Present Perfect

Basic form

Subject + HAS/HAVE + Verb (past participle form)

Quick examples

  • I have read this book.
  • The man has gone away.
  • John has worked as a teacher for over 25 years.

The Present Perfect is used to express actions that happened at anindefinite time or that began in the past and continue in the present. This tense is also used when an activity has an effect on the present moment.

Use

  1. Actions which happened at an indefinite (unknown) time before now
  2. Actions in the past which have an effect on the present moment
  3. Actions which began in the past and continue in the present

Use 1: Indefinite time before now

Use the Present Perfect to talk about actions that happened at some point in the past. It does not matter when exactly they happened.

  • I have already had a breakfast.
  • He has been to England.
Remember

You should not use this tense with time expressions like yesterday, a week ago, last year, etc.

  • I have seen it yesterday.
  • We have gone to Paris last year.

Use 2: Effect on the present moment

We also use this tense to when an activity has an effect on the present moment.

  • He has finished his work. (so he can now rest)
  • I have already eaten the dinner. (so I'm not hungry)
  • He has had a car accident. (that's why he is in the hospital)

To understand this use better, watch this interactive animation:


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[ Marcus: I have been struck by a bolt of lightning! ]

Explanation

In this cartoon, you can see a mother asking her son: "Markus, what's happened". Marcus replies: "I have been struck by a bolt of lightning".

  • Why is the Present Perfect tense used in this example? Click on the button labled as "event 1". You can see that Marcus was struck lightning bolt. Now click on the other button. The use of Present Continuous is correct here because the action has an effect on the present moment (it explains why he looks this way).

Use 3: Continuation in the present

We often use the Present Perfect when we want to emphasize that an event continues in the present.

  • Mary has worked as a teacher for over 25 years.
  • Patrick has achieved a lot in his life.

To understand this use better, click on the buttons and read the message:


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For and Since

Since and For are very common time expressions used with the Present Perfect.

We use For with a period of time, for example:

  • I have lived here for 20 years.

When talking about a starting point, we use Since, for example:

  • I have lived here since 1960.
More about time expressions.

Form

To form a sentence in the Present Perfect, you need:

  1. The proper conjugation of the auxiliary verb "to have".
  2. The Past Participle of your verb.

1. Auxiliary Verb "to have"

We conjugate the auxiliary verb "to have" the same way we would conjugate the normal verb "to have".

PersonSingularPlural
FirstI haveWe have
SecondYou haveYou have
ThirdHe/she/it hasThey have

As you can see, the third person singular is irregular.

More examples:
  • She has never seen my brother.
  • Neither Mike nor Tom has ever driven a truck.

2. The Past Participle

The past participle of a verb is a verb form that appears with the perfect tenses. The past participle can be either regular or irregular.

  • The regular verbs are formed by adding -ed to the verb:
    VerbPast Participle
    talktalked
    explainexplained
    useused
    deliverdelivered
    includeincluded
    achieveachieved

  • The formation of the irregular verbs does not follow one rule. Therefore, they should be memorized.
    VerbPast ParticipleLearn more
    bebeenbe
    becomebecomebecome
    seeseensee
    gogonego
    eateateneat
    growgrowngrow

Declarative Sentences

Subject+HAS/HAVE+Verb (past participle form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. gone, taken, done, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
We have already had breakfast. 1
I have bought new shades.2
I am having my first driving lesson this week.1
He's studying to become lawyer one day.3
Someone has just taken my bag!1
Jane has never been so angry.3
He has been our most serious partner for so long that I can assure you he's a very decent man.3

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Questions

HAS/HAVE+Subject+Verb (past participle form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. gone, taken, done, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
Have you ever seen this program? 1
Where has she lived for the past 21 years?3
Have you found the telephone number?2
Has anyone taken my bag?1
Have you ever been to France?2
Has anyone taken my bag?1
Trivia

In sentences with adverbials such as ever, already or yet, American-English speakers may use the Past Simple rather than the Present Perfect. So, an American would say:

  • Did you go to the post office yet? (Past Simple)

rather than:

  • Have you gone to the post office yet? (Present Perfect)

Negative Sentences

Subject+HAS NOT / HAVE NOT+Verb (past participle form)
e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.e.g. gone, taken, done, etc.
ExamplesUse (click to read)
He hasn't taken any drug for two years. 3
I haven't met my perfect partner yet.3
They haven't contacted you, have they?1

Check your understanding!