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Present perfect

Do you know how to use phrases like She's called every day this week, I've broken my leg and Have you ever been to Scotland?

Look at these examples to see how the present perfect is used.

He's been to ten different countries.
I haven't seen her today.
My phone's run out of battery. Can I use yours?
Have you ever dyed your hair a different colour?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Present perfect: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We use the present perfect simple (have or has + past participle) to talk about past actions or states which are still connected to the present.

Unfinished time and states

We often use the present perfect to say what we've done in an unfinished time period, such as today, this week, this year, etc., and with expressions such as so far, until now, before, etc.

They've been on holiday twice this year.
We haven't had a lot of positive feedback so far.
I'm sure I've seen that film before.

We also use it to talk about life experiences, as our life is also an unfinished time period. We often use never in negative sentences and ever in questions.

I've worked for six different companies.
He's never won a gold medal.
Have you ever been to Australia?

We also use the present perfect to talk about unfinished states, especially with for, since and how long.

She's wanted to be a police officer since she was a child.
I haven't known him for very long.
How long have you had that phone?

Finished time and states

If we say when something happened, or we feel that that part of our life is finished, we use the past simple.

We visited Russia for the first time in 1992.
I went to three different primary schools.
Before she retired, she worked in several different countries.

We also use the past simple for finished states.

We knew all our neighbours when we were children.
I didn't like bananas for a really long time. Now I love them!

Past actions with a result in the present 

We can use the present perfect to talk about a past action that has a result in the present.

He's broken his leg so he can't go on holiday.
There's been an accident on the main road, so let's take a different route.
They haven't called me, so I don't think they need me today.

Again, if we say when it happened, we use the past simple.

He broke his leg last week so he can't go on holiday.

However, we often use the present perfect with words like just, recently, already, yet and still.

We've recently started going to the gym.
She's already finished season one and now she's watching season two.
Have you checked your emails yet?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Present perfect: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

1. Mozart composed many classics.

2. Mozart has moved many people.

Are both of these sentences correct? I'm not sure about the second. Mozart lived in the past, but people who were moved by him include people who lived after him. So, I guessed the second may be possible. Am I right?

Hello Kim Hui-jeong,

Yes, both sentences are correct. The present perfect is possible in the second sentence because even though Mozart is dead, his music can still influence people today. Well done!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I am confused about the difference between the present perfect tense and the present continuous tense. I would like to ask whether the present continuous tense in the following sentence could be replaced with the present perfect tense and, if yes, whether there would be any difference in meaning.

"A lack of government spending is keeping the reform from achieving its intended purpose."

Thanks teachers.

Hello brian1010,

It would depend on the actual situation described here (that is, how long this reform has been in place), but it sounds to me as if there would be little if any difference in meaning between the present continuous and present perfect continuous here. The latter form would emphasise the fact that the lack of funding began in the past, but the present continuous also suggests this. This is why I'd say there's little difference in this specific case.

This is not always the case, though. Hope this helps you make more sense of this.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

Thanks for your reply. You said there is little difference in meaning between the present continuous and present perfect continuous in that sentence. How about using the present perfect tense instead?

Thanks.

Hello brain1010,

If you say 'has kept', it communicates much the same idea and speaks about a situation up until the moment of speaking. 'is keeping' and 'has been keeping' suggest that the situation may change, whereas 'has kept' doesn't express this idea as much (though neither does it exclude the possibility).

If you have any further questions about this, could you please provide more context? What exactly tenses mean is highly contextual and so it's difficult to say for sure without knowing more.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher,

Thank you for your detailed reply. I have a feeling that the sentences below should use the present perfect tense. May I know why the present continuous tense is used instead?

(1) By asking for these particular qualifications, you are, in effect, excluding most women from applying.

(2) With tens of thousands of people dying from car pollution, it beggars belief that our leader is proposing more toxic fossil fuel duty cuts.

(3) the potential for confusion is being aggravated by the circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, which are exposing longstanding failings in the process for conducting elections.

Hello brian1010,

I'm afraid I can't explain why the writer of these sentences chose these particular forms. I would need to know the context and their purpose and view of these situations to be able to do that.

But I'm afraid that even if I had that information, this goes well beyond the kind of service we are able to provide these days -- we simply have too many other comments that are directly related to the content on our pages and other work preparing new materials.

I'm sorry we're not able to help you more with this.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

If I say "You have grown since the last time I saw you" as compared to "You have grown since the last time I have seen you", is there any difference in meaning, and if so, what would the difference be?

I mean "I saw you" and "I have seen you" both refers to a past action (of seeing) which serves as past time marker (i.e. both refer to a point in the past) correct?

Regards,
Tim

Hello Tim,

I think saw is the natural choice here. The present perfect describes an open time period stretching up to the present (with an effect on the present), whereas since and the last time imply a finished time period.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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