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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Soumis par Mussorie le mer 14/04/2021 - 19:03

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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

Soumis par FaridGarayev le ven 26/03/2021 - 10:13

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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.

Soumis par LitteBlueGreat le mar 16/03/2021 - 03:15

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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

Soumis par Todarowa le mer 03/03/2021 - 19:03

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Hi, It's the sentence "Monica has loved horses since she was a child present perfect or present perfect continous? Thanks.

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 20/02/2021 - 07:38

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“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

Soumis par whitekrystal le mer 10/02/2021 - 10:24

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Hi everyone. What should I say? I have waited for you for hours. I have been waiting for you for hours.

Hello whitekrystal,

Both forms are possible. I think the second is more likely in this context as it emphasises the ongoing (up to the present moment and possible on) duration of the action rather than the completed result. However, the choice is really one of emphasis, and what the speaker chooses to emphasise will depend upon how they see the situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But both "I have waited for you for hours" and "I have been waiting for you for hours" mean that the waiting started in the past and continues to the present moment right?

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 06/02/2021 - 01:16

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Hi, Present Perfect tense can be used for "something that happened in the past but is important in the present". Does "something" refer to an action/event, and "happened in the past" mean that this action/event started and ended in the past?

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 06/02/2021 - 08:51

En réponse à par Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. It's not the only use of the present perfect, however. You can also use the present perfect for actions which began in the past and are not complete (with time markers such as for... or since...).

As an aside, the present perfect is not a tense per se. The tense is present; perfect is an aspect, just as continuous is an aspect.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 27/02/2021 - 13:46

En réponse à par Peter M.

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Hello, There is another article (https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/present-perfect) that says that "We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present" - may I know if this means the same as "the present perfect is used for something that happened in the past but is important in the present"? Does "result in the present" mean the same as "important in the present"?

Soumis par Peter M. le dim 28/02/2021 - 08:17

En réponse à par Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes, that's correct. A result could be something that you can see or touch, or it could be something about a person (having knowledge or experience of something) or it could be something less obvious, such as a change in attitude or atmostphere.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Matin le sam 30/01/2021 - 18:20

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I mean can i use : who went to japan since covid 19??

Hello Matin,

That sounds unnatural. We tend to use the present perfect with 'since', though I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that it's always wrong to use the past simple with it. I'm not sure exactly what you want to say here, but I'd perhaps suggest 'Who has gone to Japan since the Covid-19 pandemia started?'

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Matin le sam 30/01/2021 - 18:15

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Hi, i have a question , : who .... To japan since covid19?? (Go)

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 30/01/2021 - 00:54

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In the example quoted above, (i.e. They've been married for nearly fifty years), is "married" here an adjective? If so, does it mean I can replace "married" with any other adjective to mean express the meaning of something (maybe a state, situation or action etc) which started in the past and continues in the present - for instance "they have been hungry for nearly five hours"?

Hello Tim,

Yes, that's perfectly fine.

 

Sometimes it's ambiguous if a word is an adjective or a past participle functioning as part of a passive construction, but in this case it's clear that 'married' is an adjective, and you can replace it with any other adjective which makes sense in the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Timothy555 le sam 09/01/2021 - 14:41

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Hello, Is the present perfect used "for something that happened in the past but is important in the present"?

Soumis par Peter M. le dim 10/01/2021 - 08:22

En réponse à par Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

Yes. It can be expressed in different ways. It's really a question of how the speaker sees the event, and I would say that the present perfect is used when the speaker sees an event in the past as having a present relevance and not only as a historical fact.

I went to India in 2002. [a historical fact]

I've been to India. [I have knowledge of it now and can tell you something]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Bruce Wayne le mar 05/01/2021 - 00:47

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I have another question. On that same movie, one character said:"I always wanted to find them.".My question here is, why didn't the character use have?Because I think that when you say "always'' you mean your life, but his life hasn't ended, so you should use have.

Hello Bruce Wayne,

It's hard to be sure without knowing the context but it may be that the speaker no longer wants to find them or considers it no longer possible.

The speaker would say 'I've always wanted to find them' if they still want to do this or if they have just achieved their goal.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Bruce Wayne le lun 04/01/2021 - 01:45

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Hi, I have a question wich I'm not sure if you explained. I saw a movie a few weeks ago, that one of the characters is searching for someone. After losing who they are looking for, the character says: ''I've lost them.''. Why did he say that?

Hi Bruce Wayne,

It's a good example! This use of the present perfect is for something that happened in the past (losing someone) but is important in the present (because the searching is going on now or until recently).

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par petrakovacic le sam 02/01/2021 - 23:51

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Hi, I am still not completely sure what means if sth is important in the present. How do I know if sth is that important so I must use have + past participle?

Hello petrakovacic,

When we talk about present importance in the context of the present perfect, we mean that the action in the past influences the present in some way. For example:

I went to Spain in 2017.

This is a statement about the past. It tells you nothing about the present.

I've been to Spain.

This statement tells you something about the present. It tells you that I have some experience of Spain and can tell you something about it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par agasavurann le lun 28/12/2020 - 21:26

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hello i got a question what is the diffrence between She has been living in Liverpool all her life.She has lived in Liverpool all her life. both of them specifying the Continuity but what is the diffrence

Hello agasavurann,

The difference is very slight in this context and is really only a question of emphasis. I would say that the continuous form emphasises that the action (living) is ongoing, while the simple form could be used to show that her life in Liverpool is ending and that she is moving away. The simple form effectively summarises what has happened to date; the continuous form suggests an ongoing activity.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par NANDITA le lun 21/12/2020 - 19:01

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The turkey _____ for 3 hours. a) has cooked b)is cooking c)was cooked d)has been cooking has been cooking is the right answer?

Hello Nandita,

More than one of these answers is correct. d) is one possible answer, but c) is also possible. a) and b) would be a little unusual, but in very specific situations, they could also be correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par zhangjiacheng38 le jeu 03/12/2020 - 07:02

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Hi there, I hope you are well! I have a question. In the example of "They've been married for nearly fifty years." Why is there a "been" in the sentence? Isn't the structure of present perfect is "have/has + past participle"? Also, how is "have been married" different from present perfect in passive voice? Best regards, Billy

Soumis par Kirk le jeu 03/12/2020 - 07:11

En réponse à par zhangjiacheng38

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Hello Billy,

In this sentence, 'have been' is the verb 'be' in the present perfect tense (active voice) and 'married' is an adjective. If you changed the word 'married' to another adjective (e.g. 'happy'), the structure would be the same. In other words, 'to be married' has the same grammatical structure as 'to be happy'.

It's also possible to use 'marry' as a verb, in which case the word 'married' is a past simple form or a past participle. For example, we could say 'The mayor married them' or 'She married her best friend' (in both of these cases, 'married' is a past simple verb) or 'Today they have been married by the mayor' (in this case, 'married' is the past participle of a passive verb).

When you see the verb 'be' followed by the word 'married', however, it's much more likely that 'married' is an adjective, as we tend to speak more about people's matrimonial status than the actual action of marrying someone.

Does that make sense?

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk, Thank you very much for your explanations! I have another question. Can you use 'marry' as a verb in a present perfect sentence. For example, 'I have married my wife for more than 10 years'? Best regards, Jiacheng

Hello zhangjiacheng38,

'Marry' as a verb means only the act of getting married, not the state of having a husband or wife. To talk about the state, you need to use be + married:

I've been married (to my wife) for more than 10 years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Fa_tima le ven 27/11/2020 - 16:15

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Hi, I am having trouble understanding the meaning of " the weather has changed". What i understood is that the weather is changed but we don't know when it did changed. It is a complete action at unspecified time. I tried to form a sentence but I still don't get it. My second question is: what is the difference between the weather has changed and the weather changed?

Soumis par Peter M. le sam 28/11/2020 - 08:29

En réponse à par Fa_tima

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Hello Fa_tima,

When we say the weather has changed we are saying that is it different now from how it was before. As you say, it does not tell us when the change occurred; only that things are now different.

The weather changed places the change at a specific time. This may be explict (the weather changed that afternoon) or implicit in this context.

We use has changed when we are only interested in the result, not when it happened. We use changed when we are also indicating the time of the change.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Hello le jeu 19/11/2020 - 13:00

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Dear Team, Can I use those below? 1)Plz, tell me until you've done more. 2) don't start it until I've told you. Thanks

Hello Hello,

2 is correct, but I'm afraid I'm not sure what you mean in 1.

Perhaps 'Don't tell me until you've done more'? That's what you would say if the person should remain silent until they have done more.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You. 1) You've grown. What does that mean? Is that a finished or unfinished action? 2) You've grown since the last time I saw you. What does that mean? Is that a finished or unfinished action? 3) She's lived with us since last week. Is it correct?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The context or our background knowledge often informs what verb forms mean. In 1, the person is bigger now than they were at some unspecified past time, and in 2 since last time you saw them. The present perfect form in itself doesn't suggest an unfinished action, but knowing that people tend to grow (at least until a certain age), often these sentences would suggest an unfinished action.

In 3, and in general when we talk about how long something has been happening, we generally use a continuous form: 'She's been living with us since last week'. This could mean that she's only staying with us temporarily, or it could mean that she'll be living with us indefinitely.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Turki123456 le mar 17/11/2020 - 17:51

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Can we use the two tenses both ? 1 - I have (worked/been working) very hard so far 2 he has big match is on Saturday, so he's already (trained/been training)hard in preparation. In general, can we use the adverbs already,so far with present perfect continues