The Present Perfect Tense connects the present to the past. It describes an action that happened in the past and goes right to the present moment. The time of occurrence of the action is not mentioned. Usually, the time is not important or is not necessary to know. It is the result of the action that matters. It tells us the outcome to date of the action. E.g., "Frank has gone" tell us that Frank is no longer with us.
To express something in the present perfect tense, join the present simple tense of have/has with the past participle of the main verb (which can be a regular verb or irregular verb).
have/has + past participle
The Present Perfect tense is used:
- for an action that happened in the past and the time of occurrence is not stated or implied.
Example: I have written a book about spider webs.
- for an action or situation that began in the past and continues to the present.
Example: He has been in prison since 2000.
- to express repetition of an action at unspecified time in the past.
Example: She has already had a few quarrels with her neighbour.
Example: I have been to the circus a few times.
- for an action occurring within a specific time period that is not over
Example: I have had three cups of tea this morning. (It is still morning and I may have another one
or more cups of tea before the morning is over.)
Example: Negotiations with the insurgent forces have broken down.
- with phrases beginning with "This is the first/second/third ....time"
Example: This is the first time I have won the jackpot.
Example: This is the fifth time I have lost my job.
- to answer questions that are asked in the present perfect tense.
Example: "Where have you been?" "I have been to London to see the Queen."
Example: "What have they bought?" "They have bought a couple of rifles."
- with ever and never. Ever is used to ask if any things have or have not happened at any time up to now. It is also used in negative statements and together with the phrase "The first time ..." Never is used mainly in negative statements. Their position is just before the past participle verb.
Example: Have you ever lost your temper in a public place?
Example: That's the biggest lie I have ever heard in my whole life.
Example: This is the first time we have ever listened to such a dirty joke.
Example: We have never been to a circus.
- with other time expressions such as:
always: He has always believed everything he reads.
how long: How long have you waited for the bus?
recently: I have only recently started learning English.
lately: I have met her a lot lately.
so far: We haven't had any trouble with the new tenant so far.
Up to now: Up to now we have not come up with a solution to the problem.
'For' and 'since'
When an activity began in the past and is still going on, we use the present perfect tense + for/since.
We often use for and since with the present perfect tense. Since can only be used with perfect tenses (present perfect and past perfect tenses); for can also be used with the past simple tense.
- We use for + a period of time as an indication of how long an activity has lasted up to the present moment.
Example: We have been tennis partners for three years. (NOT: We are tennis partners for three years.)
- We use since + a point in time in the past to show when in the past the activity began.
Example: I have become her tennis partner since early May this year. (NOT: I am her tennis partner since early May this year.)
He has lived here for five years. (he is still living here)
He has lived here since 2000. (he is still living here)
INCORRECT: He lived here since 2000./He lives here since 2000./He is living here since 2000.
Just, already and yet
We often use some words with the present perfect tense. These words include:
- Just: if something has just happened, it happened only a short time ago. Just is usually placed after have/has and before the main verb in a sentence.
Example: Sister Jane has just been out shopping.
Example: I have just finished painting the ceiling.
Example: He has just drawn a picture of an owl's eye.
- Already: if something has already been done, it's done by or before now or a particular time. It is usually positioned in the middle (after have/has and before the main verb) or at the end of a sentence. It can also appear in questions.
Example: They have already built the tallest sandcastle on the beach.
Example: What did he say? I've forgotten already.
Example: Have you already made a police report of the accident?
Notice no mention of when an action took place.
- Yet: if something is not done yet, it is not done until now or until a particular time. We usually use yet at the end of a negative sentence or a question.
Example: They have not yet come.
Example: Has the train arrived yet?
It is possible for yet to appear in the middle of a sentence.
Example: As yet, we've had no word from them. (OR: We've had no word from them as yet.)
have/has gone ; have/has been
See the difference of meaning:
They have gone to Timbuktu. (They are still there or on the way there.)
They have been to Timbuktu. (They are not there now. They have come back or are somewhere else.)
The present perfect tense and the simple present tense
We use the present perfect tense, not the simple present tense, to show an activity that began in the past and has continued up to the present.
Example: They have just finished their weekly poker session. (finished the session not long ago)
Example: We have stayed at the hotel for four nights. (NOT: We stay at the hotel for four nights.)
Example: I've known him for a long time. (NOT: I know him for a long time.)
Example: I've written nine letters this morning. (NOT: I write nine letters this morning.)
Example: Selena and I have become friends since we met at the bus stop. (NOT: Selena and I
become friends since we met at the bus stop.)
The present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous tense
Notice that either of the two tenses can be used for each of the sentences. Each pair of sentences conveys the same meaning.
The present perfect tense and the simple past tense
- We do not mention the time of an action when we use the present perfect simple. We usually do it when we use the past simple tense.
Present perfect tense: I have eaten two pizzas. (NOT: I have eaten two pizzas yesterday.)
Simple past tense: I ate two pizzas yesterday.
Example: She has grown fatter since last year. (NOT: She grew fatter since last year.)
- For can be used with both present perfect and simple past tenses.
Present perfect tense: He has stayed with us for nine months. (= he's still staying with us – an activity or event that began in the past and continues to the present.)
Simple past tense: He stayed with us for nine months. (= he's not staying with us now – an activity or event that began in the past and ended in the past.)
We use the present perfect tense in the main clause, and past simple tense in the 'since clause' of a sentence as follow:
|We have become friends
||since we became neighbours.
- We use the present perfect tense when the period of time is not over and the simple past tense when it is over.
I haven't finished writing the article. (It is still afternoon.)
I finished writing the article this afternoon. (It is evening.)
The present perfect tense and the past perfect tense
We are busy. We haven't had our lunch. (present perfect)
We were busy. We hadn't had our lunch. (past perfect)
The house is on fire. Someone has already called the fire brigade. (present perfect)
The house was on fire. Someone had already called the fire brigade. (past perfect)
He is in hospital. A snake has bitten him. (present perfect)
He was in hospital. A snake had bitten him. (past perfect)
The floor looks clean. I have just swept it. (present perfect)
The floor looked clean. I had just swept it. (past perfect)
The passive form
The passive form of the present perfect tense is used when the action is not done by the subject but rather to the subject. Often, it is not known who has done the action.
Example: The politician has been accused of lying again.
Example: A woman has been chosen as leader of the party.
Example: His missing car has been found.