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 Kapil Kabir

Yes, it is possible to use 'ever' with the past simple. You can find a detailed explanation of the different uses of this word in the Cambridge Dictionary.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sofiane Der on Wed, 12/02/2020 - 22:11

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Hello. Are the following sentences correct: I've been to Italy in October I've gone to Italy in October Thank you in advance. Looking forward to hearing from you

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 13/02/2020 - 07:07

In reply to by Sofiane Der

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Hello Sofiane Der

These sentences are not correct. Since October is in the past, that is, a time period that has no direct connection with the present, the present perfect is not correct. Instead, you should use the past simple: 'I went to Italy' or 'I was in Italy'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Auwid on Sun, 09/02/2020 - 13:04

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could please clarify the difference 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.

Hello Auwid

The difference between these two forms is a difference of perspective, that is, how the speakers sees an action or event. I would recommend you take a look at our Present perfect simple and continuous page, where this is explained in more detail. If you have any further questions after that, please don't hesitate to ask us there.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by eslam_123 on Fri, 07/02/2020 - 20:17

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Thank you very much. I learned a lot from this article, but I have a question or a problem with present perfect and past progressive or continues : Well, we can use the present perfect to talk about action that happened in the past but still continue to the present like : I have lived in Cairo for 20 years. At the same time I can use the past continues for the same purpose : I was living in Cairo for 20 years. How can I understand them clearly and when I want to express an action that happened in the past and continue to present Which one should I use ? Thank you again

Hello eslam_123,

The first sentence (have lived) describes an action which continues up to the present: the speaker still lives in Cairo.

The second sentence (was living) describes an action which is no longer true: the speaker does not live in Cairo any more.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Mr.Peter It's really helpful explanation and help me to clarify the usage of both of them. Just to make sure that I understood you clearly : Past Continues : describe an action that continue in the past, but not now so when I'm saying : I was living in Cairo for 3 years mean "I used to live in the Cairo but I'm not living now " I just want to thank you again for this faster replay.

Hello eslam_123,

That is correct. The past continuous describes actions in finished time, while the present perfect describes actions in unfinished time (continuing up to the present).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 17/01/2020 - 16:44

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Hello. Could you please help me? Is "the present perfect" correct in the following sentence? Must we use "has been working"? - Tom has worked for this company since 2008. He’s still working there. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

Yes, the present perfect simple is fine there, but it's also possible to use the present perfect continuous. The second form gives a little more emphasis to the fact that Tom still works there, but the first also makes it clear that he still works there.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amaura on Mon, 13/01/2020 - 21:29

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Hello! Which one is correct? - Jessica HASN'T COME to volleyball practice very often in the last couple of weeks. - Jessica HASN'T BEEN COMING to volleyball practice very often in the last couple of weeks. Thank you!

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 14/01/2020 - 07:49

In reply to by Amaura

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Hello Amaura,

Both forms are possible and neither is incorrect.

Please note that we generally from elsewhere such as this which may be from tests or homework. We are happy to explain our own material, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amber_melanie on Sun, 12/01/2020 - 04:51

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Is it correct to say Will he had been waiting for me since 3o'clock? or Will he have been waiting for me since 3o'clock? Which one is correct? Or both are wrong?

Hello amber_melanie,

The correct form is will he have (the second sentence). The first sentence is not a correct form.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sooraj on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 06:32

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Hi, Please, can you advise if the below sentence is correct? Can we use "Than" after have been? "The room rate of Crownplaza has been reduced than yesterday’s rate" Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 07:32

In reply to by Sooraj

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Hello Sooraj

I'm afraid that is not correct in standard British English. You could say 'has been reduced compared to yesterday's rate' and that would be correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ziyad Ossama on Sat, 04/01/2020 - 15:38

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Hello, Is it grammatically correct to say "Next year I will have been working for 10 years"?

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 05/01/2020 - 07:33

In reply to by Ziyad Ossama

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Hello Ziyad Ossama,

Yes, that is a grammatically correct sentence. It means that you began your working life (i.e. after school) 9 years ago. If you add a place to the sentence then it would describe your working life in that place. For example:

Next year I will have been working in this shop for 10 years.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jumairs on Fri, 27/12/2019 - 12:41

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Hey. Confused about the following sentences: 1. My last birthday was the worst day I have ever had. 2. My last birthday is the worst day I have ever had. Is it possible to change the tense of the linking verb in the original sentence (1) to the present simple tense (2), and what is the difference in meaning between them? cheers.

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 28/12/2019 - 08:23

In reply to by jumairs

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Hello jumairs

Both sentences are possible and mean the same thing, really. In 1, the linking verb looks more to the past (your last birthday) and 2 is looking more at the course of your life (worst day I've ever had in my life), which is present tense since you are still alive, but in the end they're both referring to the same thing, so there is no real difference in meaning.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rishi803 on Thu, 12/12/2019 - 14:18

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What's the difference between the following two sentences: 1. 'Things were not always like this.' 2. 'Things have not always been like this.'

Hello rishi803

It's the difference between the past simple (1) and the present perfect (2). You can find a detailed explanation of this on our Talking about the past page -- please have a look.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anubhav on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 18:03

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I am a bit confused about these sentences and also let me know whether they are correct .. 1 I have seen you as a kid, you were great or i had seen you as kid, you were great 2 You have seen me back in the first semester how i was behaving or you had seen me back in the first semester Just getting confused about the tenses Thanks

Hello Anubhav,

Both of these sentences describe finished past time periods ('as a kid' and 'back in the first semester'), so without any other context to suggest that a different form in needed, the past simple is the most likely form:

I saw you as a kid...

You saw me back in...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 20/11/2019 - 11:24

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Hello. Today we had a discussion about the use of the present perfect and we had the following sentence: "- Hams has been to the club with her friends, but she came really early today." A teacher of English said that it is wrong and it should be: "- Hams had been to the club with her friends, but she came really early today." Please, which verb tense is correct and why? Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

I'm afraid I can't really say for sure because I don't fully understand the sentence. When she 'came really early', does that refer to coming to a different place, or to the club? Which action happened first?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Anubhav on Mon, 18/11/2019 - 13:34

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Hey, i did get the difference between past simple and past perfect but i still get confused many a time. Please explain 1. over 40% residents of NCR had said they want to move to another city because of bad air quality while 16% wanted to travel during the period 2.Kejriwal said the air quality had started improving because cases of stubble burning had come down 3 La- den’, that had killed five people in Assam’s Goalpara before being captured a we- ek ago in an operation led by an MLA 4. I spoke to your staff this evening or i had spoken to your staff this evening. My question is why do we have to use the verb "had" in the above sentences, why cant it be past simple and are these past perfect? Past simple 3. La- den’, that killed five people in Assam’s Goalpara before being captured a we- ek ago in an operation led by an MLA Why does there need to be a had in the above sentence Thanks.

Hello Anubhav

In most cases, including sentences 1-3 above, the past simple can be used in place of the past perfect. The past perfect makes the sequence of events clearer because it clearly shows that one action was performed before others, but often the context or other sentence elements will also make this clear.

I'm afraid I can't really say anything about 4 without knowing more about the context. The past perfect could be appropriate here, or it might not be -- it depends on the context.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by lanhuongle.13 on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 10:16

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I am doing an exercise in the book "Achieve IELTS Grammar" about Present Perfect. In this exercise I have to fill in the correct form of the words. The text is about a guidance of making bread, I don't understand why all of correct words are "present perfect". Here the text: " Have you ever tried making your own bread? If you haven't, you should. Its not difficult. After you have measured the correct amount of flour and warm water, mix them together in a bowl. You now need to add yeast, salt and sugar. When you have done this, work the mixture with your hands, then leave it i n a warm place for an hour. When it has grown to double the size, work it with your hands again. It should feel dry to the touch if you have followed the instructions correctly. Put the bread mixture into a tin, and leave it for an hour until it has risen up over the top. Finally, when you have heated the oven, bake the bread for about forty minutes." Please help! Thanks so much!

Hello Ianhuongle.13

There are a lot of other verb forms in this text besides the present perfect, so I'm not really sure which ones you are asking about. In the first sentence, the present perfect is used because it's asking about your life experience -- in your life, have you ever done something. This is one instance when we use the present perfect (see above were it says 'experience up to the present'). In the third sentence, 'have measured' is correct, but so is 'measuring'.

I would suggest you ask a teacher to help you understand all the forms in the text. We are happy to help out with a specific question or two, but I'm afraid we don't explain long texts that don't come from our site.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ronald Hall on Sat, 26/10/2019 - 20:03

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Hello I would like to know if this phrase is correct: We've been to visit Joan in the hospital. It's not better to say: We've been to the hospital to visit Joan. I will appreciate your response. Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 27/10/2019 - 08:15

In reply to by Ronald Hall

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Hello Ronald Hall,

Both forms are perfectly fine and there is no difference in meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lalla on Sat, 26/10/2019 - 08:17

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whan I watch movies, especially American movies, I can see that they often use "to be going to" also after "I hope, I think...." rather than "will". Is it correct, is informal, are there any differences? Tks

Hello lalla,

I'm not sure what form you mean exactly. The form hope to be +ing is quite common. Is that what you had in mind? For example:

I hope to be visiting you soon.

It is not limited to informal use and is quite common in both UK and US English. In fact, this form is often used as a more polite way of expressing an intention than I hope I will...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by lalla on Sat, 26/10/2019 - 08:15

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Please can you tell me if these sentences (I'm working hard this week"; "I've been working hard this week") are both correct and what's the difference in meaning

Hello lalla

Yes, both are correct. The first one uses the present continuous and the second one the present perfect continuous. Follow the links to see the different meanings the two forms can have. What exactly they mean depends on the context -- did you have some specific context in mind?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fdrewaserera on Fri, 13/09/2019 - 03:26

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We have just got back from our holidays. why we use present perfect is it has a relationship with the present and why we use present perfect with adverbials which refer to the recent past like i just seen it refer to the recent past why we don't use past instead it

Hello fdrewaserera,

In the sentence

We have just got back from our holidays

we use the present perfect because we have a past action (getting back) with a present result (we are here now).

We also use the present perfect with just to describe very recent actions which have a relevance (an effect on) the present. A sentence like

I've just seen Joe

is an example of this. The seeing is very recent and it is news which has an effect on the present (I can tell you something about him).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by fdrewaserera on Fri, 13/09/2019 - 02:38

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what the difference between present perfect and present continuous simple in this sentences i am feeding the neighbour 's cat this week while she is in hospital i have fed the neighbour 's cat this week while she is in hospital

Hello fdrewaserera,

The first sentence describes an ongoing (repeated) activity over a period of time. Your neighbour is still in hospital and you are still looking after the cat.

The second sentence tells us what you have done up to the present (feeding the cat). Your neighbour is still in hospital but the sentence does not tell us whether or not you will continue to feed the cat in the future (tomorrow and onwards). 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Do you mean that the first sentence expresses even if the neighbor came out of the hospital I will still feed the cat The second sentence expresses when the neighbor out of the hospital will stop feeding the cat.

Hello again fdrewaserera,

That's not quite what I said. Here it is again:

I am feeding the neighbour's cat this week while she is in hospital

This sentence describes an ongoing (repeated) activity over a period of time. Your neighbour is still in hospital and you are still looking after the cat.

 

I have fed the neighbour's cat this week while she is in hospital

This sentence tells us what you have done up to the present (feeding the cat). Your neighbour is still in hospital but the sentence does not tell us whether or not you will continue to feed the cat in the future (tomorrow and onwards). 

 

In both sentences the week has not yet finished.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

But there is a question in a book called find the mistake then write a correct answer The question is i feed the neighbour's cat this week while she is in hospital The answer in this book is have fed Why the answer is have fed and not am feeding

Hello fdrewaserera

I'm afraid we can't explain why the book provides only that answer. It could be that they did not think of another possible answer, or it could be that the instructions make it clear that only one is correct.

In any case, Peter's explanation above explains the different meanings of these two forms very clearly. I hope it helps you make sense of them.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rose Duda on Tue, 10/09/2019 - 18:25

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I have a couple of questions: (1) Confusion between the present perfect and the simple past The present perfect form (as compared to the simple past) is not associated with a specific time e.g. I have driven a car (present perfect) vs I drove a car yesterday However we see sentences which are deemed correct but don't seem to follow rules e.g. I drove a car a specific time period is not mentioned - however this usage seems to be accepted. Please explain under what conditions this usage is acceptable. (2) Usage of present perfect to describe a certain period in the past combined with the word "for" (Assuming it is 10 P.M. on the day I studied) Sentence1: I have studied for three hours from 5 P.M. to 8 P.M. Sentence2: I studied for three hours from 5 P.M. to 8 P.M. Are both these forms acceptable? In Sentence2, shouldn't I specify a specific time word e.g. I studied for three hours from 5 P.M. to 8 P.M. last Friday.

Hello Rose Duda

Language occurs in a context. In the case of 'I drove a car', the context would presumably make it clear what time period is being referred to. As for question 2, the present perfect form isn't really correct because if it's 10pm now, 5-8pm is clearly a past time. I would never say sentence 1 in this context; I would use sentence 2.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ALPHAOUMAR on Tue, 10/09/2019 - 00:39

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Hello I am little confused about the use of the present perfect when it comes to duration. I have documents which say that we use present perfect to express duration with only non- continuous verbs. Now I see on your platform you use the present perfect to talk about duration with dynamic verbs. How come?

Hello AlphaOumar

Could you please provide some specific example sentences that illustrate what you're asking about? We're happy to help you with specific forms and uses, but I'm afraid we can't explain other documents.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team