Do you find the Present Perfect confusing? Still making mistakes? Read this article.
This article is for English language learners who want to understand the Present Perfect and improve their English grammar.
When to use the Present Perfect tense in English?
The Present Perfect is a tense linking the past and the present. We use it to talk about an action which happened in the past and we have the result of that action now, while talking about it.
Learn about English Present Perfect Tense
The Present Perfect Tense is one of the most confusing English grammar subjects for many learners. That’s because in many other languages there is no equivalents of this tense. Here are a couple of tips how to use the Present Perfect:
The Present Perfect Formula:
subject + have + past participle + object
Examples: You’ve done it She’s done it.
subject + have + not + past participle + object
Examples: I haven’t done it. He hasn’t done it.
have + subject + past participle + object
Examples: Have they done it? Has it done it?
When to use the Present Perfect
Usage of the Present Perfect Tense includes:
When the action is complete
The main usage of the Present Perfect is to state that the action is complete, but the time is not complete. Hence the name, perfect, in that the action is completed, and in the present, the present perfect.
To close or open a topic
One of the common reasons to use the Present Perfect is to close a topic of conversation, or alternatively to open a topic of conversation and subsequently follow it with the present simple or more often so the past simple.
Examples to close conversations
A: Have you finished the report. B: Yes, and I’ve already handed it in.
A: Have you ever been to Spain? B: No, I’ve never been there.
A: Do you know what a stalwart is? B: No, I’ve never heard of that.
A: I was wondering if you can tell me how to get to Sunbury, please? B: Excuse me! I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve never heard of it.
Examples to start conversations:
A: You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen. B: Oh, really! What did you see? A: A man was walking a cat in the park!!
A: Have you seen the new batman film? B: No, not yet! Have you? A: No, but I want to. The trailer looks brilliant!
A: Have you ever been to Barbados? B: Yes, it was excellent. It has the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen! A: Really! Why do you say that? B: The sand is white and feels like silk, and the water’s the palest blue I’ve ever seen. A: Ah man, that sounds so beautiful. So which do you think is the best place to stay?
A: I’ve seen the most amazing thing! B: Really! What was that then? A: A female dog was nursing kittens along with her puppies! B: Really! Are you serious? A: Yes! They were all suckling together. It was wonderful!
The Past Participle verb form
This is where it gets even more confusing and it’s very easy to make a mistake. That’s because we use the past participle, the third form of the verb. You probably already know, that every verb in English has three forms.
The first verb form is the verb in its plane state, called the present.
The second verb form is the verb in its past state, meaning in the past.
The third verb form is the Past Participle, meaning to bring the past into the present.
Examples: Present Simple: I see them every day. Past Simple: I saw them yesterday. Past Participle: I have seen them today.
Most English verbs are regular and simply use ‘ed’ for the past simple and past participle. But, some verbs are irregular, where all three are different. Here are some examples:
Present Simple arrive walk watch see take chose lead make meet come run become put set let
Past Simple arrived walked watched saw took choose led made met came ran became put set let
Past Participle arrived walked watched seen taken chosen led made met come run become put set let
Time Adverbs for the Present Perfect Tense
In everyday English we use a lot of time expressions, which are called time adverbs. If you want to sound more natural when speaking English, you should use appropriate adverbs of time. Time adverbs commonly used with the Present Perfect include:
Ever is a positive or interrogative (question) time adverb to mean ‘in all one’s days’.
It’s the most beautiful flower I have ever seen. Have you ever seen a flower as beautiful as this.
Never is the negative version of ‘ever’. I’ve never seen anything so strange.
Before meaning in all one’s days before this moment in time. I’ve been here before.
With the Past Perfect it means before a specific moment in the past, and this is the only reason to use the past perfect, to specify that an action is further in the past that another. e.g. I had finished high school, before I went to university.
Already is a positive time adverb to specify, or moreover give emphasis, that an action has been completed before this moment in time. I have already completed the assignment.
Yet is the negative or interrogative version of ‘already’ I haven’t completed the assignment yet. Have you completed the assignment yet?
Just meaning a short while/time/moment ago. I’ve just seen a wonderful thing.
Place of adverbs in the sentence
As you can see the place of these adverbs vary according to meaning. But, generally, as with all adverbs of time, they come between the subject and the main verb. The exceptions to this are ‘before’, and ‘yet’. Both of them coming after the object.
Have you ever seen it? I’ve already seen it. I’ve just seen it. I’ve seen it before. or I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve never seen it.
N.B. When using ‘ever’ in a positive sense, it needs an informative clause prior.
We hope this helps you to understand the Present Perfect. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below, we will answer.
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