Skip to content
Home » Active voice » Present perfect

Present perfect

Present perfect construction: have/has + past participle 

Example verb: to know

I have known  We have known
You have known  You (guys) have known
He/she/it has known  They have known

We use the present perfect to talk about an action that happened in the past, and its nature still holds true to the present

Generally speaking, we cannot use the present perfect with specific time adverbs or expressions with the present perfect, such as; last week, yesterday, Friday, Tuesday, last year etc. unless of course, you use “since”. I.e.

  • Jake has been here since 2009 = correct.
  • Jake has been here in 2009 = incorrect.

Importantly, for these specific time expressions, we must use the past simple and not the present perfect. So, we can use time expressions/adverbs that denote an unspecified amount of time with the present perfect, such as; yet, still, ever, never, before, as of now, etc.

  • Have you ever been to London?
  • She hasn’t sailed to the far east yet.
  • Have you responded to my email yet?
  • have grown up with three little sisters.
  • We have worked here for three years.

We use the present perfect to talk about an experience

  • have met the queen herself.
  • She has had six years of work experience in the industry.
  • Have you ever been to Spain?

We can use the present perfect to talk about achievements

Remember, you need not use a reference to a specific time.

  • have already passed the test.
  • Man has walked on the moon.
  • She has learnt/learned to ride a bicycle.
verbos en ingles

We use the present perfect to talk about something or a situation that changes or modifies itself over time

  • Her English has really improved over these last two years.
  • They have become super interested in economics.
  • Have you improved your football skills since I’ve been away?

It is very common to use time expressions or adverbs of time with the present perfect

Adverbs such as; still, yet, ever, once, several times, etc. Most importantly, NEVER use time expressions that reference a specific point in time, such as, 1982, yesterday, 17:00h, last week, etc.

So, only use the latter expressions with the past simple to signal an action that happened at one point in the past. 

  • We have not visited them yet.
  • Have you ever seen him?
  • I still haven’t spoken to her.

Lesson #20: Present perfect with context and analysis

  • Construction: have/has + past participle (left, lived, spoken, watched, seen…) 

Example verb: to see

I have seen   We have seen
You have seen   You (guys) have seen
He/she/it has seen   They have seen

Context

  • Have you ever been to London, Harry?1
  • Yes, I have visited London, but only once.2
  • How did you find it?3
  • London is a very, very big city,4 which left me a little overwhelmed to be honest. But my overall experience was positive.
  • Good to hear. So, what are you up to these days?5
  • Well, right now I’m living in Navarre, Spain.6
  • How wonderful. Do you like it?
  • Yes! Without a doubt! It’s a great place to be.
  • Have you learned some Spanish?7
  • Yes, I’ve lived here for a wee while,8 two years to be exact, and I feel I have achieved a high level of Spanish.9
  • How has the change in culture been for you?10
  • To be honest, I haven’t really experienced any serious culture shocks.11 The Spaniards are very hospitable, friendly, and outgoing people. I love them.
  • So, it sounds like you won’t be moving back to the UK then?
  • Not anytime soon!

Analysis

  1. Have you ever been to London, Harry? The present perfect is used here (have you been) because the experience of going to London (or not going) stays with Harry until the present moment, naturally.
  2. I have visited London, but only once. The experience of visiting London lasts until the present moment, that’s why the present perfect is used.
  3. How did you find it? Here, the past simple is used (did you find it) as a question to define a certain feeling that he may have had at a particular moment in the past.
  4. London is a very, very big city. The present simple is used here (London is…) because he’s describing a piece of factual information, that is, that London is a big city.
  5. What are you up to these days? ‘Be up to’ is a colloquial way of asking ‘how someone is’, or ‘what someone is doing’. I.e. what’s Jennifer up to? She’s living abroad.
  6. Well, right now I’m living in Navarre, Spain. Here, the present continuous is used (I’m living) to describe a permanent state. The present simple is interchangeable with the present continuous in this sense (when talking about temporary or permanent states). I.e. Right now, I live in Navarre, Spain.
  7. Have you learned some Spanish? The present perfect is used to express an experience.
  8. Yes, I’ve lived here for a wee while. The present perfect is used here to describe an experience that started in the past and still continues until the present moment.
  9. I feel I have achieved a high level of Spanish. The present perfect is used to talk about achievement in this example. The achievement is a high level of Spanish.
  10. How has the change in culture been for you? An experience is being described, therefore, the present perfect is used.
  11. I haven’t really experienced any serious culture shocks. The present perfect is used to talk about an experience.

See also