Tenses

Present Perfect

The Present Perfect is used to express actions that happened at unidentified 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. Therefore, we can say the Present Perfect is a kind of connection between the past and present.

Subject + HAS/HAVE + Verb (past participle form)
  • I have read this book.
  • The man has gone away.
  • John has worked as a teacher for over 25 years.
  • She has lived in a small town in Yorkshire since 1969.

Use

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

Read more about Perfect Tenses in Pasive Voice

Use 1: Indefinite (Unknown) 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.
You should not use this tense with time expressions like yesterday, a week ago, last year, etc.:
  • I have seen her yesterday. WRONG
  • I saw her yesterday. CORRECT
  • We have gone to Paris last year. WRONG
  • We went to Paris last year. CORRECT

Use 2: Continuation in the Present

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

For and since 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.

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

More about Time Expressions

Use 3: Effect on the Present Moment

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

  • He has finished his work. (so he can rest now)
  • 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:

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

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.

Person

Singular

Plural

First

I have

We have

Second

You have

You have

Third

He/she/it has

They 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

a) The regular verbs are formed by adding -ed to the verb: 

Verb Past Participle
talk talked
explain explained
use used
deliver delivered
include included
achieve achieved

b) The formation of the irregular verbs does not follow one rule. Therefore, they should be memorised. 

Verb Past Participle Learn more
be been be
become become become
see seen see
go gone go
eat eaten eat
grow grown grow

Declarative Sentences

Subject

+

HAS/HAVE

+

Verb (past participle form)

e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.

e.g. gone, taken, done, etc

 

Examples

Use (click to read)

We have already had breakfast.

1

I have bought new shades.

3

Someone has just taken my bag!

1

Jane has never been so angry.

2

He has been our most serious partner for so long that I can assure you he's a very decent man.

2

Questions

HAS/HAVE

+

Subject

+

Verb (past participle form)

e.g. he, she, a dog, etc.

e.g. gone, taken, done, etc.

 

Examples

Use (click to read)

Have you ever seen this program?

1

Where has she lived for the past 21 years?

2

Have you found the telephone number?

3

Has anyone taken my bag?

1

Have you ever been to France?

3

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.

 

Examples

Use (click to read)

He hasn't taken any drug for two years.

2

I haven't met my perfect partner yet.

2

They haven't contacted you, have they?

1

Check your understanding!