In this article, we will look at the present perfect tense. We’ve included examples in every form and several tables for your guidance on this useful tense.
For a full breakdown of verb tenses in every form, check out our main article on verb tenses.
Forming the Present Perfect Tense
Quick Reference Table: The Present Perfect Tense in All forms
V3 → The third form (Past Participle) of an irregular verb
Ved → Past Participle form for regular verbs
The present perfect tense formula is: have/has + past participle.
The past participle is usually formed by adding -ed or -d to the end of the verb, but there are many irregular verbs in English.
To put the present perfect tense in a negative form, use this formula: Have/Has + not + the past participle. You’ll also commonly see the contractions haven’t or hasn’t.
Asking a Question
To ask a question in the present perfect, use the formula: Have/Has + subject + past participle
When To Apply the Present Perfect Tense
Use the present perfect tense when you want to emphasize the result of an action. Since it’s a present tense, the result should be in the present.
Use #1: Indefinite Time
When describing an action that happened at an indefinite time in the past.
**NOTE: When you specify a time for an action, then the present perfect is not used. Use the simple past instead.**
So, what exactly does it mean when we say an indefinite time? This is a concept that can be confusing to ESL learners. To be honest, it’s even confusing for native speakers.
To understand, let’s break down the situations where you’ll use the present perfect tense with an indefinite time.
When describing an experience.
Meaning, you want to describe something you’ve had the experience of doing without describing the actual event. This is also commonly used in the negative form.
That means you’ve never had the experience of going to a professional baseball game. There is no definite time associated with the experience.
That means Joey has at some point tasted ice cream before. There’s no specific time when the experience happened, but Joey tasted ice cream at some point.
When talking about something that has changed over time.
When speaking about an accomplishment without a specific time.
When describing an action that hasn’t happened, but you expect it to happen. Use negative form in this situation.
When describing many actions that happened at various times.
Please note that in the last example the building of the house is not a finished process. If it is, use the past simple tense.
When using an expression of time.
This situation can be tricky. The present perfect tense is always an expression of an action that happened at an indefinite time.
However, you still can use the present perfect tense when talking about something that happens within a time frame but doesn’t name a specific time. Often, these expressions will follow with indicators like: in the past month, in the past year, this month, up to this point, so far, recently, etc…
**Note** ‘Last’ (month, week, year, etc..) and ‘in the last’ or ‘in the past’ (month, week, year, etc...) have different meanings.
Last year means the year before the current year, and last month means the month before this month. Since, last means you’re talking about a specific time, it requires the simple past tense.
In the last year, means from 365 days ago until that moment. In the last month, means 30/31 days ago up to that moment. So, in the last/past means you’re not talking about a specific time and requires the present perfect tense.
Use #2: When describing an action that began in the past but continues into the present.
Generally, you’ll use non-continuous verbs in this situation, but there are exceptions.
Using the present perfect tense, you’ll be able to express actions in more effective ways. For more ESL topics like the simple present tense and the simple past tense and to learn how a professional tutor can help solidify your understanding of English grammar, visit Magoosh Speaking today!