Present perfect

Learn about the present perfect and do the exercises to practise using it.

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 Sir,
First, I am very sorry for my repeated questions, but these tenses really make me very confused.
I read the page you mentioned and I found it very helpful, but I have more questions that will determine if I fully understand or still not.
1- Which is correct?
I have waited 3 hours already.{Does it mean that it is a completed action that I waited, but now I am with who I came to see}Or{I have been waiting 3 hours already. {Is it means that I am still waiting?}}
2- I have been planting flowers all day so the garden looks amazing.
In this example, using the present perfect continuous we are focusing on the effort which makes the garden different.{I see from his look that he worked all day, whether I saw the garden or not}
I have planted flowers all day so the garden looks amazing.
In this one we focus on the result I see now what the garden has become
Another example from that page {the grass looks wet. Has it been raining?}
By using the present perfect continuous tense we are focused on the action itself which is raining
The grass looks wet. Has it rained? Here on the result. Is it right or not?
3- when we numbered something we use present perfect simple like{I have drunk 4 cups of coffee this day not I have been drinking 4 cups of coffee this day} is that right?
Finally, I read this example and I want to know if it is right?
She has finished the report since two weeks ago. {Is it finished or unfinished period of time?}

Hi AboWasel,

No problem. I'll try to answer your questions :)

1. Yes, the meanings of both sentences are as you explained.

2. I think you've generally got the right idea. But the idea of seeing evidence of the recent activity is associated with the present perfect continuous.

Also, if a speaker wants to put the focus on something, grammar is one way to do that - but it isn't the only way. There may also be changes in vocabulary, word order, the content of the sentence, voice stress (for example), together with grammar, so that the speaker's focus is clear. For instance, in the example "The grass looks wet. Has it rained?" Yes, it's possible that the speaker wants to focus on the result here. But asking the question at the end seems to take the focus away from the result ("the grass looks wet"). If the speaker wants to focus on the result, it would be clearer if the sentences are reversed, for example: "Has it rained? The grass looks wet." That way, the result gains more focus because it is at the end. It seems like it's the main topic.

So, if you change the present perfect continuous to present perfect simple in a sentence (or vice versa), the difference in meaning/focus may be quite subtle. You may find clearer examples if you look for examples in context (i.e., in full texts).

3. Yes, that's right. Let me add some corrections for the final sentence.

  • If you state the time when an action was done (e.g. "two weeks ago"), the past simple is normally used (not present perfect).
  • "Since" is normally used with a named time (e.g. since Monday), not with "ago" phrases, and it shows something happening from that time until now. However, she finished the report on one day. She didn't finish it continuously from then until now.

So, it should be --> She finished the report two weeks ago.

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much.
I learn a lot from this amazing site and your helpful answers.
Based on what you explained in the last example in number 3 I understand that {since/for} doesn't combine with any finished words such as {yesterday/ago/last/once...}

Hi AboWasel,

Actually that's not quite the idea. "Since" and "for" are a bit different.

  • "Since" is used with a named time (e.g. since yesterday, since 1985, since last week, since 11 o'clock). "Since" means from then until now.
  • "For" is used with a period of time (e.g. for three years, for several hours, for a long time). "For" just shows the length of time. Unlike "since", it doesn't show when the time period actually started or finished. It does not need to be a time period that continues until now (e.g., "I lived in New York for three years in the 1990s." - a period of three years that was in the past.)

I hope that helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir
You got me wrong. What I meant was using {since/for} with {last/once/yesterday/ago} with present perfect not generally.
I think I can use since with last in the present perfect. Right?

Hi AboWasel,

We can use "since" and "for" with the present perfect, e.g.:

  • I've lived in London for one year. / I've lived in London since 2021. / I've lived in London since last year.
  • I've been studying hard since yesterday.
  • I've been studying hard for hours.

"Since" and "for" can't be used with "once". "Since ... ago" is grammatically possible (e.g. since two years ago), but it's more common to say it in another way (e.g. since 2020 / for two years).

"Last", "yesterday" and "ago" can be used with the past simple as well. "Once" can only be used with the past simple, not present perfect.

  • I lived in London last year.
  • I studied hard yesterday.
  • I studied hard many years ago.
  • I studied hard once.

Sorry, the question wasn't clear for me but I hope that helps to answer it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I have a question about the difference between present perfect simple and present perfect continuous for example..
Recenrly, i have written 3 books.
Recently, I have been writing 3 books.
please, can you explain it for me in a simple way?
Thanks.

Hello Sir,
I would like to ask about the usage of prsesnt perfect with future.
Is there any difference in meaning between th examples you gave?

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.

Hi AboWasel,

No, there's no difference in meaning, although the present perfect sentences perhaps emphasise more that the actions (finding the book / people arriving) are fully completed.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Sir
I have an interesting question which made me Muddul headed. Indeed, while going through an article, I came across to that sentence. Indeed, it is a error spoting question.
"His speech was very thought provoking and well appreciated by them who attended the Economic Forum held in Davos."
My question is related to Passive Voice of this sentence. When i asked to a teacher, He said to me " Here, Change 'them' into 'those' because we can't use them before a relative pronoun". But i doubt on the passive form of it.
If we make simple sentences of this complex one. Then, i think these should be
1) His speech was very thought provoking.
2) His speech was well appreciated by them.
But as I've mentioned above my doubt regards passive voice
As far as I can understand, His speech was appreciated by them, it makes sense of passive voice.
But I haven't seen that 'well' is used as an adverb between Helping verb and Main verb. For example, 'He worked well', whether We can say 'He well worked' or 'He is well working'. When i raised this issue with the teacher. He said to me" 'Appreciated' has been used as a past participle which is working as an adjective." As i have mentioned and in my opinion The 2) sentence "His speech was well appreciated should be restructured as " His speech was appreciated well by them". If I'm wrong then make me correct, Sir
Thank you.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

The original sentence you came across is not grammatically correct. As your teacher pointed out, 'them' is not correct as the antecedent of the relative clause; 'those' would correct this error.

To be honest, I'm not completely sure what to say about sentence 2. First of all, it sounds a little awkward to me -- a wording that I would avoid -- but I wouldn't go so far as to say it's incorrect. With a phrase like 'by them', it certainly does appear to be a passive construction. But, on the other hand, if we remove 'by them' from 2, I'd say that 'well appreciated' was the adjectival complement after the linking verb 'was' -- in other words, it's not a passive construction.

There are a number of adjectives that are often preceded by the adverb 'well' -- 'well adjusted', 'well advised', 'well appointed', 'well argued' and 'well attended' are just a few -- but of course these are adjective phrases used after a link verb, i.e. they are not used in passives (as far as I know).

So I haven't completely answered your question, but I hope that at least helps you make more sense of the matter.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I'm to ask a question which is related to an Noun Phrase. While I was reading a online article, i got this noun phrase with two sentences
. The Noun Phrase is
"At no time was/did"
I'm mentioning two sentences based on this noun phrase.
1) At no time did anyone involved speak to the press.
2) At no time was the company informed.
Plz make me understand regards both these sentences.
Thank you

Hello Kapil Kabir,

At no time is an idiomatic phrase which mean 'never' and it is followed by an inverted verb phrase:

Verb phrase - (1) anyone involved spoke  (2) the company was informed

Inverted verb phrase - (1) did anyone involved speak  (2) was the company informed

 

There are a number of phrases like this which use 'no': no sooner, no longer, at no point, under no circumstances, on no account etc.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,
I wanna ask a question, which is related to the verb "Be" and preposition "Of".
I got this sentence while reading a book. The sentence is
*) Pronouncing a word carefully is of no help in spelling it properly.
My question is that
Can we rewrite the sentence
*) Pronouncing a word carefully is no help in spelling it properly.
Without having "Of" preposition just after verb "Be"
Does it(Removing of Preposition "Of") affect the meaning of sentence.
If not, then what the sentence means.

Please Elaborate it....
Thank you.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

Yes, it is OK to omit the word 'of' from this and similar sentences and the two variants mean the same thing.

To be honest, I'm not sure why we say 'of' in this and similar cases (e.g. 'it's of no use'). It might have to do with the extensive influence of Old French on English, but that's just a guess on my part.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, please I need your help.
I've read that stative verbs are not used with present perfect simple. However, they can be used with present perfect when they are used with time expressions.
●I have liked you ( incorrect)
●I have liked you all my life. (Correct)
●I have known him. ( incorrect)
●I have known him for ten years. (Correct)
My question is: is this information right or wrong??????????????

Hello dostyamiine,

Yes, you can use present perfect with and without time references.

If no time reference is stated then we understand the time to be 'at some point up to now'. Thus, a sentence like 'I have liked you' is possible if you want to say 'I didn't always dislike you'. Obviously, this kind of context is quite rare but it can be found: I have liked jazz in the past, but now I'm more into rock. However, other forms are more common, such as 'used to' for this sense.

When a time reference is used with present perfect then it must be an open time reference (unfinished time/time up to the present), like those in your examples (all my life, for ten years).

 

Some verbs are understood to describe states which do not change, such as knowing a person. When we know someone, we know them for ever so we do not use these verbs without a time reference.

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team