Present perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like She's called every day this week, I've broken my leg and Have you ever been to Scotland?

Look at these examples to see how the present perfect is used.

He's been to ten different countries.
I haven't seen her today.
My phone's run out of battery. Can I use yours?
Have you ever dyed your hair a different colour?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Present perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Unfinished time and states

We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year, etc., and with expressions such as so far, until now, before, etc.

They've been on holiday twice this year.
We haven't had a lot of positive feedback so far.
I'm sure I've seen that film before.

We also use it to talk about life experiences, as our life is also an unfinished time period. We often use never in negative sentences and ever in questions.

I've worked for six different companies.
He's never won a gold medal.
Have you ever been to Australia?

We also use the present perfect to talk about unfinished states, especially with for, since and how long.

She's wanted to be a police officer since she was a child.
I haven't known him for very long.
How long have you had that phone?

Finished time and states

If we say when something happened, or we feel that that part of our life is finished, we use the past simple.

We visited Russia for the first time in 1992.
I went to three different primary schools.
Before she retired, she worked in several different countries.

We also use the past simple for finished states.

We knew all our neighbours when we were children.
I didn't like bananas for a really long time. Now I love them!

Past actions with a result in the present 

We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present.

He's broken his leg so he can't go on holiday.
There's been an accident on the main road, so let's take a different route.
They haven't called me, so I don't think they need me today.

Again, if we say when it happened, we use the past simple.

He broke his leg last week so he can't go on holiday.

However, we often use the present perfect with words like just, recently, already, yet and still.

We've recently started going to the gym.
She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two.
Have you checked your emails yet?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Present perfect: Grammar test 2

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Language level

Hi team
Thanks for your great efforts you are doing in making students more confident about grammar.

I have seen a ufo when I was in Italy.

I know that the sentence is incorrect
All I want you to do is to please tell me whether I’m correct in my explanation or not about why it is incorrect.
The verb I’ve seen means that I saw it in the past and have a memory of it now so it’s because of this present reference conflicting with the when clause referring to the past that the sentence is not correct. It’s like saying I have a memory of it when I was in Italy the sentence makes no sense .
Best regards
Andi

Hi Tony 1980,

I think you're more or less on the right lines.
'I've seen' is a present form. It describes a present state - memory or knowledge, for example. However, 'when I was' is a past form. It describes a completed historical past time: a time frame which is no longer open. The problem is that there is a conceptual inconsistency in the sentence. The first form tells us that the speaker considers the time frame open (it is still relevant) while the second tells us that the speaker considers the time frame closed.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter
In 3 years time I’ll be teaching English in one of my country’s university that’s why I wanted your professional help to tell me if I’m right in the following definitions:

A past event is a hypothetical present event seen from a real present event
perspective.

Since, serves as the starting point of the present perfect and because the starting point of the present perfect refers to the past , since, serves to indicate the past aspect of the present perfect and for this reason it is followed by a past tense.

Best regards
Andi

Hi Andi,

I'm afraid I don't really follow your thinking here. Hypothetical is used to describe whether an action is/was real or merely speculative. Past events could be either, so I don't understand what you're getting at.

At the moment it doesn't seem to make sense to me, but if you want to explain further with a concrete example then I'll be happy to consider it.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter

In fact I wanted to add an example but I didn’t want to be too long on my comment I’m so sorry

So, for my first definition ; if today, on Friday, the Teacher is explaining tenses to the students , tomorrow , on Saturday,one student would say; teacher explained us the tenses yesterday, on Friday. Also tomorrow, on Saturday, that student would hypothesize ( suppose ) that ; yesterday action ( teacher explained us …) is the same present action ( teacher is explaining…)if we suppose that yesterday is today, this all seen now not from a suppositional present but a real one ,if tomorrow now has come.

Sorry for being so long and confusing but I hope you find some time to deal with it.

Best regards
Andi

Hi again Andi,

I'm really sorry but I still don't know what you're trying to say. I've shown the question to a couple of colleagues and they're as confused as I am! I can see you have a conceptual framework that you're trying to apply but it seems to me that it only complicates the system rather than simplifying it. More than that I can't really say.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter
Sorry for engaging you in a confusing idea you rightfully said it complicates the system I highly appreciate your effort

What about my second definition; since, serves as the starting point…
Is it correct?
Best regards
Andi

Hi Andi,

Yes, that's correct. 'Since' shows the moment from which the given action occurs so the pattern is:

present perfect > since > past simple
I have lived in Paris since I was a student.

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team. Could you help me use the correct tense: present perfect or present perfect continuous? Why?
- Ali has fallen and we are taking him to hospital.
- Ali has been falling and we are taking him to hospital.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both sentences are correct but mean something slightly different. Well, actually, I'd need to know the full context to explain the difference with 100% certainty, but in general the first is speaking about one fall -- probably very recently.

The second one is talking about a series of falls in the recent past -- it could be over the past hour or over the past few months.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team, this sentence in the first test " You've got a new car? How long ___ the old one? I chose the present perfect form and it was wrong, but I don't really know why so can you explain it to me. Thank team!

Hello ngoc,

In this situation, we assume that the person no longer has the old car; the idea is that when we get a new car, at the same time we get rid of the old one.

Since we no longer have the old car, having the old car is clearly in the past (no longer connected with the present), and so the past simple is the correct form.

This switch from present perfect to past simple is quite common. Another example:

A: Have you ever been to Vietnam?
B: Yes, I went there last year.

In this case, the frame for A's question is B's lifetime -- that is, the question asks if A has been to Vietnam at some point in their life; since B is still alive, their lifetime includes the present moment.

For B, the frame is the trip they made to Vietnam last year -- a specific past time that is no longer connected with the present.

I hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, I got muddle headed while I was studying about the use of Adjective. We know we use Adjective Predictively and Attributively. I have two sentences. 1) The company makes the cars safe. 2) The company makes safe cars 3) This feature makes cars safe. 4) This feature makes safe cars. As we know 'safe' is an adjective in both of these. It describes cars(Noun). I want to know which one is correct and what is difference between "cars safe" and "safe cars" What is difference between the use of an adjective predictively and Attributively? Will the meaning change when we use an adjective predictively and Attributively?

Hello Kapil Kabir,

The difference here is not related to the adjective but to the verb. Make can be used with the sense of 'produce' or with the sense of 'change into':

The company makes safe cars = the cars which are produced are safe

The company makes safe cars = the company takes cars which are not safe and changes them so they are safe

 

In your second pair of sentences only (3) is possible as a feature can change things but a feature cannot produce something from scratch.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Again Hello sir Can it be said" If we use an adjective Predictively and Attributively, it doesn't matter at which position we are using an adjective whatever is it like Predictively and Attributively use. But It depends on verb in each sentence." If I take an example of using an adjective Predictively and Attributively. 1) I'm twenty two years old. 2) I'm a twenty two year old boy. Here, old is an adjective. In 1st it has been used Predicatively and in 2nd it has been used Attributively. Is there any difference in meaning of both these sentences? As you have mentioned above the verbs matters, Is the verb(be) matter in both these sentences?

Hello again Kapil Kabir,

Most adjectives can be used in both positions; changes in meaning are more related to the patterns associated with particular verbs than the adjective itself. There are some adjectives which are only used in one or other positions (alone and galore cannot be used in the attributive position, for example, while mere cannot be used in the predicative position), but these are quite rare.

 

There is no difference in meaning in your two examples, though the second conveys more information in that it contains a noun which specifies gender, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team I have never played football before. This is the first time I ____to play. I’m struggling between present perfect have tried” and present continuous “am trying”. I don’t think present perfect is possible since it refers to a past time till this moment. And because the speaker is saying that this is the first time for him this means that he hasn’t tried it earlier. Can you help me please make a clear understanding. Best wishes Andi

Hello Andi,

Of those two options, the correct one is 'have tried'. I'm not sure what sort of tense is natural in Albanian (or whatever language you speak), but I know my Spanish and Catalan students struggle with using the present perfect here, because in their languages, a tense similar to the present simple is the most natural.

In English, however, this is a case when we use the present perfect. Instead of thinking of the present perfect as referring to a past time that extends to the present, I'd suggest you think of it as a present time extending into the past. Not sure if that will make sense, but I thought I'd mention it.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk Thanks indeed for your response When did he arrive? Can we say “ when has he arrived? If not , why? Best wishes Andi

Hello Andi,

It's possible to say 'When has he arrived?', but in the vast majority of situations people would say 'When did he arrive?' because it could have been recently or earlier. In other words, the point of such a question is that we don't know the time of arrival, which means that from the speaker's point of view, it's at some indefinite time in the past -- hence the past simple.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk Thanks for the response I am leading a busy life these days. I am preparing for my final exams and I am trying to move to my new apartment. How is present continues possible in this passage since he is not preparing for his exams at the moment of speaking but has been preparing for it let’s say since Monday Tuesday... and so on till the moment of speaking because the phrase “ these days” imposes us the perfect continuous along with what I mentioned above. I need your explanation please. Best wishes Andi

Hello Andi,

We use the present continuous for actions which are ongoing at the moment of speaking. That doesn't mean the speaker is actually performing the action right now, however.

For example, if I am in the middle of a book I might say this:

I'm reading Moby Dick at the moment.

It doesn't mean I actually have the book in my hands; it means the process is underway (I'm somewhere in the middle and I read it from time to time).

 

Your examples are similar: the speaker is describing a process which is happening in the current time frame. Your speaker is telling us that they have begun the process of moving (packing up belongings etc) but not yet completed it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter Thanks a lot for your response She goes abroad every summer. She is going abroad every summer. What’s the difference between these two tenses?? If the first implies a fact or a routine what’s the second implying if it is correct of course??? Next year she plans to go to Peru. Can we use present perfect here “she has planned “ if she has started planning earlier up to now ??? Best wishes Andi

Hi again Andi,

it's difficult to be certain without knowing the context, I'm afraid. The simple form is generally used to describe typical or normal behaviour; the continuous form suggests something which is temporary.

 

You might use the continuous form in your example if, for some reason, you consider the norm to be not going abroad every summer but the person in question has recently changed to start doing this. It's unlikely in this case because the time frame is necessarily years, and actions which cover years are difficult to think of as temporary unless we are talking about something which usually occurs over an even longer time frame such as where we live or work. Nevertheless, the choice is really psychological: whether or not we see the action or think of it as temporary or permanent.

 

It's also possible to use continuous forms to emphasise that an action is repeated and irritating or not desired: He's always leaving dirty dishes in the sink for people to wash. However, this does not seem applicable in your example.

 

I don't think the present perfect is likely in your other example as the plan is still current and we are interested in the future sense (an intention) rather than than in the past sense of doing all the organisation. If we wanted the latter we would probably add an adjective like 'already': What do you mean you've bought tickets to Italy? I've already planned to go to Peru!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi team
Sorry for posting in present perfect section but there was no simple present section for me to post .

Stop right now! You break the flowers every time the ball lands in the flower bed.
Why present continuous isn’t possible here as we have the sentence “ stop right now “ which imposes present continuous.
I know that every time imposes a simple present but doesn’t it make it seem like it’s an action happening day after day and not an action happening at the moment of speaking?
Best wishes
Andi

Hello Andi,

By saying 'Your break the flowers every time the ball lands in the flower bed', the speaker is clearly referring to something that happens from time to time -- it's as if it were a habitual action, at least from the speaker's point of view.

In saying 'Stop right now!', they are indeed referring to the present moment right now. But this doesn't mean that all of the sentences after it have to refer to the immediate present. By using the next sentence, they're showing that the ball breaking the flowers happens regularly. The event of the ball landing in the flower bed is regular, but probably hasn't happened just now -- the speaker is trying to prevent it from happening again.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk
Your response was really helpful it really makes sense to me now.

I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten anything for hours.
Isn’t it right to put the perfect continuous here since “for hours” emphasis a duration. The fact that he is hungry is a result or a consequence for not eating for hours.
Best wishes
Andi

Hello Andi,

I'm glad you found it helpful.

It's true that 'for hours' usually refers to a duration of time, but here I think the point is more that it was several hours ago that the person last ate. In other words, even though they are referring to not eating over a duration, really what they're referring to is the last time they ate, which was a point in time rather than a duration.

This is a really good example of how people (unlike robots, which at least at this point rely on pattern recognition) choose linguistic forms not just based on other words in a sentence, but on the meaning they want to convey.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, I have a question regards "Article+ adjective" Actually, I'm not able to sort out the meaning of these sentence. I am also not able to sort out these Grammarticly. The sentences are - 1) We'll need an extra ten pounds. 2) I've had a very busy three days. If I talk about the phrase " a very busy three days" in 2nd sentence, as far as I know and I've studied regards a noun phrase so far. If we put an singular determine/Article before a noun, it( the noun) must be singular form. But in the 2nd sentence, we know we have used Article "a" for day(noun). But in this sentence, it is used in plural form( DAYS). despite using Article "A" in this noun phrase. Is it possible to use these kinds of structures. If yes, then will the meaning vary ? What will it give meaning? Please elaborate these....

Hi Kapil Kabir,

Interesting question! Yes, those sentences are grammatically correct. The meanings are similar to We'll need ten extra pounds and I've had three busy days.

Why is the article used? It shows that the speaker is thinking of 'ten pounds' not as ten individual units, but as one single unit, all together. That's why the indefinite article is used here - the basic structure is 'We'll need an extra (something)' , and the 'something' is 'ten pounds' (as one unit). Similarly, in sentence 2, the speaker is thinking of 'three days' as a single unit of time.

This structure is often used if the speaker wants to add an adjective to describe that unit. Here are some more examples: The journey was a long three hours / There were an incredible five hundred comments on the video. The structure is article + adjective + number + noun.

Thanks for your question! Please try to post questions on pages relevant to the question. This question would have been good on our Articles page, for example. Thanks :)

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, I wanna ask a question regarding conditional sentences. While I was reading a textbook, I came by it. The sentence is - " If this were to be the case, this conflict would have been long over and every crime against humanity also for that matter could be brushed aside by paying compensation. " The the question that I want to ask is as we know we have conditional sentence if I talk about a structure of conditional sentences The First one 1) If....+....had + past participle, ......would have been + past participle. And the second one 2)If...+ were+......., ......would + be/base form of verb + ......... . If I talk about my question that I've asked you it's structure appears as the first but it sounds as the second one. Is it possible to use this sort of structures. And the second thing that I want to ask is the infinitive. Can we use infinitive after "were". Like 3)If this were the case.... 4) If this were to be case..... Which one is correct Please elaborate these.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

You might want to refer to our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages, where you can see the structures that are taught in most textbooks and where we mention the mixed conditional. Often English learners get the impression that these structures are the only possible ones, but this is not the case.

I find the sentence that you cite a little confusing. The first part ('if this were to be the case') suggests an unreal present situation, but then it goes on ('this conflict would have long been over') to refer to an unreal past situation that seems to be dependent on the present situation. Perhaps I've misunderstood it, but this doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but that's how I see the sentence here in isolation.

Both 3 and 4 are correct: 'if this were to be the case' is very similar in meaning to 'if this were the case'; both refer to an unreal condition in a hypothetical present or future time. The first form is more formal and makes it seem that this situation is even more unlikely that the second one, but other than that they mean the same thing.

Hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello! In this sentence below: According to the Trade Union, 29 industrial accidents have been registered in 2021, where 30 workers have been seriously injured and 4 workers have died. I'm struggling with tenses here. Is it correct to use Present Perfect for 'have been injured', 'have died', or it will be correct to use Past Simple for completed actions? Is it the rule of tense sequence that applies here, or just the action taking place in the current year with Present Perfect? Thank you!

Hi Gulnara_BC,

Good question! Yes, it is correct. The present perfect shows that the time period is unfinished - i.e., 2021 is not over yet, and it is possible for those numbers to change before 2021 ends. The meaning is something like 'so far in 2021'.

It's also possible to use the past simple, as you suggest: 30 workers were seriously injured and 4 workers died. We can also understand those particular accidents as completed events.

Somebody might choose to use the present perfect if they want to, perhaps, suggest to the reader that the situation might get worse before the year ends. Alternatively, somebody might use the past simple if they want to focus on the details of those particular accidents, without considering what may happen in future.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir, I have question after reading it I got muddled headed. The question is- They never go there if they can help it. I want to ask you It is right ? I am confused to sort the meaning out. If I talk about the phrase "They never go there". It sounds they have not ever gone there. It sounds Present Perfect Tense. I want to ask you, Can we use Present Indefinite Tense to convince a meaning of perfect tense. We usually use Present Indefinite to convince our daily routine, scientific facts and Universal truth that is widely accepted. But, Here,It appears Present Indefinite is giving meaning of Present Perfect. Is it possible. Please elaborate it.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

'They never go there' is what we call the present simple; it is not the present perfect, which would be 'They have never gone there'.

'They never go there' does not necessarily mean they have never gone there; it can mean that they don't go there now, but it's possible they went there in the past.

The only way to know which meaning is intended is to examine the context or ask the person what exactly they mean.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

I guess my English on the right way to perfection. LOL!!!! Just kidding. While reading the question I was making up an answer in my mind and when I finally read yours, it was exactly I thought. I love this site!
Hello, could you please tell me if these sentences are correct and what the difference in meaning is: 1. Sarah has told me I’m talking in my sleep. I already knew I was. 2. Sarah told me I’ve been talking in my sleep. I already knew I was. 3. Sarah has told me I’ve been talking in my sleep. I already knew I was. And both these same first sentences again, but with ‘I already know I am.’ as the accompanying second sentence. Can “already knew” and “already know” mean the same thing as “already” suggests to having prior knowledge?

Hello JoAp,

All the sentences are correct. The differences are really ones of emphasis,

 

Sentence 1: The information from Sarah is recent; it is still 'news' to you. Speaking in your sleep is still a problem/issue.

 

Sentence 2: The information from Sarah is not seen by you as 'news'. either she told you some time ago, or you consider it something not relevant to your present. For example, you may not be interested in acting upon the information – you don't care that you speak in your sleep. The change from I'm talking to I've been talking does not make any difference in this context.

 

Sentence 3: This is a combination of 1 and 2; see the relevant parts of the descriptions above.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir. I have a question regarding article "the" and possessive case of Noun. India's President and the prime minister condoled on Monday. Sir, as far as I know we can rewrite india's president = The President of India. Whenever I study regards the possessive case of noun, I study when we want to show possession of two nouns, for instance, It is Jake and Lilly's House As we know the "House" belongs to both Jake and Lilly. But the question that mentioned above sounds good but in my opinion it spoils the possessive case of noun,because, if we assume "the word 'India' has also possession on the word 'the prime minister' then why we need to write article 'the' before prime minister as we know we can write "India's prime minister = The prime minister of india". As far as I know If we write any possessive case before a noun we know it makes the noun definite. I want to ask you Does the Possessive case "india's" have possession on the prime minister as it has possession on president. Please Elaborate it.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I think the clearest way to expain this is to compare two version of your sentence:

1. India's President and the prime minister condoled on Monday.

2. India's President and (India's) prime minister condoled on Monday.

 

In sentence 2 the possessive India's refers to both people. It is clear that both the prime minister and the president are Indian.

In sentence 1 the possessive form describes only 'President'. The prime minister could be from India or from another country. We would only know this from the context. The article here must refer to another mention of the prime minister earlier in the text.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, "Farmers like Baburao Tadas in India are praying for normal monsoon rains after their incomes were hit by erratic weather and lower crop prices over the past few years. Sir, I want to ask a question regarding the use of 'past/next/last' words when they follow Article 'the'. I read a blog of yours on the same website where a teacher explained the use of last/next with article 'the' when they follow it. In the blog, The teacher said "If article 'the' precedes these word we have to use present perfect tense." But in the question above mentioned, past tense is used, i want to ask you Whether is Simple Past Tense correct here or Present Prefect should be there instead of Simple Past? Please elaborate it.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

It's difficult to make generalizations about grammar, and especially without specific examples in context. To me the general rule of using the present perfect sounds correct, but this is not to say that it's always the only possible form. 

I'm afraid I can't explain the sentence you ask about. I don't think I'd say 'the past few years' -- instead I'd probably say 'in recent years'. I wouldn't say the sentence is wrong, but I'd suggest changing that last part.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, Sir I'm facing a problem with the a specific structure of "OF". When it comes before the Noun Phrases. There are so many structures of "OF" with noun phrases. While I was reading a newspaper, I came by it. The sentence is The first image was of the more distant one. I want to know when 'of' precedes 'be' verb, what it means to us. I'm not dawning on the meaning what it is conveying. Please elaborate it.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

It looks to me as if some words have been omitted from the sentence you ask about. I'd need to know the context to give you an exact answer, but it sounds as if the text this sentence is from probably discusses two or more images before this sentence -- for example, maybe it's two images of two comets, one of which is relatively close and the other is further away.

The sentence you ask about indicates that it's talking about the more distant comet, which is represented in the first image. In other words, it's another form of 'The first image was [a photograph] of the more distant [comet].'

Hope this helps you make sense of it. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding 'it' While I was reading a book, I came by a sentence The sentence is.... 1) Now, I realised that it was not 'he' but this man who was making a mistake. Sir, I want to ask about "he". As far as I know 'it' is a dummy subject here. Then why do we need 'he' which is a subjective case. Should it be in objective case 'him'. If we use it in subjective form there are two subjects that spoil the subject- verb consistency. I read so many sentences in which 'it' is a subject and objective form of pronoun is used. The another question that I want to ask is that we can use both form of the pronoun after 'it' when it works as a dummy subject in the sentence. Please elaborate it. Please Elaborate it.

Hi Kapil Kabir,

Yes! It's just a question of style.

In traditional grammar, the nominative case is used after a copula verb (e.g. It was not he. / It is I. / (on the phone) Is Jane there? And Jane answers: This is she). However, this is considered very formal in modern English, and the use of the objective case is common and accepted instead (e.g. It was not him / It's me / This is her).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team