Present Perfect Tense | Examples & Use

The present perfect tense is a verb form used to refer to a past action or situation that has a present consequence. It’s typically used to indicate experience up to the present, recent actions, or a change that occurred over a period of time.

The present perfect is formed using the auxiliary verb “have” and the past participle of the main verb (e.g., “I have eaten”). However, the third person singular (e.g., “he”, “she”, and “it”) uses “has” instead of “have”.

Present perfect forms

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How to use the present perfect

The present perfect is used to refer to a completed past action that’s relevant to the present or to an action that began in the past and may continue in the present.

It’s used to talk about experience up to now, a change that occurred over time, recent actions (often used with “just”), and unfinished action that is expected to be completed (in the negative, often with “yet”).

The present perfect is formed using the auxiliary verb “have” along with the past participle of the main verb. The only exception is the third person singular form (“he”, “she”, “it”, and singular nouns), which uses “has” instead of “have.”

In affirmative present perfect statements, the subject and auxiliary verb are often contracted (e.g., “I’ve dreamed”).

Examples: How to use the present perfect
I’ve visited Paris twice before.

The theater group has improved.

Sashi has just brushed his teeth.

Dana has not graduated from college yet.

The present perfect can also be used along with future simple tense constructions to describe a future action. In these instances, the present perfect clause is usually preceded by a subordinating conjunction (e.g., “when”, “until”).

Examples: Present perfect and future simple
I’ll call you as soon as I’ve arrived.

After Anna has presented the report, we’ll take a short break.

Note
When the present perfect occurs more than once in a sentence and refers to the same subject, the second verb can be written without the auxiliary verb “have.” If the second instance refers to a different subject, a conjugated form of the auxiliary verb should be included.

  • I’ve cleaned the kitchen and cooked dinner.
  • Jennifer has left, and Henry has arrived.

Indicating time

As the present perfect refers to an action that occurred at an unspecified time in the past, sentences in the present perfect commonly use adverbs that refer to non-specific time (e.g., “ever”, “never”, “once”, and “so far”).

Examples: Present perfect and adverbs
Joseph has never lived in South Africa.

Laura has eaten at this restaurant before.

Expressions that refer to a specific time (e.g., “last week”, “yesterday”) are typically used along with a preposition (e.g., “for”, “since”).

Examples: Present perfect and prepositions
  • I’ve worked on this project yesterday.
  • I’ve worked on this project since yesterday.
  • Sophie has felt ill last week.
  • Sophie has felt ill for the last week.

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Past simple vs. present perfect

Both the present perfect and past simple refer to past action. However, they have different functions:

  • The past simple is typically used to refer to an action that occurred at a definite time in the past and will not continue.
  • The present perfect is used to refer to an action that occurred in the past and has present consequences or to an action that began in the past and may continue.
Examples: Past simple vs. present perfect
I saw that film yesterday.

I have seen that film before. [I may see it again.]

I went to Toronto last year.

I have been in Toronto for three weeks. [I am still in Toronto.]

Note
The past participle of a regular verb is the same as its simple past form (e.g., “I walked” and “I have walked”). However, the past simple form of an irregular verb may differ from its past participle form (e.g., “Sarah swam” vs. “Sarah has swum”). Check a dictionary if you are unsure.

Present perfect vs. present perfect continuous

Both the present perfect and the present perfect continuous can be used to refer to the present consequences of a past action or situation (e.g., “I have lived here for two years” and “I have been living here for two years”).

However, they cannot always be used interchangeably:

  • The present perfect can be used to refer to a past action or situation that may continue in the present.
  • The present perfect continuous refers to actions or situations that began in the past and are definitely continuing in the present.
Examples: Present perfect vs. present perfect continuous
Aria has traveled the world. [She is probably no longer traveling.]

Aria has been traveling the world. [She is still traveling.]

Note
Stative verbs (e.g., “know”, “feel”, “want”) can be used in the present perfect to describe states of being that began in the past.

These verbs are typically not used in the present perfect continuous.

  • I have been knowing him for years.
  • I have known him for years.

How to form negatives

Negatives are formed by adding the adverb “not” between the subject and the main verb. This is the case for all subjects.

Examples: Negative present perfect sentences
The teacher hasn’t taught us anything new in weeks.

We haven’t lived in the city for almost two years.

Note
In negative statements, the auxiliary verb and adverb are often contracted (e.g., “I haven’t seen”, “she hasn’t eaten”). It’s unusual to instead contract the subject with the verb in negative statements (e.g., “I’ve not seen”).

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How to form questions

To ask a yes–no question in the present perfect, put the auxiliary verb first, followed by the subject and the past participle of the main verb.

Examples: Present perfect tense questions
Have you called Holly back?

Has Drake booked a return flight?

To ask a question using a wh-word (an interrogative pronoun like “what” or an interrogative adverb like “when”), place the pronoun or adverb before “have” (or “has” for the third person singular).

Examples: Questions with interrogative pronouns and adverbs
Where have you been?

What have we done?

Why has Aaron borrowed my laptop?

How to form the passive voice

In a passive sentence, the subject is acted upon (rather than performing the action). In the present perfect, the passive voice is formed by adding the past participle of the verb “be” (i.e., “been”) between the auxiliary verb and the past participle of the main verb.

Examples: Present perfect passive constructions
Anna has been struck by lightning.

The thieves have been followed by the police.

I have been grounded.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

Frequently asked questions about the present perfect tense

What is the difference between the present perfect and past simple?

Both the present perfect and past simple refer to past action. However, they have different functions:

  • The past simple is typically used to refer to an action that was completed at a definite time in the past (e.g., “I slept in this morning”).
  • The present perfect is used to refer to a past action that has present consequences or to an action that began in the past and may continue (e.g., “I have written a book”).
What is the difference between the present perfect and the present perfect continuous?

The present perfect tense and the present perfect continuous can both be used to refer to the present consequences of a past action or situation:

  • The present perfect can be used to refer to a past action that may continue in the present (e.g., “I have lived here for six months”).
  • The present perfect continuous refers to actions or situations that began in the past and are definitely continuing in the present (e.g., “I have been arguing with him constantly”).

 

Sources for this article

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This Scribbr article

Ryan, E. (2023, September 25). Present Perfect Tense | Examples & Use. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/verb/present-perfect-tense/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2022). Garner’s modern English usage (5th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.