Present Perfect in English (Use It Correctly Every Time)

Jun 5, 2019 | 14 comments

The present perfect tense is used a lot in English, so it’s important to get it right. In fact, as soon as you arrive in an English-speaking country people will use this tense when they ask you, “How long have you been here?”

How would you answer this? If you are not sure, today’s lesson will help.

This lesson will help you use the present perfect tense to answer this kind of question and so much more in English.

There are many situations that need the present perfect. You’ll learn each one and get examples to understand it clearly.

There are also some words you SHOULD use with present perfect and some you definitely SHOULDN’T. So let’s go make sure you know those too.

Learn to use the present perfect correctly — every time.

Lesson by Annemarie

What Is the Present Perfect?

It’s a way of using verbs that makes it clear that an action has a connection between the past and now.  

For example, we use the present perfect tense if something started in the past and is still true or still describes the current situation.

  • I have lived here for 3 years.  (I started living here 3 years ago in the past and I still live here now. The total time of me living here is 3 years till now. This started in the past and is not finished)
  • I have loved chocolate since I was 3 years old. (I started to love chocolate when I was 3 years old and I still love it now. This is still true now.)

These examples have a couple of the words we use a lot with present perfect — for and since. If you use ‘for’ or ‘since’ with present perfect then you are definitely getting it right.

One word we should NOT use with present perfect is ‘ago.’

If we use ‘ago’ we are saying something happened in the past, there is no connection with now, so it definitely should not be used with the present perfect.  

And for Questions Like, “How’s your day going?” 

We also use present perfect when a period of time has not finished, it is still going on, like today, this week, this month, none of these have finished yet.

For example:

  • I have been so busy today! (today is still going, this is still the present moment)
  • You have been so grumpy this week! (you started being grumpy in the past, earlier this week. The week has not ended and you are still in a bad mood!)

Don’t Forget — Something that JUST Happened

The present perfect is also used when something just happened, like:

  • Ouch! I’ve just cut my finger.
  • They’ve just gone home. (they left a short time earlier)

Do you notice a pattern in these sentences? ‘Just’ is a word we use a lot with present perfect.

  • OMG! I’ve just passed my exam!
  • She’s just broken up with her boyfriend.
  • He’s just become a father.

Use the Present Perfect to Talk about Your Experience

Another way we use it is when we are talking about something we have or have not done in our lives, so our life experiences:

  • I’ve been to 6 countries.
  • You haven’t been to Disneyland?
  • She’s completed 3 university degrees.
  • He’s eaten scorpion and eel, he’s a very adventurous eater!

How to Correctly Form the Present Perfect

To correctly form this tense, we need 2 things, ‘have’ or ‘has’ + the past participle of the verb. The past participle is also know as the third form of the verb. 

Remember learning drink, drank, drunk? Or write, wrote, written? Drunk and written are the third forms.

Regular Verb Forms for the Present Perfect

Verb 

Ask

Call 

Help 

Liked 

Move 

Look 

Subject

I 

You

We 

They 

She

He

Perfect Form 

have asked

have called

have helped

have liked 

has moved

has looked

Example Sentence

I’ve asked her to come tomorrow.

You’ve called him too many times!

We’ve helped her a lot this month.

They’ve liked this band for years!

She’s moved into a new apartment.

He hasn’t looked everywhere!

Irregular Verb Forms for the Present Perfect

Verb 

Be

Go

Go

Come

Find

Leave

Make

Put

Take

Forget

Have

Subject

I

You

They 

We 

She

He 

It 

I 

You 

She 

It

Perfect Form 

have been 

have been

have gone

have come 

has found 

has left 

has made

have put

have taken 

has forgotten 

has had

Example Sentence

I’ve been a teacher for 10 years.

You’ve been to Fiji?

They haven’t gone home already.

We’ve come to help you.

She’s found the perfect job!

He’s left his bag behind.

It’s made me so happy!

I’ve put the files on your desk.

You’ve taken my favorite pen!

She’s forgotten to take out the trash!

It’s had a terrible effect!

An easy trick you can use to know when to use the present perfect AND when NOT to use it.

There are some tricks that can help you remember when to use present perfect.

For example, we use it a lot with the words: ever, never, always.

  • I’ve never tried bungee jumping.
  • Have you ever been to Japan? → When someone starts a question with, “Have you ever…” that’s a quick clue that you should use the present perfect in your answer.
  • She’s always loved jazz.

But, when you talk about a specific time in the past that has already finished you shouldn’t use it.

For example, you SHOULD NOT say:

  • X I have done it yesterday.   (you should use past simple: I did it yesterday)
  • X I’ve seen it last year. (you should use past simple: I saw it last year)
  • X I’ve been there in 2018. (you should use past simple: I went there in 2018)
  • X It has arrived on May 1st. (you should use past simple: It arrived on May 1st)

Now THIS was a serious lesson!

But the good news is, you are ready to use present perfect perfectly!

Now it is fresh in your mind, it’s a great chance to practice. We would love to hear your answers to one of these questions, using present perfect (I have…/I’ve…), so please share below. If you prefer you can write about someone else using she has (she’s) or he has (he’s):

  1. What are some amazing and memorable things you have done in your life?
  2. What brave things you have done?
  3. What are some amazing or unusual foods you have tried?

The best place to share, get feedback, and learn from others in the Confident English Community is in the comments below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie

P.S. ❤️this lesson? Check out: 5 Common Grammar Mistakes with Easy Fixes

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