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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Submitted by pavi on Fri, 11/08/2017 - 20:32

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Mind my ignorance. But im still not find the difference between present perfect and perfect cont., when its comes with be verb. What is the difference between these two sentence below. How can i find out which one is present perfect? 1) She has been living in Liverpool all her life. 2)I’ve been watching that programme every week

Hello pavi,

Both 1 and 2 are in the present perfect continuous. The present perfect continuous has three words: 1) 'has' or 'have' (depending on the subject) + 2) 'been' + 3) V-ing (e.g. 'living' in sentence 1 and 'watching' in sentences 2).

The present perfect simple has only two words: 'has' or 'have' + a past participle. For example: 'She has lived in Liverpool all her life' or 'I've watched that programme every week'. For more on the difference between these please see our Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zth on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 10:42

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Hi I have another question too. in this sentences "I've been talking to Amanda about the problems and she agrees with me". why we should use present perfect continues? thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 08/08/2017 - 07:43

In reply to by Zth

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Hello Zth,

In isolation it is possible to use many different forms here: I've talked to... / I've been talking to / I talked to / I was talking to, for example. All of them are possible; which is needed will depend on the particular context. You need to look at the context in which the sentence occurs and consider what the speaker is choosing to emphasise through his or her choice of verb form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello And also I want to know, can we use these ones instead? -Julia has been living/has living in Paris a long time? -how long have you been working/have you worked here? Thank you so much for answering

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 13/08/2017 - 18:42

In reply to by Zth

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Hello Zth,

'Julia has been living/has lived (not 'has living') in Paris for a long time' and 'How long have you been working/have you worked here?' are both correct. There are so many contexts in which you could use one or the other that it's difficult for me to explain. If you have a specific context in mind, please don't hesitate to ask us about it. 

Have you seen our Present Perfect Simple and Continuous page? There's a good explanation of the general difference between these two tenses there.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zth on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 09:06

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Hello I have a question. in this sentences "We use the present perfect of be when someone has gone to a place and returned", returned is used as a "past tense form" or it is present perfect like "has gone" and "has" is deleted t symmetric. thanks

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 20:55

In reply to by Zth

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Hello Zth,

It is a present perfect form. When the context makes the meaning clear, auxiliary verbs are often left out. This is called ellipsis.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vishal Panchal on Fri, 28/07/2017 - 11:51

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Hello, I’m tired out. I’ve been working all day. - In this sentence the Action of work is completed so why we Use Working.Working is indicating that my activity is running, Can you please clarify, Thanks & Regards,

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 29/07/2017 - 06:58

In reply to by Vishal Panchal

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Hello Vishal Panchal,

The explanation for this is on the page.

 

for something that happened in the past but is important at the time of speaking:

In this case it is important because it has a present result (being tired).

 

Remember that there are several ways in which the present perfect is used. To describe an unfinished activitiy is only one of these.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Paula Ribeiro on Wed, 26/07/2017 - 02:33

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Hello! I have a doubt about time adverbials. When we use the time adverbials in the present perfect we need to follow a form to use it? for example: has/have+ past participle + time adverbials.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 26/07/2017 - 06:25

In reply to by Paula Ribeiro

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Hello Paula Ribeiro,

That looks fine as a summary. The position of the time adverbial is flexible but it usually comes at the end, after other adverbials:

 

I have lived happily in London for six years.

[have + past participle > adverbial of manner > adverbial of place > adverbial of time]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by UmmYahya on Sat, 22/07/2017 - 09:36

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Hello, Is this correct: " My husband has to go to work on Saturday". Is 'has' the auxiliary verb in the sentence? What is the name of the rule? Subject-verb agreement? Thank you

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 22/07/2017 - 12:14

In reply to by UmmYahya

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Hello UmmYahya,

Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct. 'have to' isn't exactly an auxiliary verb here, but you have used it correctly because the subject ('my husband') is singular and in the third person. If the subject were 'you' or 'my brothers' or 'I', the verb would need to be 'have (to go to work)'. Yes, this is subject-verb agreement.

'have' is used as an auxiliary in the formation of the present perfect tense, for example. In 'I have gone to work', 'have' is the auxiliary used to form the present perfect form 'I have gone'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sousse-k on Tue, 04/07/2017 - 20:14

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Hello, I want to know what will be the difference of meaning between : I've been working at this place since 5 years I'm working at this place since 5 years I work at this place since 5 years It's just to introduce myself and I want to know if the first one doesn't imply that i've finished to work there or that I will soon finish and are there any mistakes ? Best regards

Hello Sousse-k,

Only the first of these is correct. When we are describing an unfinised period of time which began in the past we use the present perfect or the present perfect continuous. You can read about the difference between the two on this page.

We use 'since' with a point in time: since Tuesday, since 7.00, since I was ten etc.

We use 'for' with a period of time: for three hours, for a long time, for five years.

Your sentence should therefore be either of these:

 

I've been working at this place for five years.

I've been working at this place since 2012.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Adya's on Mon, 19/06/2017 - 11:18

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Hi If the adverb of time relates to the present, which tense should preferably be used? Which is preferable, "He has reached today" or "He reached today", or are they both equally correct?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 20/06/2017 - 06:08

In reply to by Adya's

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Hello Asya's,

The present perfect is used in a number of ways but the one you are referring to here, I think, is when an action continues up to the present (unfinished past); the past simple is used when an action is complete (finished past time). I'm not sure what you mean by 'reach' in your examples, but I can illustrate with a clearer example:

He has made three cakes today. [he may make more]

He made three cakes today. [he will not make more; the action is complete]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Actually I meant "work finished". But the time of the completion, the adverb of time, is related to the present, "today". Now, in this context, which one is appropriate: "I have finished the work today" or "I finished the work today"? Or, using "reach" as the verb, "I have reached London today" or "I reached London today" - which one is appropriate?

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 21/06/2017 - 07:49

In reply to by Adya's

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Hi Adya's,

The time of completion is unfinished, but the act itself is complete and not longer current and so a past form is more likely:

I finished it today.

However, if the speaker is simply interested in announcing the result of their work then the present perfect would be used without a time reference. Further questions would be in the past simple (asking about a completed action), so you might have a dialogue like this:

 

I've finished it!

When did you finish it?

Today.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by khuder on Sun, 11/06/2017 - 01:50

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Hello there, Is The usage of present perfect and present perfect continuous in the first state, I mean the state something started in the past and continues in present; I have lived in the Netherlands since 2014. I have been living in the Netherlands since 2014. and I have worked as a teacher for three years I have been working as a teacher for three years And I was wondering if you find keeping asking is annoying! thanx so much in advance

Hello khuder,

All of those sentences describe an unfinished time period: something which started in the past and continued up to the moment of speaking.

We don't answer all questions we receive but we answer as many as we can. We certainly don't mind people asking, though we do request that each question is posted once only and not repeated on multiple pages.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Xixi on Tue, 06/06/2017 - 13:39

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When can I use present perfect and present perfect continuous? Or I can use both in every situation?

Submitted by Husnain on Tue, 06/06/2017 - 04:32

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hi there..could you please explain these sentences "I have seen that film yesterday.( why this sentence is wronge)? "we have bought a new car this week"(why this is right)? and 1 more thing I wanted to ask is please could you give me any tips to improve my handwriting and writing speed?thanks

Hi Husnain,

We use the present perfect when the time reference is unfinished. That means it refers to time that goes all the way up to the moment of speaking (e.g. 'I've been to Spain' means 'at some time in my life') or a time period which has not ended (e.g. 'I've washed the car twice this week' would be said when if the week has not finished yet).

Your first sentence is incorrect because the time period is finished ('yesterday'). We would use a past simple form here ('saw' not 'have seen').

Your second sentence is correct because the time period is not finished ('this week').

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thanks for helping me out. I really appreciate

Submitted by confusedperfec… on Sun, 04/06/2017 - 11:41

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Is it possible to use present perfect and past perfect in the same sentence? ''He is disappointed because nothing has turned out as he had hoped.'' Second question Is there a difference between (when someone has just said something to me) ''I had never thought about it like that before.'' and ''I have never thought about it like that before.'' Am I allowed to use both?

Hello confusedperfect,

Yes, it is possible -- your sentence is a great example of this use, in fact. As for your second question, they mean the same thing. The past perfect version makes a point of indicating that you never thought of 'it' in this way in the past, and so perhaps suggests that you thought a lot about 'it' in the past. The present perfect sentence doesn't have that kind of emphasis, but other than that they mean the same thing.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MariaConsuelo on Fri, 02/06/2017 - 18:46

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Hi, I have a question regarding the following sentence: "I have given my theater ticket to my friend Amanda because I couldn't go" Is the use of the present perfect with the past tense correct here? or it should only be used with a present tense as in: "I have given my theater ticket to my friend Amanda because I can't go"

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 03/06/2017 - 15:24

In reply to by MariaConsuelo

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Hello MariaConsuelo,

The combination of present perfect and past simple in your first sentence doesn't work, as you rightly seemed to have suspected. The second version of your sentence is correct or you could also say 'I gave my theater ticket to Amanda because I couldn't go' (using the past simple instead of the present perfect).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Slava123 on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 22:49

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Sorry for some mistakes: in the previous text i meant to say "...showed up on..."

Submitted by Slava123 on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 22:20

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Hello,team! Help me please to resolve one problem. I can't decide between two options,i.e. Past simple or Present perfect,when i want, for example,to say to my old friend who unexpectedly showed on my doorstep after long time no see: 1. Well,what has brought you here? 2.Well,what brought you here? ...or both options are possible in this context? And if one of two preferable,could you explain why? Thanks in advance

Hello Slava,

Both forms can be used here. The present perfect form is more common in British English and the past simple form is more common in American English, but you could hear either one. There are cases when using one form or the other can have more effect on meaning, but in this case there isn't really any.

Rob and Stephen discuss these two tenses in this video -- why don't you take a look? It might be helpful.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by johnlim0793 on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 07:18

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Hi, I've got a question with regard to the following statements: 1. I'm tired. I've been working very hard. 2. I'm tired. I've worked very hard. Which of these two sentences is correct? Or are both sentences correct? And, could you explain how are these two different from each other? I'm a bit confused between these two. I've read from a book that the first sentence's use is when an activity has recently stopped or just stopped. However, it also shows result in the present as is stated in its premise.

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 08:25

In reply to by johnlim0793

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Hello John,

Both of those sentences are correct. 2 implies that you've finished what you were working on, whereas in 1 it could be that you still have more work to do or it could be that you've just finished. In both cases, you're speaking about an action that began in the past and still is related to the present in some way, i.e. you being tired.

We have a page on the present perfect simple and continuous that I think will help you. You might also want to watch Rob's explanation of it in this short video.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Timothy555 on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 13:36

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Hi, I might have posted this question earlier, but I can't seem to locate it. In any case, my question is: What's the difference between "They’ve been staying with us since last week" and "They had been staying with us since last week"? Is it a case where the present perfect implies that "they've been staying with us since last week, and they still do" while the past perfect implies "They had been staying with us since last week, but they no longer stay with us"? Regards, Tim

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 21/05/2017 - 17:26

In reply to by Timothy555

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Hello Tim,

The second sentence is not completely correct -- rather than saying 'last week', which is a phrase used from the perspective of the present time, you should say 'previous week', which is a phrase that can be used from the perspective of the past.

In the first sentence, the people are still staying with us now in the present time. In the second sentence (with 'previous week'), the perspective is in the past. You couldn't use the second sentence to speak about people who are still staying with you now.

Does that make sense?

By the way, please post your questions just once. We will get to them when we can.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by harmonicalove17 on Sat, 06/05/2017 - 07:57

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Hi..What is the difference between Temporary action in Past perfect continuous and Present Continous?Are they interchangeable?

Hello harminocalove17,

A temporary action described using the past perfect continuous refers to a past action, whereas a present continuous form generally refers to a present temporary action. So they're not interchangeable, at least in theory.

If you have any more questions about this, please give examples -- it's usually easier to explain with specific examples.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by masri.ahm04 on Sun, 30/04/2017 - 18:58

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you are confused me in the first example statement (( They’ve been married for nearly fifty years. )) what is the tense of this statement. verb have + been + past participle !!!!! the present perfect is : verb have + past participle the present perfect continuous is : verb have + been + ing form so what's the tense for this statement ??

Hello masri.ahm04,

In this example 'married' is an adjective and 'have been' is the present perfect form of 'be':

They are married. (present simple)

They were married. (past simple)

They have been married. (present perfect simple)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RamAvtaar on Fri, 28/04/2017 - 08:50

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Thanks Peter M, Then, what is the difference between the below two statements ? 1) I marry [present simple] (I believe this is the most commonly used form) 2) I am married. [present simple] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also for the next example "She has lived in Liverpool all her life." (Present Perfect) , what will be its Present Simple ? A) She lives in Liverpool..... B) She is lived in Liverpool..... For the case 'B', Present Perfect should be "She has been lived in Liverpool all her life" Thanks in Advance

Submitted by RamAvtaar on Thu, 27/04/2017 - 21:06

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Hi , The first example : "They’ve been married for nearly fifty years." Is it a Present Perfect Continuous ? (Then Why are we not using "-ing form of the verb" ?) or a Present Perfect ? (Then why do we have "been" in it ?) Thanks in Advance

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 28/04/2017 - 07:38

In reply to by RamAvtaar

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Hello SushilKumar,

This is a present perfect form.

The present perfect of 'be' is 'have been' or 'has been'. For example:

I am married. [present simple]

I was married. [past simple]

I have been married... [present perfect]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ivarsps on Tue, 25/04/2017 - 10:58

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Hello. May I say "I don't want to have worked here for 5 year, because of minimum wage" or I must say "I don't want to work here for 5 years, because....."? Thanks

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 26/04/2017 - 06:56

In reply to by ivarsps

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Hello ivarsps,

I'm not sure what you are trying to say so it's difficult to say how you should say it. Please explain the situation you want to describe. Are you working at the place now or not? Are you talking about the present or the future?

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team