What is the Present Perfect tense?

Present perfect tense (I have been, she has played…)


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The simple present perfect is despite its name one of the most difficult times to master but this lesson should enlighten you a little. The best way to remember how to use the perfect present is to practice making sentences and repeating them.

1/ Formation

Has / Have + past participle

  • Affirmative sentence:   sujet + has / have + past participle
  • Negative sentence:   sujet + has / have + NOT + past participle
  • Questioning sentence:   has / have + sujet + past participle
 Affirmative Negative Question
 I / you / we / they    I have played  I have not played  Have I played ?_
 he / she / it   He has played_  He has not played_  Has he played ?_

_

* have and has are often contracted (I’ve been, he’s been…). In the negative form, it gives: He’s not been / He hasn’t been  and  You’ve not been / You haven’t been

* The past participle of regular English verbs ends with -ed (canceled, worked…), as in the past simple/prétérit.

But there are many irregular verbs to learn by heart that do not end in -ed!

2/ Use of the present perfect in English

We use the present perfect tense to talk about an action that happened before an unspecified time but that is related to the present.

The present perfect can be used in the following situations:

* To talk about an action recently carried out:

  • I’ve lost my keys.
  • I have bought a new car.
  • I’ve prepared dinner. 
  • Have you seen my pen ? No, I haven’t seen it.
  • We’ve missed the bus. 
  • He’s hurt his finger.

* We can also add’just’ or’already’, to talk about something that has just happened:

  • Something has just happened.
  • They’ve just arrived.
  • We’ve already met.

* To talk about our experiences. We don’t say when exactly it happened but we can use non-specific time expressions like:

before / so far / until now / up to now / ever (?) / never (-) / once / twice / many times / several times 

  • Have you ever been to China ? => No, I’ve never been to China before. But I’ve been to India three times.

* With since, to talk about changes that have occurred since a specific time:

  • Paris has changed a lot since the last time I’ve been there.
  • My japanese has improved since I moved to Tokyo.

* With for, to talk about a certain period or duration (two hours, three years, five months…):

  • I’ve known Sam for seven years.
  • I’ve been thirsty for hours.

* With yet, to talk about an incomplete action (only in negative sentences or questions):

  • Have you read the book yet?
  • I haven’t paid my rent yet.
  • She hasn’t arrived yet.

* With so far, until now or up to now to tell how something has happened so far:

  • I’ve just visited Sydney and Melbourne so far.
  • Until now I’ve lived in two countries. 

* With an unfinished period of time (recently, today, this week, this month, in the last year)

  • I haven’t seen him this week.
  • She has drunk three cups of coffee today.
  • Have you heard from Tina recently ?
  • I’ve visited a lot of places in the last few days.

3/ Notes

⚠ We can’t use the perfect present with a finished period of time (three hours ago, friday 13th, last year, 2013, yesterday…):

  • I’ve seen her yesterday.
  • I’ve been to Japan last year.

I didn’t or I haven’t ?

  • I didn’t eat breakfast this morning (= the morning is over and I haven’t had breakfast)
  • I haven’t eaten breakfast this morning (= It’s still morning and I might have breakfast later.)

Been to

We use been to that the person we are talking about has visited and returned from a place (a life experience):

  • He has been to school today.
  • I’ve been to South Korea.
  • They’ve never been to India.

has gone to and has been to have different meanings ! been to is used to describe the experience, gone to means that the person has already left or is currently at the place we are talking about:

  • Bob has gone to London (= Bob is in London or he’s going to London.)
  • Bob has been to London (= Bob went to London, and he came back from there)

Have + Had:

  • They’ve had (= they have had) many problems with the car this month.
  • I’ve had (= I have had) three cups of coffee today.
  • He’s had (= He has had) a cold for a week.

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