Learn English Grammar: Present Perfect

This post looks at the present perfect and when to use it. We ask the questions:

How do we form the present perfect?

The present perfect is the verb ‘have’

and the past participle, for example:


Subject       has/have     past participle

I                       have               worked

You                 have                worked

He/she/it         has                  worked

We/they          have                worked


Some examples of regular verbs:


Present                       Past                         Past Participle

Work                           worked                       has/have worked

live                              lived                           has/have lived

play                             played                        has/have played

study                           studied                       has/have studied


Some example of irregular verbs:

Present                     Past                           Past Participle

be                               was/were                   has / have been

come                          came                          has / have come

drink                           drank                          has / have drunk

do                               did                              has / have done


When do we use the present perfect?

 1.We use the present perfect to talk or write

about something that happened in the past

but is in some way important now.


2.We can use it to talk about something

that has happened in your whole life until now.


I have seen this film four times.

(four times in my life until now)


Have you read any Agatha Christie books?

(in your life until now)


Has he been to China?

(in his life until now)


We can use time periods such as

Since yesterday, recently, today, for a while, the last few years.


I’ve/have played tennis this afternoon.

(It is still afternoon.)

Compare with: I played tennis this afternoon.

            (It could be afternoon or evening.)


They have lived in that house for fifty years.

            (They still live in that house)

Compare with: They lived in that house.

            (They do not live there now)


3. We also use the present perfect for something that happened

a short time ago and we can still see the result.


He’s/has gone out.

(He is not here now)


I have cooked dinner.

(The dinner is in the pot/on the table, uneaten)


He’s/has washed the car.

(The car is still clean now)

Compare with: He washed the car.

(The car might be clean or it might be dirty again)


I’ve/have broken my arm.

(We don’t know when but the arm is still broken/in plaster)

 Compare with: I broke my arm playing hockey.

(This happened at some time in the past

but it is not clear to you if my arm is better or not)


Have you seen the cat?

He went out earlier but he hasn’t come back yet.

Have you seen the cat? (Up until now)


Common mistakes

I have not seen him since July.

(Not: I did not see him since July)X


They haven’t played tennis for a long while.

(Not: They didn’t play tennis) X


He went out earlier.

(Not: He has gone out earlier )X

He hasn’t come back yet. (He is not here now)





Learn English grammar: The past simple

Learn English grammar: The present continuous

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