The present perfect is used to make a link between the past and the present and can be used in a few different ways.

This is why we are going to explain the following points:

  • The definition of present perfect tense;
  • The reason to use the present perfect in a phrase;
  • The structure of the present perfect tense;
  • The present perfect tense VS. the past simple tense.

Let’s get started!

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What Is the Definition of Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense indicates a state or action that has occurred at an unspecified time in the past:

  • A time that is not relevant;
  • A time in the past and continued to the present;
  • A time that is not finished yet or a very recent past.

In order to show a link between the past and the present in everyday conversations, it is best to use the present perfect. It is also commonly used when writing letters and on the radio.

Examples:

  • They have lived in the city for 10 years.
  • The singer has bought a new house in Los Angeles.
  • My brother hasn’t finished his homework yet.

girl studying with a laptop

Why Do We Use The Present Perfect Tense in Phrases?

Let’s go over some examples.

Actions that happened at an unspecified time in the past.

  • We have met before.
  • I have listened to the song millions of times.
  • David has visited the kids three times.
  • My parents have camped in that area.
  • He has donated to many charities before.

An action that happened at a not important time.

  • I have watched this scary movie.
  • She has studied many languages.
  • Someone has eaten my fries!
  • I have lost my wedding ring.
  • The company has decided to hire more employees.

An action that occurred in a time in the past and continued to the present.

  • Dave has lived in Italy since 2010
  • The director has worked at this plant for 10 years.
  • She has worn that dress three times this week. (she is wearing it now)
  • I have listened to this song 10 times today. (I currently do)
  • You have had that car for more than 15 years.

An action that happened in a time that is not finished yet.

  • I have worked only two hours this week. (the week is not over yet!)
  • It has been very hot this summer.
  • The tree has given us only three apples this year.
  • It has rained only three times this month.
  • I haven’t seen my wife today.

An action that occurred in the very recent past.

  • I have just had lunch.
  • Suzan has just left.
  • They have seen the bird just now.
  • She has bought food for both of us.
  • I have thought about calling you and you immediately called.

Forming the Present Perfect: How Is It Structured?

The construction of the present perfect tense is very straightforward, which eliminates a lot of confusion:

The verb To Have in the present tense (have/has) + The main verb in the past participle.

  • The past participle of a regular verb is verb+ed. For example: looked, watched, walked.
  • The past participle of an irregular verb is different, depending on each verb. For example, see = seen, sleep = slept.

🡺 Affirmative:

  • I have met with the plant manager many times to discuss productivity issues of the new assembly line.
  • She has met with the plant manager many times to discuss productivity issues of the new assembly line.
Affirmative
Subject
To Have
Past Participle
I
have
left

🡺 Negative:

  • I have not spoken with them this week. = I haven’t spoken with them this week.
  • She has not spoken with them this week. = She hasn’t spoken with them this week.
Negative
Subject
To Have
Past Participle
They
have not/haven’t
eaten

🡺 Interrogative:

  • Have you spoken with them this week?
  • Yes, I have. / No, I haven’t.
Interrogative
To Have
Subject
Past Participle
Has
he
slept?

Comparing the Present Perfect versus the Past Simple

It is easy to be confused when deciding whether to use simple past or present perfect, so here is how you can always tell the difference:

  • Simple Past must be used when information about the place or time of the action is given or requested.
  • Present perfect must be used when the time of the action is not specified or important.

Using present perfect versus past simple with examples

For French speakers, there are often difficulties in distinguishing the difference between the present perfect and the past simple.

Look at these two sentences.

  • David lived in Hong Kong in 2007. (past simple)
  • David has lived in Hong Kong. (present perfect)

In the first sentence, we use the past simple because we mentioned a time in the past. In the second sentence, there is no mention of time. We do not know when David lived in Hong Kong, and we do not know if David still lives in Hong Kong, so we use the present perfect tense.

David has lived inHong Kong in 2007. 🡲 Wrong.

We do not use the present perfect if a specific past time is mentioned.

David has lived in Hong Kong since 2007. 🡲 Correct

David has lived in Hong Kong for seven years. 🡲 Correct

🡲 We know that David still lives in Hong Kong. Be careful of the use of the words ‘since’ and ‘for’. They are confusing! ‘Since’ is followed by a time in the past (‘2007’, ‘yesterday’, ‘last month’, etc.), and ‘for’ is followed by a duration (‘seven years’, ‘three minutes’, ‘an eternity’).

🡲 Mr. Brandon worked on productivity issues at the plant for a year (from 2010 to 2011). Mr. Brandon no longer works on these issues (or perhaps there are no more issues to be dealt with !). We know this because the verb is in the past simple.

🡲 Mr. Brandon has worked on productivity issues at the plant for a year. It is likely that Mr. Brandon continues to work on these issues or that these issues still exist. We know this because the verb is in the present perfect. The action is not finished yet.

Other Combinations of Words And Present Perfect Tense

In addition to the previous example, you can also use time-related adverbs while constructing your sentence in the present perfect tense. But, you have to make sure you are referring to a time that is finished.

The most common time-related adverbs are ‘just, ‘already’, and ‘yet’. Here are a few examples:

  • The movie came out yesterday, but I have already seen it. (Already here describes that something happened sooner than expected)
  • He has just left the office. (Just describes an event that happened just a while ago)
  • I haven’t read your book yet. ( Yet describes something that is expected to happen soon)
  • The school has already sent the bad kids to detention.(Just describes an event that happened too soon)
  • She hasn’t cut her hair yet. ( Yet describes something that is expected to happen soon)

Here are also a few other ways you can use the present perfect tense and the words ‘yet’ and ‘already’ in questions:

  • Have I shown my new outfit yet?
  • Why has she left already?
  • Has Emily downloaded that dating app yet?
  • Have they broken up already? They just started dating a month ago.
  • Have you tasted the wine I got you yet?

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