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 Ahmed Imam

The second one is correct. A present perfect form is needed because we still live in our new house now.

If you changed the second clause to 'since we moved to our new house', then a past simple form would be fine, since the move happened in the past.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mar I. on Sun, 26/04/2020 - 02:34

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Hello, I have a question. Why is the Present Perfect a present tense when the verb does not only refer to present time? Hope you can help me! Thanks!!

Hello Mar I.

The idea is that the action began in the past but hasn't yet finished. This is true of many actions in our lives.

This is actually very similar to one of the ways the present perfect is used in Spanish. I'm not completely familiar with Argentinian Spanish, but, for example, if I asked you if had ever visited Asunción (and you have), I think you would probably say something like 'Yes, I have visited Asunción' ('¿Has estado alguna vez en Asunción?' 'Sí que he estado en Asunción'.) Here the verb refers to a time period that began in the past but still includes the present.

Does that answer your question?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by terry1998 on Wed, 01/04/2020 - 14:28

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hello. i correct should my comment could you please answer the following question? what is the difference between "for something ~ 'continues in present' " and "present perfect continuous to emphasise that 'something is still continuing in the present' " i can't understand this.

Hello terry1998,

The difference between present perfect simple and continuous depends on the context in which it used. It's a tricky area and so we have a page specially about this. You can find it here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-intermediate/present-perfect-simple-and-continuous

 

I think the explanations and examples on that page should help you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sankalpa Fer on Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:59

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Hi there, I have problem with the usage of been present perfect. For an instance 1)They've been married for nearly fifty years. 2)She has lived in Liverpool all her life. Why we can't say "She has been lived in Liverpool all her life" instead of sentence number two. I've been bothering with this issue for years. Hope for a good and clear answer.

Hello Sankalpa Fer

In 2 ('she has lived'), the verb 'live' is an intransitive verb. An intransitive verb doesn't have an object -- for example, you can't say 'she lived a war' or 'she lived a difficult time'. (Please note, however, that the verb 'live' can sometimes have an object; just not when it has this meaning.) Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the passive voice. Since 'live' is an intrasitive verb here, 'she has been lived' is not correct.

In 1, the verb is 'have been', the present perfect form of the verb 'be'. Although it looks like it is part of the verb, 'married' is an adjective and not part of the verb. Sometimes when people see the word 'been' they think that it is always part of a passive verb, but here it is not -- it is simply the verb 'be' in the present perfect.

This is a rather difficult topic to explain well in comments, but I hope this helps you understand it a little better. Please don't hesitate to ask more questions about this if you'd like to.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by lima9795 on Wed, 04/03/2020 - 15:13

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hello BBC Say, A person has moved from his home country germany to usa and assume i live in usa.... should i ask How long have you been in Germany? OR How long did you live in Germany? which one is correct?

Hello lima9795

Since the person no longer lives in Germany and since you are in the US, you should use the past simple form: 'How long did you live in Germany?' You might want to have a look at our Talking about the past page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kapil Kabir on Wed, 26/02/2020 - 15:03

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Hello Sir. Please help me to solve this problem I have a doubt regarding to use of 'ever' adverb. We know that we usually use 'ever' in present perfect tense. Can we use 'ever' adverb in past indefinite.

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