The present perfect verb tense is a little difficult in English – it is used in several different ways, and there are lots of rules to remember. This lesson will teach you everything you ever wanted to know about the present perfect – try the four quizzes with grammar exercises in each section!
How to form the Present Perfect
Present Perfect Positive
|SUBJECT||HAVE / HAS||PAST PARTICIPLE|
|I / you / we / they||have||written|
|he / she / it||has||written|
Note: In spoken English, it’s common to use the contraction:
- I’ve written three books.
- We’ve already seen that movie
- Barbara’s forgotten her cell phone.
- He’s just woken up.
In this case, he’s, she’s, Barbara’s, etc. mean he has, she has, and Barbara has, not he is, she is, or Barbara is.
Present Perfect Negative
|SUBJECT||HAVEN’T / HASN’T||PAST PARTICIPLE|
|I / you / we / they||haven’t||seen|
|he / she / it||hasn’t||seen|
- I haven’t seen John this week.
- Mary hasn’t come to class for the past two days.
Present Perfect Questions
|HAVE / HAS||SUBJECT||PAST PARTICIPLE|
|Have||I / you / we / they||finished?|
|Has||he / she / it||finished?|
- Have you finished the project yet?
- Has George ever been to New York?
How to answer present perfect questions:
- Have you been to London?
Yes, I have. / No, I haven’t.
- Has Alex met Miriam yet?
Yes, he has. / No, he hasn’t.
- Have the results of the election been announced?
Yes, they have. / No, they haven’t.
What is the past participle?
The past participle form of the verb describes a completed action or state.
For regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the simple past:
- I worked (simple past) all day yesterday.
- I’ve worked (past participle) here since August.
This is also the case for many irregular verbs:
- He sold (simple past) his car last week.
- He’s sold (past participle) 200 books so far.
However, some irregular verbs’ past participles are different from their simple past form:
- We wrote (simple past) an article for the newspaper.
- We’ve written (past participle) for many famous publications.
Many of these irregular past participles end in –n:
|Infinitive||Simple Past||Past Participle|
|be||was / were||been|
Other irregular past participles have a change in the vowel:
|Infinitive||Simple Past||Past Participle|
Present Perfect Quiz
The Present Perfect is used with unfinished time
Present Perfect with ever / never
The present perfect is used with ever and never to talk about actions done at any time in a person’s life, or at any time in history until now.
- Have you ever been to Japan?
- Has she ever seen Titanic?
- Have they ever ridden a motorcycle?
- Has Jason ever failed a test?
Use ever in questions only – NOT in statements.
- “I’ve ever been to Japan.”
- “I’ve been to Japan.”
Use never in statements – but only with have/has, not with haven’t/hasn’t:
- “My sister hasn’t never seen Titanic.”
- “My sister has never seen Titanic.”
- “My sister hasn’t seen Titanic.”
Present Perfect with already, yet, recently, lately, and just
The words already, yet, recently, lately, and just all refer to a recent and non-specific time. (A specific time would be “yesterday” or “three hours ago” or last Friday,” and in these cases we would use the simple past).
Already and yet
Already can be used in positive statements and questions.
- “I’ve already read today’s newspaper.”
- “Have you already paid the electric bill?”
- “She’s finished the test already.”
Note: Already can go in between “have/has” and the past participle (as in the first two examples) or at the end of the sentence.
Yet can be used in negative statements and questions.
- “We haven’t cleaned the house yet.”
- “Has he told you the good news yet?”
- “Have they booked their tickets yet?”
Note: Yet usually goes at the end of the sentence or phrase.
Recently, lately, and just
Recently and lately can be used in positive statements, negative statements, or questions:
- “He’s recently lost some weight.”
- “I haven’t seen her recently.”
- “Have you spoken to Beth recently?”
- “I’ve gotten a lot of spam e-mails lately.”
- “Adam and Jessica haven’t been to church lately.”
- “Have you seen any good movies lately?”
Just (usually means very recent) is typically only used in positive statements and questions:
- “Don’t touch the walls – I’ve just painted them and they’re still wet.”
- “What book have you just finished reading?”
Spoken American English often uses the simple past with already, yet, and just:
- “Did you book the tickets yet?”
- “I already replied to the e-mail.”
- “We just got back from the gym.”
Quiz: Present Perfect with ever, never, already, recently, lately, and just
Present Perfect with for and since
The present perfect is also used with for and since to talk about actions that began in the past and continue to the present.
- “I’ve lived here since 2004.”
- “I’ve lived here for 8 years.”
Since is used with a point in time, and means “from that point in time until the present.” Use since with dates (2011, January, Tuesday, etc.), times (6:15, noon, this morning, etc.), and past events (I was a child, he graduated from college, etc).
Since is always used with the present perfect, and not the simple past:
- “I’ve gone to the beach every year since I was a child.”
(repeated action that continues until today)
- “I went to the beach when I was a child.”
(finished action at a specific time in the past; I don’t go to the beach today)
For is used with a time period, and means “for that period of time until the present.” Use for with times of any length (five seconds, eight hours, two days, six weeks, nine months, ten years, a decade, centuries, etc.)
Be careful with for, because using the present perfect or the simple past can change the meaning:
- “We’ve lived in Berlin for 6 months.” (and we live in Berlin now)
- “We lived in Berlin for 6 months.” (and we don’t live in Berlin now)
Quiz: Present perfect with FOR and SINCE
Present Perfect Simple / Present Perfect Continuous
How to form the Present Perfect Continuous:
Positive and Negative Statements:
|SUBJECT||AUXILIARY VERB||BEEN||-ING FORM|
|I||have||been||working here since 1992.|
|He||hasn’t||been||sleeping well lately.|
|QUESTION WORD||AUXILIARY VERB||SUBJECT||BEEN||-ING FORM|
|How long||have||you||been||studying English?|
|How long||has||she||been||playing tennis?|
In some cases, the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous are the same:
- “I’ve worked here since 1992.” = “I’ve been working here since 1992.”
However, we often use the present perfect continuous to emphasize the action, and the present perfect simple to emphasize the result:
- “I’ve been working on this report for three weeks.”
(emphasizes the action of working)
- “I’ve finished the project.”
(emphasizes that the project is done)
- “We’ve been cleaning the house all afternoon.”
(emphasizes the action of cleaning)
- “We’ve cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen.”
(emphasizes the fact that the bathroom and kitchen are done)
Be careful: Remember that “state” verbs are never used in continuous form:
- “I’ve been knowing my best friend since elementary school.”
- “I’ve known my best friend since elementary school.”
- “She’s been understanding everything in the advanced class so far.”
- “She’s understood everything in the advanced class so far.”
In spoken English, we often use the present perfect continuous to talk about ways you have spent your time recently:
“Hi, Joanna! What have you been up to lately?”
“I’ve been training for a karate competition.”
“Wow – good luck! And how is your son?”
“He’s good. He’s been studying a lot lately because finals are coming up next week.”
Quiz: Present Perfect Continuous / Present Perfect Simple