all that you should know about the present perfect tense

The present perfect


Let’s consider this example situation:

Marry is looking for her key. She can’t find it. She has lost her key. ‘She has lost her key’ = She lost it and she still hasn’t got it.

  Have/has lost is the present perfect simple:
  I/we/they/you have (= I’ve etc.) finished/lost/done/been etc.
  he/she/it has (= he’s etc.) finished/lost/done/been etc.

The present perfect simple is have/has + past participle. The past participle often ends in –ed (finished/decided etc.), but many important verbs are irregular (lost/done/been/written etc.).

Rules and uses

• You use the present perfect (not the past simple or the present simple) to talk about an action that began in the past but is still going on now. this is means that there is always a connection with now. The action in the past has a result now

 I can’t find my hat. Have you seen it? (do you know where it is now?)

 I’ve lived in Oxford for years.

 He told me his name but I’ve forgotten it. (I can’t remember it now)

 ‘Is Rick here?’ ‘No, he’s gone out.’ (he is out now)

 She’s had that car since she was seventeen.

 ‘Where’s your key?’ J don’t know. I’ve lost it.’ (I haven’t got it now)

• You use the present perfect (not the past simple) when it isn’t important when something happened. Often you’re talking about general experiences.

 I’ve never been to a safari park before.

 Have you seen this film?

• We often use the present perfect to give new information or to announce a recent happening

 (from the news) The police have arrested four men in connection with the robbery.

 The road is closed. There’s been (= there has been) an accident.

 Oh! I’ve cut my finger.

• You use the present perfect (not the past simple) to talk about recent past events, often with just, already, and yet.

 I’ve just seen Matt.

 We’ve already told him.

 Haven’t you finished that yet?

• You use the present perfect with for to say how long an action has been going on and with since to say when the action started.

 I’ve been here for ages.

 She’s known him since last year

 They’ve lived in Siena for three years.

 He’s had a cold since Friday.

• We use the present perfect with Yet (= ‘until now’) to show that the speaker is expecting something to happen. Use yet only in questions and negative sentences.

 I’ve written the letter but I haven’t posted it yet.

 Has it stopped raining yet?


• We use the present perfect with today/this morning/this evening etc. when these periods are not finished at the time of speaking

 Have you had a holiday this year (yet)?
 I’ve drunk three cups of coffee today. (perhaps I’ll drink more before today is finished)
 Jimmy hasn’t worked very hard this term.
 I haven’t seen Ron this morning. Have you?

Remember and note

• In American English, it’s possible to use either the present perfect or the past simple with the adverbs just, already and yet. Both are correct.

Haven’t you finished that yet?              OR              Didn’t you finish that yet?

• Be careful! There is a difference between the participles been and gone.

 Jill has been to Zanzibar. (She went to Zanzibar and now she’s back.)

 Jill has gone to Zanzibar. (She’s in Zanzibar now.)

• We use already to say that something happened sooner than expected.

 ‘What time is James leaving?’ ‘He’s already gone.’

 ‘Don’t forget to post the letter, will you?’ ‘I’ve already posted it.’

• We say ‘It’s the first time something has happened‘ using the present perfect. 

 It’s the first time he has driven a car. (not ‘drives’) or He has never driven a car before.

 Linda has lost her passport again. It’s the second time this has happened. (not ‘happens’)

4. Quiz and exercises

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You can work on other exercises in your spare time to consolidate your knowledge about the topic.