Present Perfect Tense – Meaning, Rules and Examples

Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect (have been, has been, have written, has written) shows an action completed in the present time or on the effect of which continues. It shows something already done, just done or not yet done.

  • I have seen her.
  • He has been caught red-handed.
  • I have passed the examination this year.
  • Have you taken up your work?
  • The cell phone has replaced the postman.
  • Experiments have proved that a healthy brain continues to grow neurons indefinitely.
  • He has just gone out.

Study this example conversation:
Yaseen: Have you travelled a lot, Shabir?
Shabir: Yes, I have been to lots of places.
Yaseen: Really? Have you ever been to China?
Shabir: Yes, I have been to China twice.
Yaseen: What about Russia?
Shabir: No, I haven’t been to India.

Note: When we talk about a period of time that continues from the past until now, we use the present perfect (have been/have travelled etc). Here, Yaseen and Shabir are talking about the places Shabir has visited in his life (which is a period that continues until now).

Where to use?

1. To indicate completed activities in the immediate past (with just); as:

  • He has just gone out.
  • It has just struck ten.
  • He has just finished his work.

2. To express past actions whose time is not given and not definite; as:

  • Have you read “Gulliver’s Travels?
  • Mr Ashiq has been to Iran?

3. To talk about things in the past that are connected to the present.

  • I have lost my ticket (it isn’t with me now)
  • Sameer has gone to Delhi. (he is in Delhi or on his way now)
  • Have you changed your socks? (Are you wearing a chain pair now?)
  • We have eaten all the eggs. (there aren’t any left)

4. To give new information or to announce a recent happening.

  • I have cut my finger! Can you give me a band-aid?
  • The government troops have retaken the city.

5. To talk about past actions that are not recent but are still a part of our experience.

  • I have never had a cold. (I can still get it.)
  • Have you seen ‘Taray Zameen Par’? (Do you know the film?)
  • I have been to Indonesia. (I know Indonesia)

6. We use the present perfect with just, already and yet.
Just means ‘a short time ago’.
Already means ‘sooner than expected.
We use yet when we are expecting. something to happen.
Just and already come before the past participle (heard, sold).
Yet comes at the end of a question or a negative sentence.

  • We’ve just come back from our holiday.
  • I’ve just had an idea.
  • It isn’t a very good party. Most people have already gone home.
  • My brother has already crashed his new car.
  • It is ten o’clock and you haven’t finished breakfast yet.
  • Has your course started yet?
  • Pari hasn’t come home yet?
  • Haven’t you finished your homework yet?

7. In the following examples , the speakers are talking about a period that continues until now (recently/in the last few days/so far/since breakfast/ for a long etc).

  • Have you heard from Jaffer recently?
  • I’ve met a lot of friends in the last few days.
  • I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten anything since breakfast.
  • It’s nice to see you again. We haven’t seen each other for a long time.
  • Everything is going well. We haven’t had any problem so far.

8. We use the present perfect with today/this morning/this evening etc. when these periods are not finished at the time of speaking.

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  • I’ve drunk four cups of coffee today. (perhaps I’ll drink more before today is finished)
  • Have you had a holiday this year?
  • I haven’t watched television so far this week.
  • I haven’t seen Mari this morning. Have you?
  • Nazir hasn’t worked hard this time.

9. A very important use of the present perfect is that it is used with for and since.
Remember: we use ‘for’ to say how long this period is (for three days etc), we use ‘since’ to say when the period began (since Friday etc)

  • Waseem has only had the camera for three days.
  • I’ve felt really tired for a whole week now.
  • We’ve lived in Oxford since 1995.
  • I’ve been in the college since 2006.
  • The people have been at the hotel since Friday.
  • I’ve been at IGNOU since 1985.
  • I’ve been at IGNOU for 28 years.

10. We use how long in questions:

  • How long has Waseem had that camera?
  • How long have Firdous and Nisa been married?
  • Oh! For about three years.

11. After it is/this is the first/second time, we use the present perfect:

  • This is the first time we have been to Tehran, so it is all new to us.
  • This is the second time Ali has forgotten to give me a message.
  • I love this film. I think it is the fourth time I have seen it.
  • This is the 10th time I have a seen a cricket match.

12. We use ever and never with the present perfect.

Note: We use ever in question. In, have you ever been to Philippines? The word ever means in your whole life up to the present time. Never means not ever

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Let us understand this with a conversation:

Aquib: where you have been this time, Mari?
Mari: I’ve just come back from Iran.
Aquib: You get around, don’t you? I have never been to Iran, was it good?
Mari: It was very nice, more better than India. I might go to Iraq next time. Have you ever been there?
Aquib: No, I haven’t.

Here are some more examples:

  • Have you ever played cricket? No, never.
  • Has Ali ever had any fun? I don’t think so.
  • I’ve never ridden a motorbike in my life.
  • You’ve never given me flowers before.
  • This is the most expensive hotel we’ve ever stayed in.
  • Have you ever been sailing?
  • No, I’ve never been sailing.

Note: Gone to or been to
→Mari has gone to Iran.
Gone there means she is still there.
→Mari has been to Iran.
Been there means that the visit is over

Structural Rules of Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect is the present tense of have + a past participle.

Structure → has/have + verb (past participle form)

I/you/we/they have washed OR I/you/we/they’ve washed.

He/she/it/your friend has washed OR he/she/it/your friend’s washed.

Note: If the subject of the verb is in third person singular, the form in the present tense is ‘has’. For all other persons, singular or plural we use ‘have’.

The auxiliary verb have/has is used to begin question in the perfective.

  • He has completed his homework.
  • Has he completed his homework?
  • You have heard the news.
  • Have you heard the news?

Note the pattern is:

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Have/has + subject + past participle of the verb.

  • Have I/you/we/they washed?
  • Has he/she/it/your friend washed?

To form negative, the ‘not’ participle is added to the auxiliary verb ‘have/has’.

  • He has not completed his work.
  • I have not finished my work.

Note the pattern is:
Subject + has/have + not + past participle of the verb

  • Have I/you/we/they not washed?
  • Has he/she/it/your friend has not washed?

Points to know

Remember: Regular past participle ends in ‘ed’, e.g. washed, handed, finished, completed etc.

  • We’ve washed the dishes.
  • The aircraft has landed safely.
  • Have you finished your exams?
  • The students haven’t completed their syllabus.

Some participles are irregular:

I’ve made a shopping list.
We’ve sold our ear.
I’ve thought about it a bit.
Have you written the letter?
She hasn’t drunk her coffee.

There is a present perfect of ‘be’ and of have.
The weather has been awful.
I’ve had a lovely time, thank you!

Distinguish Between Present Perfect and Past Simple

Present Perfect Vs Past Simple