Present Perfect

Breaking Down the Present Perfect Tense

The Present Perfect Tense tells something about an action that has completed in immediate past, or at the time the statement is made. Present perfect tense may also refer to habitual or repeated past action.

This verb tense is formed by adding either one of the auxiliariesOpens in new window has or have (as appropriate) to the past participle of the main verb.

The present perfect tense stresses emphasis on:

1.  Actions that happened in the past at an unspecified time — The present perfect tense shows an action has happened (or never happened) before now, the exact time is not important. If there is a specific mention of time, the simple past is used i.e. “I saw his mum yesterday”. But here in present perfect tense we simply say “I saw his mum”.

See Practical Examples:
  • They have relocated to Memphis.
  • She has renewed her data subscription.
  • We’ve not seen the music video.

2.  Actions that began in the past and still going on in the present — This tells something about a repeated action that has begun before now.

See Practical Examples:
  • I have travelled on air several times.
  • We have had three practical classes so far this semester.
  • He’s lost his phones multiple times this year.

3.  Actions with a length of time — The present perfect tense, when used with for or since, expresses a situation that began in the past and continues to the present. In the examples below, observe the difference between since and for: since + a particular time, and for + duration of time.

Examples include:
  • We have lived in Memphis since five years ago.
  • We’ve lived in Memphis for five years.
  • I’ve loved her since the day we became lovers.
  • I have loved her for a very long time.
  • She has known him since high school.
  • She’s known him for many years.
Important Hint  

The present perfect has this meaning primarily for those verbs that are usually not used in any of the progressive tenses. This meaning is exactly the same as the meaning of the present perfect progressive tense.

How to Use the Present Perfect Tense

1.  Expression of Affirmative Statements with Present Perfect Tense — To make affirmative statement with present perfect tense, the Structure: Subject + have/has + past participle of verb is used.

See Practical Examples:
  • Karl has won some prestigious awards.
  • Lola has liked cartoon movies since she was 7.
  • George has been a kind friend for many years.

2.  Expression of Negative Statements with Present Perfect Tense — To make negative statement with present perfect tense, the Structure: Subject + have/has + not + past participle of verb is used.

See Practical Examples:
  • He has not won any prestigious award.
  • She has not liked cartoon movies since she was 7.
  • He hasn’t been a kind friend for many years.

3.  Expression of Interrogative Statement with Present Perfect Tense. — To make interrogative statement with present perfect tense, the Structure: (interrogative word) + have/has + subject + past participle of Verb is used.

See Practical Examples:
  • Have you seen Andy?
  • has he gone?
  • has she been here?
Important Hint 

Note that when used with interrogative word, normally the interrogative will come before the auxiliary ‘have/has’.

Examples include:
  • where (interrogative word) have you seen Andy?
  • Why has he gone?
  • when has she been here?

4.  Expression of Negative Interrogative Statement with Present Perfect Tense — To make negative interrogative statement with present perfect tense, the Structure: (Interrogative word) + have/has + not + subject + participle of verb is used. However, if the subject is singular as in he/she/it we normally use the auxiliary has, and if the subject is plural as in we/you/they, we use the auxiliary have;:

See Practical Examples:
  • Have not you seen Andy?
  • has not he gone?
  • has not she been here?
Contraction — [‘Auxiliary + Not’]
  • Short (Contracted) Form of ‘have not’ ⇒ haven’t
  • Short (contracted) form of ‘has not’ ⇒ hasn’t
Examples include:
  • Haven’t you seen Andy?
  • hasn’t he gone?
  • Hasn’t she been here?

Note that the Interrogatives are rarely used in formal contexts. Chances are you will seldom have needs to use them.

Important Hint  

Never use ‘Auxiliary + Not’ before Subject. You must use contracted form of ‘Auxiliary + Not’ before subject.

You cannot say:
  • Have not you seen Andy?
  • Has not he gone?
  • Has not she been here?
  • [These are wrong]
Use the contracted form:
  • haven’t you seen Andy?
  • Hasn’t he gone?
  • hasn’t she been here?
  • [These are correct]
    The Four Aspects of Present Tense
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