The Present Perfect Tense connects the past to the present. 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 which may also come after the present moment.
To express something in the present perfect tense, it must use the simple present tense of the auxiliary verb have or has depending on whether the subject or noun being referred to is plural or singular. The auxiliary verb is followed by the past participle of the main verb (for example, regular verb: have called; irregular verb: has given).
have/has + past participle
As stated, the time of an action is not mentioned when the present perfect tense is used.
- Incorrect: I have just called him ten minutes ago.
- Correct: I have just called him.
- Incorrect: We have had a meeting with a client this morning.
- Correct: We have had a meeting with a client.
- Incorrect: She has written a book about spider webs last year.
- Correct: She has written a book about spider webs..
Auxiliary verb have and has in compound sentence
A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. If the verbs in both clauses use the present perfect tense, the auxiliary verb have or has does not need to be repeated.
- They have eaten their dinner and decided to go for a drive.
Not: They have eaten their dinner and have decided to go for a drive.
- She has filled in the form and signed her name.
The Present Perfect tense is used:
for an action or situation that began in the past and continues to the present.
- Sue has lived in the house for seven years.
(Sue lives in the house for seven years and is still living in it.)
- He has been in prison since his marriage.
- We have known each other for a very long time.
to show a completed action.
- Frank has gone.
(The present perfect tense tells us that Frank is no longer with us.)
- He has finished arguing with his boss.
- The police have completed the investigation.
to express repetition of an action at unspecified time in the past.
The adverbs ever and never are used to show or ask if an action has happened at any time or not at all up to now. They are used mainly in negative statements, and their positions are just before the past participle verb. Ever is often used in questions.
- That's the biggest lie I have ever heard in my whole life.
- This is the first time we have ever listened to such a dirty joke.
- Have you ever seen a female ghost?
- Have you ever lost your temper in a public place?
- I have never been in a lift alone.
- We have never seen bats roosting in a cave.
The present perfect tense is often used with other adverbs and time expressions such as the following:
with phrases beginning with "This is the first/second/third ....time"
to answer questions that are asked in the present perfect tense.
For and since
The present perfect tense can be used with for or since for an activity which began in the past and is still going on. Both for and since are often used with the present perfect tense. In fact, 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.
- We have been tennis partners for three years.
(Not: We are tennis partners for three years.)
The adverb since is used to show a duration from a particular time in the past when the activity began until now.
- My family moved here three years ago and has lived here since.
(My family is still living here. Incorrect: My family moved here three years ago and lived here since. / My family moved here three years ago and lives here since. / My family moved here three years ago and is living here since.)
- I have been her tennis partner since early May this year.
(Not: I am her tennis partner since early May this year.)
- I have long since forgotten any Latin I ever learned.
- They have not spoken to each other since the night of the argument.
Just, already and yet
Some words such as just, already, and yet are used with the present perfect tense.
Just is used to show something has happened only a short time ago. Just is usually placed after have or has and before the main verb in a sentence.
Already is used to show something has been done by or before now or a particular time. It is usually positioned in the middle after have or has and before the main verb or at the end of a sentence. It can also appear in questions. When already is used, the sentence makes no mention of when an action took place in the past.
The word yet is used with the present perfect tense to form a negative sentence or a question. It is used to show or ask about something that is not done until now or until a particular time. The adverb yet is usually used at the end of negative sentences or questions. Sometimes, yet appears in the middle of a sentence.
- I haven't bought the lottery tickets yet.
- We haven't found yet where the bad smell comes from.
- Haven't you finished clipping your nails yet?
- Has your mother ridden your father's new horse yet?
- As yet, we have had no word from them.
- We have had no word from them as yet.
Difference of meaning between have/has gone and have/has been.
- The husband and wife have gone to Timbuktu.
(They are still there or on the way there.)
- The father and son have been to Timbuktu.
(They are not there now. They have come back or are somewhere else in the world.)
Present Perfect vs Other Forms
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. The words used with the present perfect tense are commonly just, for, and since as shown here.
- They have just finished their weekly poker session.
(They finished the sessison not long ago.)
- Yes: We have stayed at the hotel for four nights.
No: We stay at the hotel for four nights.
- Yes: I have known him for a long time.
No: I know him for a long time.
- Yes: I have written nine letters since this morning.
No: I write nine letters since this morning.
- Yes: Selena and I have become friends since we met at the bus stop.
No: Selena and I become friends since we met at the bus stop.
The present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous tense
The same main verb is used with the two tenses. Each pair of sentences with different tenses conveys the same meaning.
- I have looked for the car keys for the last half-hour.
- I have been looking for the car keys for the last half-hour.
- Jack has dated Jill since last month.
- Jack has been dating Jill since last month.
- He has taken photos of panda bears in the zoo.
- He has been taking photos of panda bears in the zoo.
The present perfect tense and the simple past tense
The difference between these two tenses – present perfect tense and the simple past tense – is that the time of an action is not mentioned in the present perfect tense, but it is usually mentioned in the simple past tense.
- Present perfect tense: I have eaten two pizzas.
(Not: I have eaten two pizzas yesterday.)
- Simple past tense: I ate two pizzas yesterday.
We use the present perfect tense when the period of time is not over and the simple past tense when it is over.
Since and for
Since is used only with the present perfect tense, not with the simple past tense.
- She has put on much weight since last year.
(Not: She put on much weight 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 is still staying with us. This activity of staying with us began in the past and continues to the present.)
- Simple past tense: He stayed with us for nine months.
(He is not staying with us now. This activity of staying with us began in the past and ended in the past.)
We use the present perfect tense in the main clause (independent clause) and past simple tense in the subordinate clause (dependent clause) of a sentence as follow:
| Main Clause
| We have become friends
|| since we became classmates.
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.
- She has been elected to Parliament.
(When she was elected is not important. What is important is she has been elected and is now a Member of Parliament.)
- The politician has been accused of laying again.
- A woman has been chosen as leader of the party.
- His missing car has been found.