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? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

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Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 27/09/2021 - 07:58

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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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

Submitted by Tony1980 on Tue, 21/09/2021 - 14:26

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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
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 21/09/2021 - 15:39

In reply to by Tony1980

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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
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/09/2021 - 07:52

In reply to by Tony1980

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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
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 24/09/2021 - 07:07

In reply to by Tony1980

Permalink

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
Profile picture for user Peter M.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 27/09/2021 - 08:06

In reply to by Tony1980

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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