Present PerfectTense. Free English Lesson with Test and Certificate.
Quick Present Perfect Tense study for SAT, IELTS, TESOL and other exams.
Tip: Listen to the video while you read the lesson below.
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How to use the present perfect tense in English
You use the present perfect tense to talk about something that happened at an unspecified time in the past. We use this tense when the exact time in the past is not important. For example, to say “I have met him before”, but not to say “I met him yesterday”.
Here’s a few more examples:
- I have seen that movie twenty times.
- I think I have met him once before.
- There have been many earthquakes in California.
- We have traveled to London.
- Have you read the book yet?
Your English lesson about the Present Perfect Tense
Welcome to the Present Perfect lesson! In this lesson, we will cover many of the uses of the present perfect.
We use the present perfect to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important.
You CANNOT use the present perfect with specific time expressions such as: yesterday, one year ago, last week, when I was a child, when I lived in China, at that time, that day, one day, etc.
We CAN use the present perfect with unspecific expressions such as ever, never, once, many times, several times, before, so far, already, yet, etc.
The present perfect tense is formed using the following structure:
Affirmative: [Subject + Have / Has + Past Participle]
I have seen that movie twenty times.
Negative: [Subject + Haven't / Hasn't + Past Participle]
We haven’t traveled to Paris.
Question: [Have / Has + Subject + Past Participle]
Have you read the book yet?
I have seen that movie twenty times.
I think I have met him once before.
There have been many earthquakes in California.
We have traveled to London.
We haven’t traveled to Paris.
Have you read the book yet?
Nobody has ever climbed that mountain.
I haven’t studied for the exam.
I haven’t seen your car keys.
He hasn’t eaten yet.
We use contractions a lot when we are speaking. The contracted form of the present perfect tense is quite common in oral English. To improve your conversational English, you should practice saying these example sentences out loud until you can use these contractions naturally and easily.
I have becomes I've - I've spent all my money.
You have becomes you've - You've worn that dress before.
He has becomes he's - He's slept all morning.
She has becomes she's - She's finished her homework.
It has becomes it's - It's been raining all day.
We have becomes we've - We've decided to go to the mall.
They have becomes they've - They've eaten the entire cake.
Now that we have seen how to construct the present perfect tense, let’s answer the question: “when do we use the present perfect tense?” The most basic and primary use of the present perfect is to describe an event that happened at an unspecified point in the past. This is different from the simple past because the simple past refers to a specific time in the past. Look at the following example:
I have been to France three times.
This means that at some unspecified time in the past, I went to France … so we use the present perfect.
I went to France three times in 2007, 2012, and 2018.
In this case, we have specified times in the past … so the simple past is the correct tense.
The idea of "unspecified time" can be very confusing to English learners. It is easiest to associate the present perfect with the following topics.
First, we can use the present perfect to describe your experience. It is like saying, "I have the experience of..." You can also use this tense to say that you have never had a certain experience. Remember, the present perfect is NOT used to describe a specific event. Let’s look at some example sentences.
I have been to China.
This present perfect sentence means that you have had the experience of being in China. Maybe you have been there once, or maybe several times.
I have been to China three times.
You can add the number of times at the end of the sentence.
I have never been to China.
This present perfect sentence means that you have not had the experience of going to China.
Here’s more examples:
I think I have seen that movie before.
My son has never traveled by train.
John has studied two foreign languages.
Q: Have you ever met him?
A: No, I have never met him.
Second, we use the present perfect to talk about changes that have happened over a period of time.
You have grown since the last time I saw you.
The government has become more interested in reducing pollution.
My English has really improved since I moved to Australia.
Third, we often use the present perfect to list the accomplishments of individuals and groups or people. Again, you cannot mention a specific time.
Man has walked on the Moon.
Our son has learned how to read.
Doctors have cured many deadly diseases.
Fourth, we often use the present perfect to say that an action which we expected has not happened. Using the present perfect suggests that we are still waiting for the action to happen.
James has not finished his homework yet.
Susan hasn't mastered English, but she can speak a little.
Bill has still not arrived.
The rain hasn't stopped.
Next, we also use the present perfect to talk about several different actions which have occurred in the past at different times. The present perfect is used to suggest that the process is not complete and more actions are possible.
I have had four quizzes and five tests so far this semester.
We have had many major problems while working on this project.
She has talked to several doctors about her problem, but nobody knows why she is sick.
More present perfect tense exercises
Moving on, when we use the present perfect it means that something has happened at some point in our lives before now. Remember, the exact time the action happened is not important.
Sometimes, we want to specify the time we are looking in for an experience. We can do this with expressions such as in the last week, in the last year, this week, this month, recently, so far, up to now, etc.
Have you been to Singapore recently?
I have seen that movie six times in the last month.
They have had three tests in the last week.
She graduated from university less than three years ago.
She has worked for three different companies so far.
My car has broken down three times this week.
Next, we will often use the present perfect to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. "For five minutes," "for two weeks," and "since Tuesday" are all durations which can be used with the present perfect.
I have had a cold for two weeks.
She has been in England for six months.
Mary has loved dancing since she was a little girl.
Although the above use of present perfect is normally limited to non-continuous verbs and non-continuous uses of mixed verbs, the words "live," "work," "teach," and "study" are sometimes used in this way … even though they are NOT non-continuous Verbs.
As a quick reminder, non-continuous verbs are verbs that you cannot see somebody doing. These verbs are rarely used in continuous forms. For example, we say, “She needs help,” not “She is needing help.” And we will say, “He wants a break,” not “He is wanting a break.”
Some of the common non-continuous verbs are:
Abstract verbs: be, want, cost, need, care, contain, owe, exist, etc.
Possession verbs: own, belong, possess, etc.
Emotion verbs: like, love, hate, dislike, fear, envy, etc.
It’s story time
Now that we’ve learned a lot about the present perfect tense, let’s see how this is used in a short story. As you read the following story, pay attention to how the present perfect is used.
Egbert has waited with excitement to tell his classmates about his trip to Thailand. Some of his friends have traveled to other parts of China. A few of his friends have been to Jeju Island in Korea. But, his friends at school have never seen Thailand. He is sure that they have thought of many questions for him while he was away.
First, he is excited to tell them that he has ridden on an elephant. They have probably heard about elephant rides in Thailand, but most of them have never done it.
He is also very excited to say that he has tried many strange foods. He smiled when he imagined the look on his friend Wayne’s face when he asks him, “Have you ever eaten fried crickets?” He can also tell Wayne that many Thai people have eaten foods like scorpion, rat, and even dog. These foods aren’t common, but a lot of people in Thailand have tasted them.
Egbert has thought about all the pictures he has taken during the trip, and he has even shared some of them on the Internet for his friends to see. The most beautiful pictures he has ever taken were on the beach in Thailand. Egbert has been to many beaches in China, but the beach in Phuket was amazing. Phuket has always been considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Asia. Egbert’s classmates have seen beaches like Phuket in movies, but they have never actually stood on a white sandy beach with such clear blue water.
Egbert is very excited to share his experiences with his friends.
That’s the end of the lesson on the present perfect tense.
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