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Perfect aspect

Level: intermediate

We use perfect aspect to look back from a specific time and talk about things up to that time or about things that are important at that time.

We use the present perfect to look back from the present:

I have always enjoyed working in Italy. [and I still do]
She has left home, so she cannot answer the phone.

We use the past perfect to look back from a time in the past:

It was 2006. I had enjoyed working in Italy for the past five years.
She had left home, so she could not answer the phone.

We use will with the perfect to look back from a time in the future:

By next year I will have worked in Italy for 15 years.
She will have left home by 8.30, so she will not be able to answer the phone.

Present perfect

We use the present perfect:

  • for something that started in the past and continues in the present:

They've been married for nearly 50 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.

  • 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.

We normally use the present perfect continuous to emphasise that something is still continuing in the present:

It's been raining for hours.
I'm tired out. I've been working all day.

Past perfect

We use the past perfect:

  • for something that started in the past and continued up to a later time in the past:

When George died, he and Anne had been married for nearly 50 years.
She didn't want to move. She had lived in Liverpool all her life.

  • when we are reporting our experience up to a point in the past:

My eighteenth birthday was the worst day I had ever had.
I was pleased to meet George. I hadn't met him before, even though I had met his wife several times.

  • for something that happened in the past and is important at a later 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 started in the past and continued 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.

Modals with the perfect

We use will with the perfect to show that something will be complete at or before 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:

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 the perfect when we are looking back from a point in time. 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.

or 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 mobile phone. She could have left a message.

Perfect aspect 1

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Perfect aspect 2

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Perfect aspect 3

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Comments

Hi great British Council team,
I want to ask something because I am very confused.
While I was reading English book, I saw this sentence. " I stopped smoking"

-Smoking in the sentence is a noun which means in Longman dictionary
'the activity of breathing in tobacco smoke from a cigarette, pipe etc.'?

-Or it is a gerund form of the verb 'smoke'? (stop doing something)

I am usually confused when I saw the word with '-ing' after a verb. Is it a gerund form of the verb, which is about a pattern, or the noun that ends with -ing.

Best wishes. I don't know how I can thank you for your helps.

Hello Nevı,

A gerund is the name we give to a word that is formed from a verb but which functions as a noun. In this case, 'smoking' is a gerund, in other words the noun object of the verb 'stopped'.

Happy to help!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Nevi,

Yes, although the dictionary does not specify it, it is the gerund of the verb 'smoke'. If you compare other gerunds in the dictionary (e.g. 'swimming'), you'll see it also describes them as nouns. They are nouns when used this way.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
I would like to know the difference between the sentences
"He had gone there before he went"
Or "He had gone there after he went"
He went there before he had gone "
As we know, past perfect comes before "before" and after "after"
According to it, a question arises that Can we reverse the rule?
Sir you are humbly requested to expound on it.
Thanks in advance

Hello Hasan 97,

The past perfect describes an event in the past before a later past time event, but it also shows a relationship between thost events in that one event (the earlier event) influences the other. Your sentences have no context and so it's not really possible to say what the relationship between the events might be, and if the past perfect would be appropriate, or if two past simple forms, showing a sequence in the past, would be better.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
Does it mean, it is correct to say " I had already discussed with my family" (since i've finished discussing it in the past)

Sir, which one is correct?

Next year I will live in London for five years.
Next year I will have lived in London for five years.

Hello Plokonyo,

The second one is correct; the first one doesn't make sense.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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