#281: The Present Perfect for Talking About Experiences [+ Ever, Never, Before, Yet, Already, So Far]

Jul 12, 2023 | Grammar, Verb Tenses

Accurately talking about your work, travel, relationship, and life experiences is a must.

Whether you’re preparing for a job interview or want to chat about a recent travel experience, you’ll likely need the Present Perfect in English to do so.

Moreover, you’ll hear English speakers often use words such as ever, never, before, yet, already, and so far as well.

Each of these words is a key word. It provides a signal that helps us understand time and how an experience relates to the present moment.

 

These complex time expressions combined with similarities to the Simple Past make the Present Perfect rather challenging. 

On top of that, many languages don’t have an exact equivalent to the present perfect in English. As a result, it may be difficult to grasp its concept and usage.

But not after today.

In this lesson, you’ll get meaningful practice through clear examples and opportunities to practice so you can accurately and confidently use the present perfect to highlight your life experiences.

WATCH THE LESSON

The Present Perfect for Talking About Experiences 

with Ever, Never, Before, Yet, Already, So Far

What is Present Perfect? 

Let’s start with a quick recap on the present perfect form. 

The present perfect is a verb tense English speakers use to indicate a link between the present and the past. In other words, when past actions or events are related to or continue into the present moment, we use the present perfect tense.

In general, we form the present perfect with the following positive structure:

Subject + have/has + past participle

In its negative form, the structure is:

Subject + have/has + not + past participle

  • Ex. I have been to the museum.
  • Ex. Margot hasn’t watched the movie.
  • Ex. Nikita has worked at this bank.
  • Ex. Why haven’t you called?
  • Ex. Have you heard of Notre Dame?

 

When do we use it? 

English speakers especially use the present perfect tense to talk about past life experiences that are relevant to the present – right now.

Usually, we use this tense to highlight the experience or action itself.

Moreover, the present perfect can be used to share your thoughts about a variety of experiences, such as a recent vacation, your work experience while interviewing for a job, parenting, personal relationships, and more.

To help with describing these experiences using the present perfect, let’s focus on 6 keywords that are most often used with this tense:

  • ever;
  • never;
  • before;
  • Yet;
  • already
  • and, so far.

Ever, Never, Before

English speakers often use ‘ever’ and ‘never’ to discuss whether an experience happened at any point in the life they’ve lived thus far. 

  • Ex. “Have you ever worked with Jessica on a project?
  • Yes, I have. We worked together on a proposal a few months ago.


In this example, ever is used to refer to whether the person had this opportunity at any point during their career or time at the company.

The words “at any point” are the key to the use of ever.

Any time a question starts with “Have you ever…” the focus is at any point in your life have you had a particular experience.

For example:

  • Have you ever (at any point in your life) lived abroad?
  • Have you ever regretted a big purchase?

So why are we using the present perfect? How is this connected to the past?

It’s possible that many years ago you lived abroad for a short period of time. For example, maybe you lived abroad for 1 year during your university years. 

That experience is over; however, your life is not yet over. And the focus with the word ever is at any point in your life, which again, is not over. So there is a link from the past to the present moment.

Similarly, we can even use ‘ever’ and ‘never’ WITH ‘before’ to imply that up until a present circumstance, we didn’t have a particular experience. 

  • Ex. “Have you ever been to this restaurant?
  • I’ve never been here before; it’s my first time!

 

In addition, we can also use ‘before’ to establish an existent or nonexistent experience with a topic, event, or action related to the present.

  • Ex. “I’m thinking about traveling to Europe this summer. Have you ever been to Estonia?”
    • “Yes, I’ve been there before. It’s been years but I remember I loved it. I highly recommend it.
  • Ex. “Have you used this task management platform before?”
    • I have used it before, but it’s been a while. I might need a bit of a refresher.”

Yet, Already

English speakers might also combine the present perfect with ‘yet’ to describe an event that started in the past and is leading up to the present. It’s used to emphasize that we expect something to happen soon. 

  • Ex. “This week has been so busy; I haven’t even started preparing for my interview yet!” (But I expect to start preparing soon.)
  • Ex. “Have you watched the new Indiana Jones movie yet?
    • Not yet. I booked tickets to go watch it this weekend.” (It’s happening soon.)

Moreover, when we use the present perfect tense we also follow ‘yet’ with ‘but’ to contrast, provide reasoning, or share a plan of action. 

  • Ex. “I haven’t asked my boss for a raise yet, but I’m hoping to do it by the end of this month.
  • Ex. “Viola hasn’t moved yet, but she is looking for a new condo.

We also use ‘yet’ with ‘already’ to talk about actions or events that have happened by the present moment.

  • Ex. “Have you applied for the manager position yet?
    • Yup, I’ve already submitted everything. I’m just waiting to hear back from them.

 

So far

Finally, similar to yet, we can use ‘so far’ with the present perfect to imply that an experience set in the past is true, even in the present, or up until now. It can also mean to a certain or limited extent.

  • Ex. “I’ve watched the first three episodes of Queen’s Gambit so far and I love it!”
  • Ex. “So far, I haven’t had any luck with getting my toddler to sleep in her own bed.

Time to Practice!

Let’s practice using the present perfect to talk about your experiences. 

Choose one of the questions below to share your experience. Be sure to use the keywords from the lesson to accurately describe it. 

  1. Have you ever taken an online course? Would you recommend it to someone who’s never taken one?
  2. How do you handle unexpected interview questions? Have you ever been asked an odd question in a job interview?
  3. Have you ever participated in a competition before? How did you prepare for it?

You can share your answers — as well as your questions — with me in the comments below.

~ Annemarie

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