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Overview of Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect is one of the most important verb tenses in English. If you are serious about speaking English well, then you should spend a lot of time studying and practicing this tense.

This lesson is just a brief summary. We will study the present perfect in detail in the following lessons.

The present perfect can be difficult for English learners. This is because of 2 reasons:
  1. There are different ways to use the present perfect.
  2. We use a different verb form.
When we make sentences in the present perfect tense, we use the past participle verb form. Look at some examples verbs.

Base FormPast SimplePast Participle
seesawseen
bewas/werebeen
meetmetmet
playplayedplayed
cookcookedcooked
givegavegiven
buyboughtbought

As you can see, sometimes the past simple and past participle are the same. Sometimes, they are different. You just have to memorize them.

Let's take a look at the most common ways we use the present perfect.

1. We use the present perfect the talk about experiences. These are finished actions.

Note: We usually use the verb "be" instead of "go" in the present perfect tense. We can see this in the first example below.
  • I have been to China.
  • I have eaten raw fish.
  • She has never been bungee jumping.
  • He has gone snowboarding.
However, the most important rule is that we never use the present perfect with a specific time.
  • I have been to Japan. (Good!)
  • I have been to Japan in 2007.
    (You cannot use a specific time like 2007 with the present perfect.)
We cannot use a specific time with the present perfect, but we can use the number of times or a period of time.
  • I have been to England two times.
  • She has eaten horse meat many times.
  • They have traveled in Europe a few times.
  • I have been here 3 times in the last 9 months.
  • She has been sick many times in the last month.
We ask yes/no questions about other's experiences with these kinds of questions.
  • Have you ever seen this movie?
  • Have you stayed at this hotel before?
  • Has she been here many times?
Or we can use question words.
  • What countries have you been to?
  • Where have you visited during your trip?
2. We can also use the present perfect for unfinished actions. These are actions that started in the past but are not finished. We often use "for" and "since" to show how long or when the action started.
  • I have known Carol for 10 years.
  • She has worked here since 2004.
  • He has played the piano since he was young.
  • They have been married for 20 years.
Use "for" to tell the total time and use "since" to tell when the action started.

We use "how long + present perfect" to ask about these situations.
  • How long have you lived here?
  • How long have you known her?
  • How long has he been married?
  • How long have you studied English?
The two ways to use the present perfect tense above are the most common and important.But there are some other similar ways that we can use the present perfect.

3. We can use to it talk about our desires or wishes.
  • I have always wanted to visit Istanbul.
  • She has always wanted to be a doctor.
  • He has never wanted to be rich.
4. We can use the present perfect along with superlatives (best, biggest, most expensive, least interesting etc.)
  • This is the best hotel that I have ever stayed at.
  • What is the scariest movie that you have ever seen?
  • Where is the most beautiful place that you have ever been?
5. We can also use the present perfect to count the number of times.
  • This is the third time that I have been here.
    (=I have been here 3 times.)

  • This is the first time that I have seen it.
6. We use the present perfect to talk about the recent past sometimes.
  • I have eaten.
  • Have you eaten lunch?
  • I have decided to quit my job.
  • The company has just announced their sales for last quarter.
The present perfect is so important if you want to speak English. Go to the next lessons and study the present perfect in detail to make sure that you understand it perfectly. You will use it all the time when having English conversations or doing anything that involves the English language.

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