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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Ok. I will try. For example, I have been working for company for 2 years, but I do not want (to) have worked for 5 years.... Hopefully it helped to catch the idea...

Hello ivarsps,

Thank you - that clarifies it for me. The best way to express this would be as follows:

I've worked here for two years but I don't want to stay another three.

I don't want to still be here in three years' time.

 

It is possible to use the form you suggested:

In three years' time I don't want to have worked here for five years.

However, the options above would be much more likely in standard English.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Najid Ali on Wed, 19/04/2017 - 12:12

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Their music has been preserved for the posterity Here in this sentence "Their" is the subject I think. and another question is This he achieves by means of words which should act as symbols of his experience so that it can be properly represented to the reader. Here is this sentence we use "s" with achieves but why we use "s" with means?

Hello Najid Ali,

The subject here is 'Their music'.

'Their' is a possessive adjective, not a noun. The noun is 'music'; together 'Their music' forms a noun phrase.

In your second sentence 'achieves' is a verb while 'means' is a noun. It is a plural form (see here).

You need to be able to recognise the type of word if you are understand the form it is in. 'Their' cannot be a subject because it is a possessive adjective; the noun form would be the pronoun 'they'. 'Means' is a noun, not a verb; 'achieves' is a verb, not a noun.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Najid Ali on Tue, 18/04/2017 - 13:48

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Their music has been preserved for the posterity. Here in this sentence "Their" is plural and I have used the has and sentence is correct why? Because normally we use "Have" with "Their".

Hello Najid Ali,

Music here is singular because it is an uncountable noun. Uncountable nouns do not occur in the plural form and always have a singular verb. Other examples:

His time is limited.

Their time is limited.

My money is in the bank.

Their money is in the bank.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Mon, 17/04/2017 - 04:36

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Dear Sir Re: Present Perfect Tense Thank you for your prompt reply. It is clear now. I went through both websites that you mentioned in your reply but I have a question. eg.The road is wet. (It is not raining now) It has been raining or it has rained It has been raining. (Is this correct? It is a completed action so my question: Is it wrong to say It has rained?" Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 17/04/2017 - 07:26

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

Both the continuous form ('has been raining') and the simple form ('has rained') are correct here. As the information on the first page Kirk linked shows, the difference between the two is one of emphasis: the continuous form emphasises the activity, while the simple form emphasises the result. The choice of which to use in this case is the speaker's.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Andrew international on Sat, 15/04/2017 - 12:32

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Dear Sir Would you be kind enough to explain this to me? He has been living in London for ten years./ He has lived in London for ten years I understand that both are correct; both mean at the moment(something that started in the past and continues) but it has been raining for hours. (means at the moment or may be not at the moment) David has worked here for six years./ David has been working here for six years. (both mean at the moment) Please let me know. Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 15/04/2017 - 16:13

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

We have a page that describes the difference between these two forms. The Cambridge Dictionary also has a page with more examples that might also be useful for you. If you have any specific questions after reading through those two pages, please let us know. Please describe what you understand to be the difference in any examples you give so we can see how you understand the sentences in question.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Estherlitad on Thu, 06/04/2017 - 08:46

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Hello there, as a low proficiency learner of English.I love reading the notes of grammar up there.my English is so bad but I love learning this language.

Submitted by Pusagino on Sat, 01/04/2017 - 10:34

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I'm confusing about this sentence: "We have bought a new car this week". But when you bought a new car, the action happened in the past and finished. You paid the money and went home. So why we use present perfect in this situation?

Hello Pusagino,

Because of the phrase 'this week', the present perfect is possible here. In saying 'this' with a period of time, we indicate that we conceive of that period of time still having a connection with the present time. Because of this connection, we use a present perfect form. In many English textbooks, this is the form that you are expected to produce for this reason.

In real speech, however, t's also possible to use the past simple, i.e. 'We bought a new car this week'. This is particularly true of American English, though it is also possible in British English. If you are taking a class, I'd recommend using the present perfect, though, as this is probably what you will be expected to use.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ricardo A on Fri, 31/03/2017 - 12:00

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Hi. I don´t understand why we do not use the present perfect with an adverbial which refers to past time which is finished: I have seen that film (yesterday). Tanks in advance.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 31/03/2017 - 13:08

In reply to by Ricardo A

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Hello Ricardo A,

In the end, this is just how the English verbal system works. But iti might help to think that the present perfect refers to a time that we consider has some connection to the present. In English, 'yesterday' implies there is no connection to the present -- this is why using the present perfect with it doesn't make sense.

I hope this helps you!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Najid Ali on Thu, 23/03/2017 - 06:43

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Sometimes we use" have" with third person singular to show the possession? Everyone have the right to education Who have we got in the next round? Who have ye arranged to meet later on? Who have they come over for dinner? here we use Have with Who? Does he have the football? Can she have the pen, please? Would she have scored if she had taken the penalty?

Hello Najid Ali,

The first sentence is not correct -- it should be 'Everyone has the right ...', since a singular verb is used after 'everyone'.

In the next three, 'have' is an auxiliary verb and the subject is not 'who', but rather 'we', 'you' and 'they'.

In the last three sentences, 'have' is in the bare infinitive form because each sentence has an auxiliary verb ('does', 'can' and 'would').

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by RTris on Wed, 08/03/2017 - 09:20

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Hi! I'm presently brushing up my grammar in particular to verb tenses because i always get confused with the verb tenses. While I am studying the past perfect, there is an example given that is really confusing for me. This is the example " I was really surprised when lisa cut her hair. She had had a long hair since I met her". My question is that is it possible if I switch the tense of the verb to present tense " i am surprised when liza has cut her hair. She have had a long hair since we met." Another question for the last part of my sentence in present tense "she have had a long hair since we met" could I use past perfect had had instead of have had because her hair is short already whereas if I use have had this can mean that until now she has a long hair. Please help me. Thank you very much

Hello RTris,

If you want to switch to a present time, you need to change the construction slightly – instead of using 'when', use 'that' – but otherwise, yes, you've made the right changes in verb tenses: 'I'm surprised that Lisa has cut her hair. She has had long hair since we met.' (Note that you should say 'long hair' instead of 'a long hair'.) If you use present tense ('I'm surprised') in the first sentence, the past perfect is logically possible in the second sentence (for the reason you describe), but the present perfect is much more likely to be used.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Pratiksha Chauhan on Wed, 08/03/2017 - 04:55

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what do we use with everyone has or have?

Submitted by Andrew international on Sat, 25/02/2017 - 13:06

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Dear Sir Please let me know whether the present perfect tense can be used in this way: He has been an employee of ours since May 2076. or He has worked for us since may 2016. Both are correct or one. Thank you in advance Regards Andrew international

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 25/02/2017 - 19:03

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew international,

Both sentences are correct and natural-sounding - good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ducbm2803 on Fri, 24/02/2017 - 13:59

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Hi Teachers Are there two tense Present Perfect tense and Present Perfect Continue tense or Present Perfect Continue is child of Present Perfect ? I think that : Present Perfect to say something that happened in the past and it done in the present Present Perfect continue to say something that happened in the past and it continue in the present These thing above are right ? Thanks for advice

Hello dubbm2803,

English has a rather complicated system in which tense refers only to past and present. The other elements (continuous and perfective) are aspects, which can be added to the tense to show whether or not an action was complete or not, permanent or temporary, repeated or single etc.

You can read more about continuous aspect here and perfective aspect here.

To read about the different between present perfect simple and present perfect continuous take a look at this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by hananeinel on Mon, 13/02/2017 - 22:52

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Thank you so much, this was really hopeful :)

Submitted by mck81 on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 12:42

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Would you say 'Its started last week' or 'It has started last week' if the action referred to continues this week?

Hello mck81,

'It has started last week' is not correct in standard English because the time expression 'last week' refers to a finished time period. In that kind of situation, the present perfect is not used.

For this reason, 'It started last week' is the correct form here. Saying this can mean that the action is still happening this week, because 'it started last week' only refers to the beginning of the action, not how long it continued or when it ended.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by turck132 on Mon, 06/02/2017 - 19:22

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Hello, I was wondering, what would be the best timeline to explain present perfect(just). i.e. she's just swept the floor. would this work xxxxxxxx Thanks and regards, Turck

Submitted by Salie108 on Mon, 06/02/2017 - 15:00

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Scientists have recently discovered a new breed of monkey. Can I put the time adverbial at the begining ? so it will be like this. Recently, scientists have discovered a new breed of monkey. If yes, does it apply to all other time adverbial?

Hello Salie108,

In general, time adverbials (including but not limited to 'recently') usually go in mid position or end position – in this example, it's in mid-position – but they can also be put in front position, so yes, your sentence is correct. Usually putting them in front position adds emphasis, though there can be other reasons for it. There's a detailed explanation of this in the Cambridge Dictionary's page on adverbs. I think that should answer your questions, but if you have any other specific ones, please don't hesitate to ask us.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ilariuccia on Mon, 30/01/2017 - 18:48

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Hi everyone! Is it possible to write: It's a long time I wanted to write you but.....

Hello Ilariuccia,

Not in standard English. Instead, I'd recommend 'I've been wanting to write (to) you for a long time' or 'It's been a long time since I wanted to write (to) you'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hisham Altayeb on Wed, 25/01/2017 - 06:08

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I have worked here since I left school Can I use the following sentence instead of above one I have been working here since I left school

Hello Hisham Altayeb,

Yes, both of those sentences are grammatically correct. There is a small difference in the sense of the sentences and to read about this you can visit this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Saakshee on Tue, 24/01/2017 - 12:39

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Hello teacher, I am here again with a problem? I don't understand how to use since and for in present perfect? Can we use it in both present perfect and present perfect continuous? Also tell me where to use since and where to use for?

Hello Saakshee,

You can use both 'for' and 'since' with both simple and continuous forms.

We use 'for' before a period of time.

We use 'since' before a point in time.

You can see examples of these uses on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mahua_chakravarty on Tue, 17/01/2017 - 06:51

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Hello, I am taking these examples from the lesson,please check if my versions are correct or not. This is something new I learnt today, all these three examples were correct according to me,till now. WARNING: We do not use the present perfect with an adverbial which refers to past time which is finished: I have seen that film yesterday. Can I write it as "I saw that film yesterday". We have just bought a new car last week. Can I write it as " We bought a new car last week". When we were children we have been to California. I am unable to figure out how to rephrase this sentence,please advice. English Grammar is tough!!! Thanks and regards, Mahua

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 17/01/2017 - 13:46

In reply to by mahua_chakravarty

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Hello Mahua,

English Grammar can be tough, but you've done a good job with these sentences! The two sentences that you propose are correct. For the last one, if you change 'have been' to 'went' it will be correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Soniagee on Fri, 30/12/2016 - 00:53

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sorry, I meant "she HAS ATTENDED" non she attended.

Submitted by Soniagee on Fri, 30/12/2016 - 00:51

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Hi everyone, I am still confused about how to use properly present perfect and simple past. For instance I have read this sentence in a letter "she attended Santa Clara's school from 2000 to 2005". Is it correct? If so, why? Aren't they talking about past concluded period? I would use the past simple. Thank you in advance for replying S.

Hello Soniagee,

It's hard to say whether a sentence is correct or not without knowing the context, and in any case we don't generally comment on texts from other sources, but I can say that sentence is correct in many contexts. 'attended' is the past simple and makes sense for a past time period. Assuming this sentence was written sometime after 2005, using 'has attended' would be unusual, as it implies that the time period hasn't finished.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by taj25 on Wed, 28/12/2016 - 14:42

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They’ve been married for nearly fifty years. Why have you using here (present perfect continuous). my question is "have been" comes for only (present perfect continuous) here the sentence (have been + past participle ). i am little get confuse. pls clarify me.

Hello taj25,

The verb here is 'be' and it is not an example of the present perfect continuous, but the present perfect simple. 'Married' here is an adjective; 'have been' is the verb form.

All continuous forms have an -ing form of the verb. The present perfect continuous of 'be' would be 'have been being', but it is rarely used.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Janghyeok on Tue, 20/12/2016 - 20:54

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Hi. I have a question related to the Present Perfect tense. Is "What did you just (verb)?" correct? I've always been using this construction but wouldn't Present Perfect be better for this or actually correct? For example, "What have you just said?" instead of "What did you just say?"