Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

Present Perfect

The present perfect is very common in English conversations.

What you’ll learn:

You’ll see:

  • lots of examples
  • lots of situations

After reading about the present perfect, you can take a quiz to test your knowledge.

Each use of the present perfect is highlighted in bold text so you can easily see it in use.

Have you studied the present perfect?

Have you learned how and when to use it?

Forming 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.

Tips for Learning Irregular Verbs in English!

When do we use the present perfect?

We use it 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.

Examples:
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.

Examples:
I have lived in Korea for thirteen years.
I have lived in Korea since 2010.
She has been a hair stylist for 3 years.
She has been a hair stylist since 2020.
They have been taking piano lessons for three years.
They have been taking piano lessons since 2020.
*Note: the last two examples are in the present perfect continuous/progressive form. For longer time frames, the present perfect and present perfect continuous can both be used and have the same meaning. Using the continuous form emphasizes that it will continue into the future.

4. Asking about experiences

When we ask about people’s experiences, we use the present perfect.

Examples:
Have you read Atomic Habits?
Has she seen Hamilton?
Have they been to Italy?
Has he tried your homemade cookies?
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’, 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.

Examples:
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.

Examples:
He hasn’t finished his homework (yet).
They haven’t arrived (yet).
Scientists haven’t developed a cure 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.

Examples:
I have never been to Iceland.
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.’

Present Perfect Quiz

15 questions related to the form and use of the present perfect tense

Best Recommended Resource

This site is reader supported through affiliate purchases. I only recommend trusted resources.

If you want additional grammar instruction on this tense, there are many great online resources, which I’m happy to share with you so you can learn more. The most comprehensive guide can be found here:

The Complete Guide is a comprehensive lesson with four quizzes for you to test your understanding.

You can find more information about how to form the present perfect, including negative and question forms in this complete lesson 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

Additional Resources

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 this tense, 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.

Never stop learning!