here, as you say. The problem is that several options are possible as the context leaves a lot of ambiguity. In that sense, it is not a very good question for an exam or test.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Please clarify and give a bit of detail about the sentence. He has been so excited. What intention does it denote? 1.whether it shows the state of excitement started in the past and continuing to that point? 2. Or the state of past excitement has the present result. if yes, how?(meaning could you provide your example related to the given context). 3.Or is the state of excitement an experience till that point? 3

Hello Mussorie,

I would guess that the person has been waiting for something which has now happened, and this sentence describes how they have been feeling while waiting. However, without knowing the context this is only a guess. Context is very important when dealing with aspects (perfective, continuous).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Which is actually the correct term? -> 'present perfect' or 'present perfect simple'. I've also seen the term 'simple present perfect'. If they are all correct, can I use the terms interchangeably?

Hello re_nez,

Yes, in general, these are interchangeable terms, though of course what matters is what people mean by them. Usually we add 'simple' to 'present perfect' in order to distinguish the form from the present perfect continuous. If you see just 'present perfect', it normally refers to the non-continuous form.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Difference between 1.It is a great journey(present simple) 2.It has been a great journey(present perfect) When to use what, can you please provide context and explain the two sentences in detail?

Hello Mussorie,

The second sentence tells us that the journey is not finished, or else has only just finished. In other words either we are still travelling or we are at the end of it.

The first sentence is a general statement. It tells us what a particular journey is like, but it does not mean we are one or have been on that journey. It is simply a description in the same way you might say 'That is a great building' or 'The Mona Lisa is a great work of art'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Can you help me to get an answer for, what is the difference between present perfect and present perfect continues ? Because for both was written that they are for something started in the past and continues in the present. We use the present perfect: for something that started in the past and continues in the present: She has lived in Liverpool all her life. 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.
Hello, Could i use simple present at that clause when using present perfect? for instance : "I've known i have a fear of this animal" does it sound unnatural because of no preposition "since" there? furthermore, the context i want to highlight is my continuing experience that i manifested into present perfect meanwhile i used simple present only to make my experience as if it has been general fact like "either yesterday, today or so on my fear about that animal will remain for all the time" Waiting for your great answers, thanks

Hello LitteBlueGreat,

I think your sentence needs a time reference to justify the present perfect here:

I've known i have a fear of this animal since I was a child / for ten years / all my life

Without a time reference the sentence simply describes a fact about the world, so the present simple would be used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Your answer really eased my confusion. but if It's not too much ask, would you correct me again relating to "that tense in THAT CLAUSE can be flexible", I mean we can put any tenses in "that clause" as long as it matches on situation or time especially our feelings, am i right? thank you again, sir.

Hello LitteBlueGreat,

Yes, what you say about tenses in the 'that' clause is correct. It can be a little tricky, though, so please feel free to ask us if there's a specific sentence you want to check.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, It's the sentence "Monica has loved horses since she was a child present perfect or present perfect continous? Thanks.
“The girl has worked for five hours.” (present perfect) “The girl has been working for five hours.” (present perfect continuous) Is there any difference in meaning between the above two examples, or do they both mean the same thing, i.e. something which started in the past and continues in the present (that is to say the girl started working 5 hours ago in the past and continues to work in the present moment)?

Hello again Tim,

There is no difference in objective fact between the two forms. As I said in an earlier reply, the difference is one of emphasis and how the speaker sees the situation. The simple form sees the action as a single event - an achievement, so to speak. The continuous form sees the action as a process.

In some contexts there is a clear difference. The simple form can indicate completion, while the continuous form does not:

I've read War and Peace. [I finished it]

I've been reading War and Peace. [I may have finished it or not]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team