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Present Perfect

The present perfect is usually used in situations where we are referring to an event or situation that started in the past and has continued to the present – and is still true or valid.

There are three main uses of the present perfect:

1. When we are not precise about when the event occurred:

               – we use phrases such as ‘recently’, ‘lately’, ‘never’, ‘ever’, ‘often’, ‘rarely’, ‘already’, ‘yet’, ‘just’, ‘always’, ‘frequently’. When we are specific about the time an event happened we use the simple past.

For example:        I’ve just spoken to my boss about the problem with the reservation.

                              The implication is that I spoke to my boss within the last few minutes.

For example:        Have you ever been to Tokyo?

                              No, but I’ve been to Peking. [we have not said when we went]

For example:        I have been to the USA three times.

                                    I went in 1992, 1997 and 2001.


       2012                           2014                                              2018                                                 Present

Already and Yet

‘Already’ and ‘yet’ can be considered opposites in that they express the opposite sentiment when used:

For example:        Have you finished your assignment already?

                              or           I’ve already finished my assignment.

The implication is that it is surprising that my assignment is completed.

For example         Have you finished your assignment yet?

               or           I’ve not finished my assignment yet.

The implication is that it the assignment is expected to be finished.

2. When the time period is unfinished at the time of speaking:

For example:        At 11am, you might ask – Have you spoken to your boss this morning?


                                                 11am      noon

But at 3pm you would ask – “Did you speak to your boss this morning?” [Because it is no longer the morning but you could still ask “Have you spoken to your boss today”].


                                                                    noon                              3pm

For example:      Imagine it is Thursday.


                               I have been to Rio de Janeiro 3 times this week.


Monday                1                                2                   3                     Thursday                          Friday

For example:      We are eating pizza and there is still some pizza left:

                              How many slices of pizza have you eaten?

                              I have eaten two slices. [there is still the possibility of eating more pizza]

If the pizza is all gone, we use the simple past: How many slices of pizza did you eat?


3. When something has started in the past and has continued to the present and is still true.

For example:        I have worked at this company for over 12 years.      

                              [and by implication I am still working for them]

Started working                                                                                     Still working          expect to continue

12 years ago                                                                                                   now                             working


In this case, it is frequently used with the word since.

For example: I have worked at this company since 1992.

Irregular Verbs

Again, with the Present Perfect, one of the main challenges is remembering all of the irregular verbs. Check out the table below for a list of the more common ones, and try to listen to the pronunciation as you read (using Google translate). 

Present Perfect Continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous is used in the 3rd situation above, where it is synonymous with the Present Perfect.   

Using the same example: I have been working at this company since 1992.

In other situations it answers the question “What have you been doing?” or suggests that an action has taken place repeatedly.

For example: I have been fixing my car.

I have been going to the dentist. (the action has happened repeatedly).

Thus in other situations it has a different meaning to the Present Perfect.

Compare: I have spoken to my boss. [emphasis is that the action is complete, although we don’t say when]

I’ve been speaking to my boss. [describes what the action has been, or suggests that it has happened several times recently. The exact meaning would depend on the context.]

Present Perfect: Text
Present Perfect: Image
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