The present perfect is very common in English conversations.
I will give you examples that show the structure. Along with examples for different situations, I will put each use of the present perfect I have used while writing this post in bold text (Except for one! Can you find it?).
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If you want more traditional grammar instruction, there are many great online resources, which I will share with you so you can learn more. The most comprehensive resource to the present perfect can be found here:
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How long have you been studying English?
Have you studied the present perfect?
Have you learned how and when to use it?
How do you form the present perfect?
Forming the present perfect is easy!
has/have + the past participle.
Let’s look at some examples in context using different subjects.
Notice when has is used and when have is used.
I have eaten sushi many times.
She has lived here for three years.
He has fallen in love.
It has been a cold winter.
We have worked hard all week.
You have given me too much money.
They have gone away for the summer.
Coronavirus has changed our lives.
The past participle is the verb form that is used. It usually ends in -ed, but there are irregular forms such as eaten, fallen, been, given, and gone. If you have a verb chart, it is the form that is located in the third column.
When do we use the present perfect?
We use the present perfect for the following situations:
1. Past Experiences or Accomplishments
When we are talking about past experiences or accomplishments without saying when they happened, we use the present perfect.
Examples: I have been to Spain. / Scientists have created many vaccines.
Notice that I have not told you when I went to Spain. If a time period is mentioned, you need to use the simple past.
Example using the simple past: I went to Spain three years ago.
To learn more about when to use the present perfect or the past simple, check out these two rules that include a 16-question quiz with feedback.
2. Multiple Occurrences
When we are talking about something that has occurred more than one time, and we do not say when they happened, we use the present perfect.
I have eaten live squid twice.
I have been to India two times.
He has gone snowboarding three times.
She has texted me ten times today.
We have seen that movie five times.
They have taken three tango lessons.
3. Unfinished Experiences and Duration
When we are talking about something that began in the past and continues to the present, we use the present perfect. We use for when giving a length of time and since when talking about a point in time.
I have lived in Korea for ten years.
I have lived in Korea since 2010.
She has been a hair stylist for 3 years.
She has been a hair stylist since 2017.
They have been taking piano lessons for three years.
They have been taking piano lessons since 2017.
*Note: the last two examples are in the present perfect continuous/progressive form.
4. Asking About Experiences
When we ask about people’s experiences, we use the present perfect.
Have you read Atomic Habits?
Has she seen Hamilton?
Have they been to Italy?
Have you (ever) been to Korea?
*See below for how to answer questions.
One common mistake to avoid is using ‘ever’ in your answer. Don’t do that. To learn more about ‘ever’ and ‘never’ used with the present perfect, I recommend Grammar in Use: Present Perfect + Ever/Never. It includes a 12-question quiz.
5. Change Over Time
When we talk about change over time, we use the present perfect.
Your son has grown a lot!
I’ve learned a lot this past year.
You’ve gotten really good at playing the guitar!
The United States has changed a lot in the past ten years.
*Note: Contracted forms are common in spoken English. I have –> I’ve.
6. Uncompleted Actions
When we are expecting something that has not yet happened, we use the present perfect.
He hasn’t finished his homework (yet).
They haven’t arrived (yet).
Scientists haven’t developed a vaccine for COVID-19 yet.
*Note: We also use the present perfect when the actions have been completed if we do not say when they were completed: They have (already) arrived. When speaking it’s common to drop have/has in this case: They already arrived. or They arrived already.
If time is mentioned, use the simple past: They arrived at 8:00 PM.
7. Never: At No Time in the Past
When we are talking about something that has never happened, we use the present perfect.
I have never been to Alaska.
She has never seen the ocean.
He has never flown in a plane.
We have never eaten frog legs.
They have never spoken to us.
*Note: In this case, we use never between have/has and the past participle.
How to Answer Present Perfect Questions
Have you ever been to Korea?
Here are two ways you can answer:
1. Yes, I have.
2. No, I haven’t.
We do not use the past participle when answering, only Yes or No + have or has.
If you are having a casual conversation, there is no need to include information that is already known.
Example: Yes, I have been to Korea. No, I haven’t been to Korea.
There is no need to repeat what has already been said when answering a question.
Other natural ways to answer include adding more information, which helps keep the conversation going, as in the examples below.
1. Yes, actually, I went to Korea a few years ago for a business trip.
2. No, I went to Japan last year, but I didn’t have time to visit Korea.
*Note: The simple past is used because time periods are mentioned.
While you shouldn’t use ever in your response, you can use never.
Example: I’ve never been to Korea, but I went to Japan last year.
So, what does ever mean? When used with the present perfect it means ‘at any time up to now.’
Best Recommended Resource
You can find more information about how to form the present perfect, including negative and question forms in this complete guide. It includes the following:
- explanation of the past participle
- verb charts with a list of irregular past participles
- a really useful 15-question quiz
- explanation and quiz of ever, never, already, recently, lately, and just
- explanation and quiz of for and since
- explanation and quiz of the present perfect continuous
The best resource book I have ever found for explanations of words like ever is Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. It is full of useful explanations and examples!
For more examples and clear topic-related explanations of the present perfect, check out englishpage.com.
You can download a 14-page PDF of Espresso English’s Complete Guide to the Present Perfect here.
To learn about the different English verb tenses, check out English Verb Tenses. It includes a free 5-page PDF download.
More advanced learners might like to read The Difference Between the Present Perfect and the Past Perfect. It includes a video and a quiz.
Has this been useful?
Did you find the one example of the present perfect that I did not put in bold text? Do you have any questions?
I’d love to hear from you in a comment below!
Never stop learning!