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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Hello DaniWeebKage,

'I got to go' is not correct in standard British or American English -- it is an abbreviated form of 'I've got to go' in which the 'have' has been omitted. It's fine in informal speaking, but is not correct in writing and is not a past simple form. It communicates necessity here.

In 'Show me what you got', 'got' is indeed a past simple form and means something like 'obtain' or 'receive'.

The difference between 'I've found it' and 'I found it' is the difference between the present perfect and past simple, which you can more about on our Talking about the past page. In American English, the past simple is used for some situations when the present perfect is used in British English, but otherwise they are the same.

Hope this helps you make sense of things.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You, Sir, Kirk I've understand well on the present perfect but these kind of situations make me to lose my sences. There is nothing left. I've eaten it all.(related to the Present) Like the example above, 1)There is a letter on our whiteboard. I wonder Who have written it? Should I use Who wrote it or have written it? If 'who wrote this' is correct, explain me why? 2) To mean ' I understand ' Should I use ' I got it ' or ' I've got it '. (I ask this because Some pages say B.E would say 'I've got it) 3) Does ' I've got ' mean 'I possess it/ I own it'? Could you tell me if this have other meanings? 4) Show me what you got ( Does it mean like Show me what you get sth in the past?) Hope you answer all my ques Thank You Have a nice day!!!

Hello DaniWeebKage,

I think that what you're finding difficult is the fact that sometimes it's the speaker's perspective on a situation that makes them choose present perfect or past simple. It's very difficult or even impossible to know another person's perspective if you are working with sentences from a textbook.

There's also the fact that speakers of American English tend to use the past simple in some situations when British English speakers use the present perfect.

In 1, if the speaker views the letter on the board as very recent -- perhaps the speaker saw the whiteboard a minute ago and it was empty, but now there's a letter there -- then 'Who has written it?' would be the sentence most speakers of British English would use. Speakers of American English might also say that, but might also say 'Who wrote it?'.

2 is similar, though it's also important to consider that when we say 'I've got it' very quickly, it often sounds like 'I got it' -- in fact, often people just say 'Got it'.

As for 3, yes, 'have got' can mean that. I'd suggest you read this explanation for more details, though. Although it looks like a present perfect form, its usage is different -- please don't try to understand it as some kind of present perfect.

In 4, yes, 'got' is the past simple form of 'get'. It could refer to a very distant past or, as in this case, probably a recent past.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank You, Sir Kirk Your explanation's made me clearer than before. I've read the recent past can mean from yesterday to a few months. 1)In 1, Can I use "Having results in the present by past actions" with the recent past? Not a minute ago, Perhaps yesterday even a month ago. 1.1)What important is about the speaker what he/she wants to refer. Am I right? 2) Have you finished it? Did you finish it? These are also up to the speaker's perspective. Am I correct? (I know in some situations questing with the present perfect may be wrong but in this case, what we use is up to the speaker's time reference) Am I right? 3) I've done it for 5 hours. ( It means the action of what he was doing is completed for 5 hours) Am I right? Thanks a million. Have a perfect day!!!

Hello DaniWeebKage,

1) I think so. As you rightly say, it depends on how the speaker views the action and its relationship to the present.

2) Yes, that's correct.

3) In most cases 'I did it for five hours' would be better, but perhaps in a specific context the present perfect would be OK.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 13:03

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Which is the correct one? Have you seen John come(simple present) here? Or Have you seen John came here? And Why?

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first one is correct and the second one is not. In this case, 'come' is not a present simple form, but rather a bare infinitive. We often use the bare infinitive in this way after verbs of perception. The '-ing' form is also commonly used when we want to emphasise the action was in progress when it was perceived.

For example, we can say both 'Did you see John cook supper?' and 'Did you see John cooking supper?'. The first one suggests that we saw John begin and finish cooking, that is the whole time he was cooking. The second one means that we only saw him cooking at one point in time and did not witness the entire action.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

So Sir, I want to ask a waiter about(someone)has come to the restaurant for the last 3 days. So Have you seen someone coming here for the last 3 days? Did you see someone coming here? Are both correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 08:18

In reply to by DaniWeebKage

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Hello DaniWeebKage,

These questions are grammatically correct, but a bit unnatural. For one thing, 'anyone' would be better than 'someone' in this question, unless you are thinking of a particular person. But if you are thinking of a particular person, it would be better to say 'Kareem' or 'that woman' or something more specific. And probably the word 'coming' isn't really needed, i.e. I'd probably say 'Have you seen Kareem here the last three days?'

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 15:55

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What is the difference between I have a lot of experience. I've had a lot of experience. Thanks.

Hello DaniWeebKage,

The first one speaks about your experience without any emphatic reference to a period of time. The second one refers to a more specific period of time -- your life up until now -- and implies a slight separation between your past and the present time. 

These probably refer to the same period of time in the end, but the first one is probably better in most situations.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Sir, Kirk I'd ask you two more questions. 1) My English Text says "When we want to give a piece of news in Present Perfect, We use Past Simple." Could you explain that a little easier to understand? #1We have planted an apple tree in the garden. Unfortunately, it died. #2We planted an apple tree in the garden. Unfortunately, it died. What is the difference between these two? 2) I confused Present Perfect with both Past simple and Present Simple. As I am not a native speaker, I couldn't clarify too much about it. #1 (We are in the middle of a game, one of my teammates fail to jungle, then what I should say) You fail to jungle. Or You have failed to jungle. You have been failing for the last 10 mins. Could you plz give me some tips to clarify? This letter is too long, I'm sorry about that. Or This letter has been too long.? Thanks

Hello again DaniWeebKage,

Re: 1, yes, we often use the present perfect to give news because the event we are speaking about is related to the present in our minds -- we're thinking about recent events, events that are connected to now in a way. The first sentence is an example of this -- imagine you're speaking with a friend you haven't spoken to in a month, and when you're telling him what you've been doing in the past month, you could say this.

The second sentence is what you'd use in most other contexts. For example, maybe you're telling your friend about something you did when you were young. That's the distant past, with no relation to the present and so the past simple is the form to use.

I'm afraid I don't understand the sentences in 2 at all. The world 'jungle' doesn't make any sense to me there.

I'd probably say 'This letter is too long' because at the end of the letter I'm still writing it. I still need to write the closing, for example.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by joaquín ratari on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 17:34

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sorry i meant "help" when i said "helo"

Submitted by joaquín ratari on Mon, 05/10/2020 - 17:31

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hello I dont understand why "present perfect" talks about the past and mostly i confuse present perfect with past simple i hope you can helo me Joaquín Ratari

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 06/10/2020 - 07:48

In reply to by joaquín ratari

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Hello Joaquin,

The present perfect is a present verb form. It tells us something about the present with reference to the past. For example:

I went to Spain in 2004. [a historical event]

I've been to Spain. [something that happened in the past that is relevant now - for example, because I can tell you about Spain, or I can speak Spanish, or I don't want to go there again]

 

The present perfect has a range of uses, as you can see on the page, but all of them are about connecting the past to the present in some way. If you have a particular example which confuses you then we'll be happy to comment, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ER on Wed, 30/09/2020 - 14:03

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Hello “The stakeholders observed that over the last 2 years, a new advancement in cutting-edge technological measures has increased the company’s profitability” In the above sentence, why did we not use 'has been increasing the company’s profitability' since ‘over the last 2 years’ implies a length of time during which the profitability kept increasing i.e. it was an ongoing action over the last 2 years? Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 07:44

In reply to by ER

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Hello ER,

Both the simple and continuous forms can be used here. The continuous form focuses on the process, while the simple form focuses on the result. Which form is used is really a choice for the speaker/writer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Sun, 27/09/2020 - 04:00

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Hello Sir, I am a bit confused understand the meaning of this sentence. "Prior to talks, indian official had highlighted the key points of their agenda as having china withdraw from all friction points including Tso and granting unhindered access to all patrolling points." I found this sentence in an editorial and I didn't get the meaning of this sentence. In my view, Here, 'as' was used in the same sense of 'When/While'. But my teacher said to me " here, 'as' is used in the same sense of 'because' " I think there is a condition before talks, And also, past perfect is used ( " had highlighted"), Past perfect is also used to show that something was wished. In my view, the meaning of this sentence is Indian official would have talked to chinese official if china had withdrawn from all friction points....... It's an imaginary situation of past that didn't happen in present. Please clarify sir.... :)

Hello Kapil Kabir,

This looks like non-standard English to me. But I suppose that 'as' could be an abbreviated form of 'such as' that is used to give examples. As I understand it, the past perfect emphasises that the key points were highlighted before the talks.

Please remember that, while we can occasionally help with texts from other sources, our main purpose is to help users with content that is on our website.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 19:36

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Hello sir, I want only to clarify that it is right or wrong. I have two sentences *1) It is too early to say that which impact the new tax will have on investors. *2) it is too early to say what impact the new tax will have on investors. I always get confused when I work with the word ' what'. Somewhere, I read that 'what' as a relative pronoun is equal to 'that which'. Please clarify Sir, :)

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Thu, 24/09/2020 - 18:30

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Hello sir, I'm confused to using the word 'very'. I found that sentence in a Error Spotting practice set. --- We need to just confront the fact that most politicians around the world regard independent journalism at best with benign indifference, more often with rank hypocrisy, and very much often with open hostility As far as I know that the word 'very' is followed by Positive Degree Adjective and Much itself is a positive degree. In the explanation of this sentence, the word 'much' is removed. I didn't understand why it happened. If there is any rule regarding this. Please clarify Sir.... Thank you. :)

Submitted by Jonathan R on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 05:35

In reply to by Kapil Kabir

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Hi Kapil Kabir,

It's true: very can be followed by a positive adjective. But it can also be followed by a negative adjective (e.g. very bad).

 

It can also be followed by an adverb (e.g. very often / very much). This is the situation in this sentence. Much and often are adverbs, not adjectives, because they are not describing any noun. They describe a verb phrase: regard independent journalism with open hostility

 

We can't say very much often because much and often don't fit together. Much means a large amount, and often means frequently. So, the meanings of these words don't make sense when added together. To include both, we need to separate them: very much and very often.

 

So, in the sentence, we can say either very often or very much. But very often fits better because it develops the idea from earlier in the sentence (more often with rank hypocrisy). 

 

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, thank you for providing some useful information. But there is a doubt regarding the use of these two words Together. Sir, As you said to me" We can't say very much often because much and often don't fit together. Much means a large amount, and often means frequently. " But the question that I'm asking now is that 'more' itself is comparative degree of much and in this sentence "more often" was used together. more which itself is a comparative degree of much. One side we are saying we can't use 'much and often' together and in the contrary of this more is used with often. How is it possible, sir? Please clarify :)

Hi Kapil Kabir,

It's because although more and much might have similar meanings, their grammatical behaviour is different. In your sentence, more needs to modify another adverb (e.g. more often, more quickly, more importantly). That's why more and often can fit together. 

Much (as an adverb) doesn't modify another adverb. It takes the end position in the adverb phrase. Often also takes the end position. That's why much and often can't fit together.

(Be careful not to confuse it with much as a determiner. A determiner does modify another word, e.g. I don't have much time. But the sentence structure here is different to your example.)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I'm going Sir, I wanna ask one more question regarding the use of 'much'. Sir, as we know that 'much' is a positive degree Adverb. But much is used before the comparative words which show comparison. Like Tannu's room is much bigger than mine. Here, Bigger is a comparative degree of Big. And we used much before a comparison word( bigger) inspite of much being a positive degree adverb. Like, very. Very is also a positive degree adverb. 1) I like her very much. 2) I like her very more/ most. We know, Sentence 2 is wrong because very is always followed by a positive/negative degree word not comparative or superlative degree words. The question is that one side we use very with only positive/ negative degree words, on the contrary of this we use much with comparative degree words which show comparison. Both Very and Much are positive degree adverb. Is it possible to use much with positive degree words which don't show any comparison when much is an adverb. Please clarify sir.

Hi Kapil Kabir,

I've done some searching. Most examples of much + adjective that I could find were with a comparative adjective. But I did find a few non-comparative examples.

  • Our pet dog is a much loved member of the family.
  • My exam results were much improved.
  • The medicine didn't do much good.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 17/09/2020 - 10:45

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Hello> Could you please help me? Which sentences are correct? 1- I haven't seen Ali since last week. 2- I haven't seen Ali since the last week. 3- I haven't seen Ali for last week. 4- I haven't seen Ali for the last week. Please Why? What are the differences? Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Sentences 1 and 4 are correct.

We use last week to describe a finished period starting on Monday and ending on Sunday - though obviously the days may vary in different cultures.

We use the last week to describe the seven days prior to the day when we are speaking.

 

For example, as I write it is Friday, September the 18th.

If I say last week then I am describing the period starting Monday, September the 7th and ending Sunday, September the 13th.

If I say the last weekn then I am describing the period starting Saturday, September the 12th and ending today (Friday, September the 18th).

 

We do not use the last week with since because the last week is not a finished time period - it goes up to the moment of speaking. Thus sentence 2 is incorrect.

We do not use last week with the present perfect because last week is a finished time period. Thus sentence 3 is incorrect.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 16/09/2020 - 15:49

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Hello sir, I have a confusion regarding the use of pair "not........ but". As we know that "not...... but" pair follows same part of speech for example. I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but because it seems impractical. In this example "not....... but" pair follows same part of speech that is "because". I'm a bit confused using the pair " not only........ but also" I wanna know why " not....... but" pair doesn't follow same part of speech. In "not only..... but also" pair. Not follows 'only' and but follows 'also' how it is possible, one side we say 'not........but' pair follows same part of speech, and the other side why we use " not only....... but also" pair with different part of speech. Please clarify sir.

Hello Kapil Kabir,

I'm afraid I don't understand your question. The two forms are used in exactly the same way, though with different meanings:

I'm opposed to the plan of action not because it is ill conceived but because it seems impractical.

I'm opposed to the plan of action not only because it is ill conceived but also because it seems impractical.

 

If something about this confuses you then please rephrase your question and we'll try to clarify. I think the best approach is to provide an example sentence and ask directly why one version is correct and another not, or why form x is used and not form y.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 14/09/2020 - 07:54

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Hello. Could you please help me choose the correct answer? Why? - She (has been - has gone) shopping. The apples she has bought are fantastic. I think both are OK.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Both options are grammatically correct. But there's a small difference in meaning. 

  • She has gone shopping = She has gone out and hasn't come back yet.
  • She has been shopping = She has gone out and already come back.

In this example, we can see that she has brought back apples, so she must have come back already. Has been is the best option.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jonathan R. Thank you for your reply. You say, "has been is the best option" so "has gone shopping" is not wrong and possible to use in my sentence, right? Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

The grammatical form isn't wrong. But the meaning is a bit confusing. If we say she has gone shopping, it implies that she has not returned yet. (But actually, she has.)

 

Normally, in any situation, speakers make the strongest true statement that they can. For example, consider these sentences:

  1. He's eaten one piece of cake. 
  2. He's eaten two pieces of cake.

If the situation is that he's eaten two pieces of cake, most speakers would say sentence 2. Sentence 1 is logically true too (because one is less than two, so he must have eaten one first before eating two). But, it's confusing to say sentence 1 in this situation. It implies that I cannot make a stronger true statement than that. But actually, I can: He's eaten two pieces of cake.

 

It's the same difference in the shopping examples. Although logically, saying she has gone shopping does not exclude the possibility that she has returned, if she has actually returned then the speaker is expected to show that. If the speaker only says she has gone shopping, a listener would probably understand that she hasn't returned yet (which is false).

 

So, in an exercise, the answers are clear: has been is correct and has gone is incorrect. But, in real life, if someone said she has gone shopping but I can see the apples that she bought, I think I could work out that she's already returned. But this relies on the listener to do work to work out the real meaning, so it's not the best option.

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Sat, 12/09/2020 - 16:47

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Hello sir, I'm not able to decide whether which one is correct but I'm a little sure abot it. I have two sentences. 1) I have no money. 2) I have not any money. I just want to known whether both the sentences are equal in grammatical and contextual meaning or not. My second question is that Can we rewrite the first question in the form of the second question like I have no money = i have not any money. Somewhere I read that 'No' as a adverb gives a meaning equal to 'Not any'

Hello Kapil Kabir,

The first sentence is correct.

No here does have the meaning not any - that is correct. However, the second sentence is not a standard negative. When we use have as a main verb, we negate it with do, just as with other main verbs:

I don't have any money.

If have is an auxiliary verb then it can be negated with not:

I haven't got any money.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Tue, 08/09/2020 - 02:34

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Hello Sir.. The question that I'm going to ask, I don't know it is logical or not. But I'm curious to know so that I'm asking it. I have two Asserative sentences 1) Tannu is a girl. 2) I have money. When we change these sentences in Interrogative sentence. We write *1) Is Tannu a girl ? *2) Do you have money? as far as I know, Both 'is' and 'have' are main verb in 1 and 2 no questions. when we change these sentences into interrogative,as I mentioned above, In 1st question. 'Is' acts main verb and makes a interrogative sentence. But in the second 'Have' is main verb in 2nd sentence, when we write *2 sentence why we use 'Do' as a helping verb. Why do we use 'do' as helping verb in sentence *2, although we couldn't use any helping verb in *1, when we make interrogative of sentence 1. Please clarify sir. :)

Hi Kapil Kabir,

Sure, let me try to explain. Be is a bit special and different from other verbs. As you noted, it doesn't need a helping verb to make interrogative and negative forms. Among its other irregularities, it has very irregular forms (e.g. am / is / was / were) and, unlike most other verbs, has contracted forms (e.g. I'm, she's). It's very irregular!

Why is it so irregular? That's a difficult question to answer, and I'm not totally certain. But the meaning of be is very basic and important in life, so it is extremely commonly used. We often find that commonly used (i.e. high frequency) words are more irregular than less common words.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, sir It is very helpful information to understand the question. Thank you.

Submitted by Khangnguyen on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 15:09

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Hello, can you help me with these 2 sentences 1. I haven’t bought that car 2. I didn’t buy that car I find it to be difficult for me to recognize the differences

Hello Khangnguyen,

The difference here is whether the speakers sees the action as finished or as part of an unfinished time period.

The first sentence suggests that the situation might change: the speaker may buy the car, but has not done so yet.

The second sentence implies that the situation will not change: the speaker did not buy the car and does not intend to change that decision.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangnguyen on Sat, 05/09/2020 - 14:43

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Hello, I’m struggling with this situation Imagine your friend said sth to you and you couldn’t hear it very well Will you say:” sorry, i didn’t catch your words” OR “ sorry, i haven’t caught your words” and could you please explain the differences between those 2, thank you

Hello Khangnguyen,

The standard form here is this:

I'm sorry. I didn't catch that/what you said.

 

We use the past simple here, not the present perfect. This is true of all similar situations with similar verbs (understand/see/hear etc).

We would use the present perfect if we wanted to describe something with reference to our entire lives:

I didn't understand his argument.

I have never understood that argument.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 15:51

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Hello Sir, i have a confusion regarding these sentences. 1) I could save Tannu if I were God. 2) I could have saved Tannu if I were God. Are both sentences correct? My teacher taught that both sentences are correct but I think the 2nd sentence is incorrect. Please clarify sir. :)

Hello Kapil Kabir,

Both sentences are grammatically correct. The first sentence describes the present or future. The second sentence is about the past. It tells us that it was possible in the past to have saved Tannu, but that it did not happen; Tannu was not saved, though it was possible.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 22:04

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This tip is really helpful. Thanks.

Submitted by Avianna on Wed, 19/08/2020 - 12:50

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Hi, could you do a favor and clarify, please? There is a rule that we can’t use Present Perfect after “When” but here it’s said that we can use present perfect after conjunctions until, when to refer to future. Does it mean that we can’t use present perfect after question word “when”?