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 peisy,

In the first sentence, the time reference is to a past action that is important at the time of speaking -- this sentence implies that I see 'him' now as I'm speaking.

In the second sentence, the time reference is to the recent past, specifically to today. Whenever a time expression includes the word 'this', we normally use the present perfect. So even if you're referring to a long period of time, you should use the present perfect -- e.g. 'I haven't seen him this century'.

Without knowing more about your teaching context and students, it's difficult to give advice on specific questions, but I'd say the main concept is that the present perfect is used to talk about a past event that is relevant to the present in some way. Have you considered asking this question on our sister site Teaching English? I expect you could get lots of interesting advice there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by moroz on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 04:10

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Hello. Sorry for my poor language. How can explain why in "Have you ever seen a ghost?" used Present Perfect? Where in this sentence is the finished events?

Hello moroz,

In questions like this one, we are talking about our life experience, in other words, a time that begins in the past and continues up to the present moment (since we are still alive). The present perfect is the tense we use to express this kind of time. It is not describing a finished event, because we are still alive when we speak.

You could say 'Did you see a ghost?' when talking about your visit to a haunted house, for example. In this case, it would be a finished event, which is why we use the past simple.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khalifa2007 on Thu, 01/02/2018 - 10:01

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Dear Sir, In scientific papers, we use often the present perfect to talk about previous performed works; however, I think that the past is more appropriate in such situation. Can you give me some clarifications? Best regards

Hello khalifa2007,

You may well be right, but I can't really say for sure without seeing a specific example. If you'd like to submit an example where you think the past simple would be better and explain to us why you think that is, we'd be happy to take a quick look. Please be sure to include a few sentences of context, which is key when choosing verb forms.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Sun, 03/12/2017 - 12:22

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Dear Sir Thank you for your reply. I would like to ask this question again giving you also the way I would like to write with the finished time.and the present perfect.(2 and 3) 1.Thank you for the letter you sent me.(I am not sure right or wrong) 2.Thank you for the letter you sent me last week. 3.Thank you for the letter you have sent me. (We are talking about the effect in the present of something that happend in the past) Please let me know again all are gramatically correct or some are wrong. Thank you. Andrew international

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 04/12/2017 - 07:57

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew,

The first and second sentences are fine. The third one is not correct. We use the past simple here rather than the present perfect because the information (sending the letter) is not new information but a completed action in the past.

If I walk into a room and see for the first time that it has been decorated then I might say 'You've painted the room!' However, if the painting is not news to me - perhaps I have already heard about it, or have seen a photo - then I would not use the present perfect but the past simple: 'You did a good job painting this'.

 

In your example the person you are thanking already knows the letter was sent; there is no news here. On the other hand, if you were writing to a third person then you might use the present perfect because they would not know about the letter yet: 'I've got a letter from Paul about...'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Wed, 29/11/2017 - 11:59

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Dear Sir Thank you for your prompt reply for my last question. Please let me know the following are right or wrong: 1. our Friend Ship Club has been very active during the last two years. or for the last two years. 2. Thank you for the letter you sent me. or Thank you for the letter you have sent me.. 3. I have met a lot of people in the last few days.(Can we use 'in the last'?) Thank you. Andrew international

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 30/11/2017 - 06:59

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

In 1, 'for' is the best choice and in 2 it's 'sent'. 'in the last days' is not incorrect, but we usually use it to speak about the end of a past time period, i.e. one that has no connection with the present. In this case, there is a connection with the present implied with the verb 'have met', so it sounds a bit odd to use it.

We're happy to help with questions like this from time to time, but please explain to use what you think the correct answer is, and why, so that we can better help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 28/11/2017 - 10:26

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Dear Sir Would you please tell me whether the sentence given below is right or wrong.? If it is wrong please correct it. He was the most extra ordinary man I have ever had seen in my life. Thank you. Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 29/11/2017 - 07:38

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

'extra ordinary' should be spelt 'extraordinary' and the verb form should be either 'have ever seen' or 'had ever seen', but otherwise the sentence is correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rossella Hino on Wed, 22/11/2017 - 10:11

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Hello! Can I use the continous form for to reflect,to seem,to imagine and to remeber?

Hello Rossella,

It is possible with 'reflect', 'imagine' and 'remember', though it's a bit unusual. You'd need a specific reason, for example to refer to something you're doing right now, to use the continuous form with one of them.

I can't think of a context when 'seem' would be used in the continuous.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Slava B on Tue, 21/11/2017 - 10:26

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Thanks a lot again,Kirk.

Submitted by Slava B on Mon, 20/11/2017 - 16:48

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Hello again,Team! Once again a good old question , What option is more correct in terms of grammar: e.g. - I came to visit my friend,he opens a door and unexpectedly sees me,and then I say: 1. I have come just to say hello. 2 .I came just to say hello. It would seem that the option N1 is more appropriate as my visit is present at the moment and hasn't gone to the past(distinctly separated) yet, but still,I often see and hear option N2 in cases like this,or both are correct and why? Thanks in advance

Hello Slava B,

Before answering your question, I just wanted to point out that 'just' would normally go in a different position: 'I have just come' or 'I just came'.

 

Traditionally 1 would be considered more correct, especially in Britain, and I expect you'd find it more commonly used there. In American English, however, the past simple has come to take the place of the present perfect in some situations, and this is one of them. You would therefore be more likely to hear the simple past there. It's also becoming used more often in British English, too, probably due to the influence of American English. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aseel aftab on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 23:49

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Hi sir I know all about that film because i have watched that movie twice or had watched that movie twice which one should be correct

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/11/2017 - 07:09

In reply to by aseel aftab

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Hi aseel aftab,

The correct form here is 'have watched' because you are describing a present result (knowing the film) of a past action (watching it).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by aseel aftab on Fri, 03/11/2017 - 12:06

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Hello sir Austrailia have won the cricket world cup or Austrailia won the cricket world cup which one is preffered more.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/11/2017 - 08:53

In reply to by aseel aftab

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Hello aseel aftab,

Please see my earlier answer regarding the present perfect and past simple in the sentence about floods. These examples follow the same rules.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amena.nadeem on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 23:28

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1. I've been to Italy before. 2. We've been friends since 1999 Does been have two meanings in present perfect simple1. as went and came back and 2. as the usual to be? Or is one considered a present perfect continuous? If both are present perfect simple if I want to write this sentence"You're being mean" in present perfect continuous how would it be?

Hello amena.nadeem,

Yes, 'been' can have both of the meanings you suggest. If the context is one involving movement from one place to another, then it has the 'went and came back' meaning, but otherwise it's the normal link verb meaning.

The present perfect continuous of the sentence you ask about is 'You have been being mean'. We don't tend to use 'be' in the present perfect continuous, though it's certainly possible. Most of the time, people would probably say 'Lately you've been mean to him'. I'm not sure if that's the context for what you're thinking, so please ask us again if you had something else in mind.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Doress on Sat, 28/10/2017 - 23:37

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That was a stupid.. i realize now that "she's" is a contracted form of "she has".

Submitted by Doress on Sat, 28/10/2017 - 23:28

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"She's gone to paris for a week" or "she has gone to paris for a week" ?

Submitted by monavar on Sun, 08/10/2017 - 23:09

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Hello sir Thanks for replying, I have another question too. what's the difference between these two sentences? I like to shopping at the mall. I like to shop at the mall. Is the first one grammatically right? what about '' I go to shopping'' or '' I go shopping'' which one is correct?

Hello monovar,

'I like to shopping at the mall' is not grammatically correct.

'I like to shop at the mall' is fine. This describes how you like to spend some of your time.

'I go to shopping'' is not correct.

'I go shopping' is correct. It describes how you spend your time, not whether or not you enjoy it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by monavar on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 11:16

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Hello Is this sentence right? Todays due to advanced achievements of human such as internet and electronical tools, they are experiencing modern and also complex life. is the using of present continuous right? And also electronic tools or electronical tools, which one is more correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 19:51

In reply to by monavar

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Hello monavar,

The present continuous or the present simple could both work here. One or the other might be better depending on what you want to communicate.

'electronical' is not a word; 'electronic' is. Here, again depending on what you mean, you could use 'electronic' or 'electrical'.

By the way, 'todays' is not correct -- I'd recommend 'today' instead.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RamAvtaar on Thu, 28/09/2017 - 10:02

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HelloTeam, Can u tell the 'Voice' (Active / Passive) of the below sentence: "They’ve been married for nearly fifty years."

Hello RamActaar,

There is no passive form possible here because there is no object of the verb. Passive sentences are only possible with transitive verbs (i.e. verbs with direct objects). The construction here is actually VERB + ADJECTIVE:

They are married. [are = verb; married = adjective]

They were married.

They have been married for...

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Joy71 on Sun, 24/09/2017 - 09:19

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I am having trouble with this type of sentence like I have been tired, he has been found guilty, he has been there... do they mean I was tired and still tired, he was guilty and still guilty and he was there and still there ???

Hello Joy71,

The present perfect can be used in different ways, but, yes, that's more or less the general idea. These uses are described in more detail above and I'd also recommend our talking about the past page, where you it is contrasted with other tenses.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Wed, 06/09/2017 - 16:12

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Hello sir, I have a little confusion with the TENSE ORDER in the following sentences. ERROR CORRECTIONS : PRESENT PERFECT and SIMPLE PAST 1. The exhibition has been over a week ago. Ans. The exhibition was over a week ago. 2. I have seen my uncle last night. Ans. I saw my uncle last night. 3. The new hotel has been opened last Sunday. Ans. The new hotel was opened last Sunday OR should it be The new hotel opened last Sunday. FUTURE TENSE. 4. He will reach home before the storm will come. Ans. He will reach home before the storm comes OR should it be He reached home before the storm came. 5. She will reach the station before the train will go. Ans. She will reach the station before the train leaves or She reached the station before the train left.

Hello amrita_enakshi,

I'm afraid we don't provide the service of providing explanations like this, particularly when the sentences don't come from our site or seem to be from a different class or learning resource. I'd encourage you to consult with your teacher if you have one. If that's not possible and you'd like to ask us about one of these sentences, explaining in detail to us what you understand or don't understand, then we'll be happy to help you.

You might also want to consider taking a British Council class if you seek this kind of instruction.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zth on Thu, 31/08/2017 - 19:12

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And also I want to know this: In the middle speaking on the phone, is it correct to say "I've called you to invite you to the party" or "I call you....."

Hello Zth,

You could say 'I've called you ...' or 'I'm calling you' or 'I was calling', but not 'I call you'. I'd say the present continuous is the most commonly used form for this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zth on Thu, 31/08/2017 - 19:09

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Hello Can you please tell me which one is correct? Maria: Hello, Michael. I have just called you, but you weren’t in. Where have you been? Michael: I have just been to a shopping center with Kangkang. But we got lost and couldn’t find each other. Thanks The best wishes

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/09/2017 - 13:18

In reply to by Zth

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Hello Zth,

If you have a specific question about a specific word or phrase inside this text, we'll be happy to help you, but I'm afraid we don't offer the service of correcting and explaining texts that don't come from one of our pages.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 29/08/2017 - 05:46

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Hello Sir Thank you for your prompt reply regarding 'the guitar' under present perfect. Please let me know the following are right or wrong: I am living with my cousin until I find a permanent place. Can I write the same using present perfect continuous? eg. I have been living with my cousin now until I find a permanent place. Are both of these correct or not if only one is correct which one? Please let me know. Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 01/09/2017 - 13:45

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

If you use the word 'now' in your sentence, the present continuous is the form you should use. It expresses the idea of a temporary on-going situation. If you omit the word 'now', the present perfect continuous form also works and expresses much the same idea.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Mon, 28/08/2017 - 05:35

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Dear Sir Please help me to understand the difference between the two forms. I have taken examples from the British Council website. Can't I say 'I have been playing the guitar since I was a teenager.' Instead of 'I have played the guitar since I was a teenager.' The difference between 'I have been watching that program every week and 'I have watched that programm every week.' Is this means I have stopped watching that program now? Thank you.

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 28/08/2017 - 20:32

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew,

Yes, you could say both sentences about the guitar. I'm afraid it's not really possible to say what the precise difference is between the two other forms without knowing the context or the speaker's intentions -- we can use both forms to mean different things.

This page and the video on this page explore this topic in more detail. Please take a look and then let us know if you have any other questions.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Wed, 23/08/2017 - 06:37

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Hello Sir Would you please exp;ain this to me? I am looking at a graph which shows increasing temperature between 1990 and 1995 in a paticular city. Could I use present perfect continuous when writing what the graph shows or should I use past perfect? For example: The temperature has been increasing since 1990. or The temperature had been increasing since 1990. Please let me know which is correct or both are wrong. Is it alright to use past continuous? The temperature was increasing from 1990 until 1995. Thank you. Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Vladimir88 on Tue, 22/08/2017 - 00:36

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Best wishes for The LearnEnglish Team. I am glad to be here. Would you explain the following points? I have copied your sentences above. We use the present perfect tense: 1)I’ve been watching that programme every week. 2)They’ve been staying with us since last week. 3)I’m tired out. I’ve been working all day. Doesn't there have to be the present perfect continuous tense? (have been and the -ing form of the verb).

Hello Vladimir88,

I'm not sure what you mean by 'Doesn't there have to be...?' Are you asking if the present perfect simple would also be possible here? If so, then the answer is yes, you could use the present perfect simple but that it would be much less likely. When emphasising the duration or ongoing nature of an activity the continuous form is much more common.

We have a page on the difference between the simple and continuous forms of the present perfect which I think will be helpful to you. You can find it here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Alexeyled on Fri, 18/08/2017 - 10:03

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Hello, i'm litlle confused, in grammar mentioned that -"ing form of the verb" is necessety to the present perfect continuous. Nevertheless everywhere can be found something like this "They’ve been married for nearly fifty years" Can you clear it up?

Hello Alexeyled,

'they have been married' is a little bit tricky because the verb is 'have been' (i.e. the verb 'be' in the present perfect simple) and 'married' is an adjective. It looks just like a past participle, but in this case it is an adjective.

I'd suggest an example with another verb. For example: 'they have lived' and 'they have been living'. Both are forms of the verb 'live' -- the first is present perfect simple and the second is present perfect continuous.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by eliandro on Fri, 18/08/2017 - 09:35

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Hello. Please one question! The sentence "It’s been raining for hours." is present perfect or present perfect continuous? I don't understand because it is here! Thanks.

Hello eliandro,

'it's been raining' is a present perfect continuous form. 'it's rained' is the present perfect simple form, though often instead of saying 'present perfect simple' people just say 'present perfect'. The sentence you ask about would be useful when it's still raining and when it started to rain several hours earlier. We could use it to express unhappiness with the rain, though it doesn't necessarily mean that.

Our Present Perfect Simple and Continuous page might be a useful resource for you. Please take a look and then if you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team