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

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Hi there, I was wondering why can't we use " have you had" instead of "did you have" regarding this question You've got a new car? How long ___ the old one? Thanks in advance

Hi Maahir,

The question implies that the new car is a replacement for the old car (i.e., the person doesn't have the old one any more). So, since it's a finished time, did you have is the right answer here. Have you had is for an unfinished time.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Well understood. but is that mean if the speaker still have the old car for some reasons, we can use have you had?
Hi, Which one looks correct? It's now midnight and I nedd to go to bed since I had a very busy day. It's now midnight and I nedd to go to bed since I've had a very busy day.

Hello Jack Red,

Both the past simple and present perfect are grammatically correct here and mean the same thing, really. In the first sentence, the user sees the day as finished whereas in the second one, she sees it as not quite over, or still relevant to the present moment even if it's over. There are many cases when the speaker's perspective on what they are speaking about will determine which verb form is the correct one. You might find our Talking about the past page useful.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

He came earlier today. He has come earlier today. Now, in this context earlier is a stated time, but today is not over yet, so should we use present perfect*

Hello Ayn,

I've answered this question on another page for you. Please post questions once only; asking the same question multiple times only slows the process down.

 

Thanks,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello British council team, I am confused about the following sentence I.........working in my company and i look for another job A. Enjoyed B. Have enjoyed Which tense is more accurate in this sentence ? Ok thanks in advance

Hello Easy peasy,

Both forms are possible. Enjoyed tells us that the speaker no longer works in the company. Have enjoyed tells us that they still work there, or have only just finished.

I think you need 'I'm looking' rather than 'I look', however, as it is presumably an ongoing action.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Warm hello to The LearnEnglish Team from Uzbekistan, Would you please help me to find out wich of the following tenses is suitable for this situation below: In 2014 i leant mnemonic techniques and now i can use it. 1.I learnt mnemonic techniques ( because it is finished action) 2.I have learnt mnemonics ( the action has its own result- i can use) And second question: In 2014 i learn some mnemonic techniques but now i cannot use it totally, i forgot them. So do we still use present perfect while the action does not have a present result?

Hello BobMux,

In natural speech, how exactly someone would express these ideas would also depend on the situation and their purpose in saying this. For example, in the first situation you describe, what I'd probably say is 'I know some mnemonic techniques' -- assuming that the most relevant point is not when I learned them, but rather that I can use them now. Then if someone asked me when I learned them, I could say 'I learned them in 2014'. I'm sure there are some contexts when the present perfect would be appropriate, but I can't think of one off the top of my head right now.

As for the second situation, you could use the past simple, but again I'd probably say something different -- for example, 'I used to know some mnemonic techniques, but I don't remember much'. (Ironic, isn't it?)

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello..!! May I ask a quistion please ? I am little confused what is different between " have you seen..?" and " did you see..?" Thank you

Hello Hemam,

This is explained in the Past and the present section of our Talking about the past page. Please have a look there, and then if you have any further questions, feel free to ask us there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I found a sentence while I was reading a lesson of a book. I got muddled headed and until now my head has been in a whril. "He had always wanted to go England; to have gone there, done things, and not to remember was something utterly impossible ". The first thing that I want to ask is that As far as I known, "perfect participle" shows an action which has happened by contrast The writer had wanted to go and this statement states that he had not gone to England. But the perfect participle shows he had gone to England. The second thing gets me confused is the verb "was" in the sentence. I don't know what is the subject of this verb. Please describe it. Thank you.

Hi Kapil Kabir,

It's an interesting sentence. The part with to have gone there, done things ... is actually a perfect infinitive (to have + past participle). We can use a perfect infinitive as the subject of a sentence, as it is here, and was is the verb in that sentence. 

A perfect infinitive can refer to something that happened in the past, or something that could have happened (but didn't happen). So, the sentence starting with to have gone there, done things ... doesn't actually tell us whether he really went to England or not. It just tells us that it would be impossible to go to England and do things but have no memory of it (i.e. if he had gone there, he would definitely remember it). Does the rest of the text show whether he went to England?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir, I have a doubt regarding the use of word 'There'. I'm mentioning a Statement that I have read,the statement is - We use "there" in a way particularly with the subject that has indefinite article, no article, or indefinite determiners like some, any, one, no and so on. " But the doubt that I have is the use of determiners( Definite or Indefinite). I have two examples. 1) There are some students in the class. 2) There are Ten students in the class. In my point of view, both are correct but I got muddled headed when I read the statement mentioned above. In 1) According to the statement mentioned above is correct but in 2) "Ten" is a numerical determiner which is always Definite. How can it be possible one side we are saying we use "there" with the subjects that have no article or no/indefinte determiner by contrast we use "Ten" in 2).

Hello Kapil Kabir,

It's fine to use numbers with 'there is/there are'. What you have read is is not a grammatical rule, but rather a tendency that comes out of how 'there is/are' is used in communciation.

 

Generally, when we say 'There is/There are' we are describing a place to a person who has not seen it before. For example, I could describe my kitchen to you by saying 'There is a cooker near the window and...' but I would not do this if you are familiar with my kitchen as you would already know what is in it.

The definite article, by its nature, generally refers to things that are known to the speaker and listener. Therefore it is unusual to use 'there is/there are' with the definite article. However, it is not a rule, but rather a tendency resulting from its inherent meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello British Council Team, I have just confusion about a structure "having + 3rd form of verb +..." that I have seen many times written and listening to from some of the people in their conversation. Could you please clarify its uses with examples? Thank you.
Dears, may I ask you a question? I have a question and I nee to answer: "How did you find it out?" what is the best and correct answer to it? "I heard it in the canteen" or "I have heard it in the canteen". From my point of view the first one is the correct one, because it was a finished action, but I´m not certain about it. It might have a connection to the present and in this case the present perfect would be better….Thank you for your help.

Hello PavlaH,

The best choice here is the past simple (I heard it...). The other person's question already places the action in a completed past time frame, so the past tense is appropriate.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter, thank you for explaining. One more question related to the first sentence. Is it OK to use there IT - "How did you find IT out?" Or is it better to use it without IT . "How did you find out?" Thank you. Pavla

Hello PavlaH,

You can use either form here. The question with 'it' is more specific: you are asking about a concrete piece of information. The question without 'it' could be more general or specific, depending on the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello  I was going through some online exercises and I bumped into these two question.   1-I didn’t recognize my friend John at the party yesterday.He(HAS PUT/HAD PUT/PUT)on a lot of weight| Answer:has put  2-Yesterday at a restaurant, I saw kelly, an old friend of mine. I had not seen her in years. At first, I didn’t recognize her because she (HAS LOST/HAD LOST/LOST)weight| Answer:has put  I thought both Answers were HAD PUT because the action of losing or putting on weight happened before the action of recognizing. Or is it because losing or putting weight is a slow process,And since it’s (yesterday) there won’t a big change? Thank you in advance 

Hi Turki123456,

Actually, my first answer would be had put/lost too :) But has put/lost also work.

The difference is in the relationship between the events. If you say had put and had lost (past perfect), it means that John put on weight and Kelly lost weight before you saw them yesterday. It links both events to the party/restaurant yesterday. You would choose this tense if, after saying these sentences, you wanted to keep on speaking about what happened yesterday at the party/restaurant.

If you say has put and has lost (present perfect), it means that John putting on weight and Kelly losing weight is relevant to the current conversation topic. So, you would choose this tense if you wanted to continue speaking about their weight gain/loss (not the party/restaurant).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

What’s the difference between “he has been described as a talented cook” and “he is being described as a talented cook”? Thanks

Hello Fiona,

The first sentence (has been described) uses the present perfect for something which happened in the past (someone described him) and is still relevant now (he has this reputation).

The second sentence (is being described) uses the present continuous for something which is in progress at the time of speaking, or which is currently true but is temporary. You might say this if the person has become the focus of attention and is receiving praise in the media at the moment.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello! Which one is correct? -He has come earlier. -He came earlier. I think that first one is the correct one, but I am not sure. Please answer. I am really confused. :(

Hello Ayn,

The second one is correct. 'Earlier' refers to a completed past time, so the present perfect is not possible. You could use the present perfect with present time reference, but we tend to use a diferent verb in such cases. For example:

He has already come > He has already arrived

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, what about that? A)He has come earlier today. B)He came earlier today. The question is almost the same, but there is today. Today is not over yet. So, shouldn’t the answer be A?

Hello Ayn,

We see 'today' us unfinished time, as you say, but we consider 'earlier today' a finished time period.

He has come to the office three times today.

He came to the office earlier today.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I have a doubt regarding this tense. I have to say I had completed my graduation by 2018.(it refers the year I had finished) Or I have completed my graduation.( what about it?) Or I completed my graduation.( as it is finished)

Hello Jaspreet,

All three are possible. The choice depends on the context and your intention - what you want to say and to emphasise.

 

If you are constructing a narrative and your graduation is related to a later past event then the past perfect might be the best choice.

 

If you are describing something in the past which is relevant now and which is perceived as a change, then the present perfect might be suitable.

 

If you are simply stating a fact about the past then the past simple might be your choice.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can we ask a question about the following sentence by using How many days did you stay in London? I stayed in London for ten days. Thank you in advance.
Hello team, I've noticed that some adverbs 'just', 'yet' and 'still' are also used in Past perfect. e.g, She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two. Why use 'has' in that sentence? e.g, She'd already finished season one and now she's watching season two. Could I use "had" instead? I'm confused about when should I use Past perfect and Present perfect. Thanks a lot.

Hello Via,

The use of present perfect and past perfect is not related to the adverb; it is related to the context and the action expressed by the verb.

The present perfect describes an action in the past with a present result, effect or relevance.

The past perfect describes an action in the past with a result, effect or relevance later in the past. Note that two past time references are needed here, one earlier and one later.

 

You can read more about these forms on the verbs pages of our main grammar reference section:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/verbs

You'll find links to the perfect aspect there, which I think will help clarify this for you. Look also at the sections focused on talking about the past and talking about the present, and on the present tense and past tense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask you a question. Is it OK to use sentence given below? "Why haven´t you arranged it yet? Everyone is waiting for it" Thanks a lot.
Pls let me know the meaning of these sentences. Thank you. 1. Does he do his homework regularly 2. Has he been doing his homework regularly

Hello Smith,

The first sentence (Does he do...) is a question about the person's normal or typical behaviour.

The second question (Has he been doing...) is a question about recent time. It doesn't tell us anything about the person's typical behaviour, but only about his recent actions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear team, I'd like to ask what's the difference between these sentences? Jonas is a writer. He has written since he was 18 years old. (Present Perfect) He has been writing since he was 18 years old. (Present Perfect Continuous) And also Sir, How to decide to use whether Present Perfect or Past simple? Could you tell me some tips? Thanks a lot :")
Yes, I've done. So Present Perfect focuses on results. Then Sir, He has played tennis since he was a child. He is really good at it.(Present Perfect) He has been playing tennis since he was a child. (Present Perfect Contin) Am I right? Also, Sir, Correct my sentences plz

Hi DaniWeebKage,

Both of your sentences are correct. But if we were standing together watching this man playing tennis really well, I'd probably say 'He has been playing since he was a child' because presumably his playing tennis started when he was a child and has continued up until now.

It would also be correct to say what you suggested, though. There are many cases where both forms can be used and sometimes there's not even a big difference in meaning between them. Other times, only one is really correct.

This particular grammar point is one that takes time to learn well. I would suggest that you pay special attention for the present perfect in the texts you read and listen to so that you can analyse how it is used in them. Gradually, it will make more and more sense.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Although with some delay Peter, just to thank you for your second explanation on the use of for and over. Now I can say that I did understand the difference ;-)!
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