Present Perfect Simple

This post will look at how the Present Perfect Simple is formed, how to use it, along with some exercises to help you with your understanding.

The present perfect is a tense that is used a lot in English; sometimes errors is made by mistaking it with the past simple, the present simple, and others.

After reading this post and doing the exercises you will have a greater understanding of the present perfect. We are going to keep adding to this page and making it even better, so if there is anything that you would like us to add then get in contact.

Let’s start with a song that uses the present perfect a lot: U2 – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Try and spot the different examples of the present perfect (including the title).

Song Using Present Perfect

Present Perfect Form

Affirmative
Subject Auxiliary Verb (to have) Past Participle
I / we / you / they have worked
He / She / It has worked

Here are the contractions of the affirmative present perfect.

  • We’ve = We have
  • You’ve = You have
  • They’ve = They have
  • She’s = She has
  • He’s = He has
  • It’s = It has
Negative
Subject Auxiliary Verb (to have) in the negative Past Participle
I / we / you / they have not worked
He / She / It has not worked

‘Haven’t’ is the contracted form of ‘have not’
‘Hasn’t’ is the contracted form of ‘has not’

Question
Auxiliary Verb (to have) Subject Past Participle
Have I / we / you / they worked?
Has He / She / It worked?

Time Expressions

The first thing to note is that the present perfect simple is used to describe actions that have happened at an unspecified time in the past. It CAN’T be used with specific time expressions: yesterday, two days ago, last night etc. (except when we use since). Time expressions used with the present perfect are: this week (month, year), today, for, since, ever, never, already, yet, and still.

Talking about Experiences

“Have you ever….?”
This is a common question in English. When you meet people they want to know what you have done in your life. When asking this question it is not important ‘when’ but ‘if’ you have done something. Look out for the adverbs “never,” “ever” and “before.”

  • I have climbed the highest mountains (from the song).
  • I have been to France.
  • Have you ever played chess?
  • We haven’t met him before.
  • I have never seen that film.
  • Have you ever been to Japan?
  • She has never eaten Sushi!

David Talks about His Experiences

Hi my name is David and I like to travel. I have travelled to Japan, China, Thailand and South Korea but I have never been to South America and I would love to go. I also like to watch movies. I have seen many different films but I have never seen Star Wars. Last year I started learning Spanish but I have never spoken to a native Spanish speaker.

Actions that continue into the present

“I have been a teacher for…”
We use the present perfect to talk about an action that started in the past and continues in the present (and probably will continue in the future). Look out for – ‘for’ and ‘since’

  • I have been a teacher for 2 years.
  • She hasn’t seen him since Saturday
  • How long have you worked here?

‘For’ is used when we talk about duration (two minutes, one hour, two weeks, three months, four years etc.) and since is used when referencing a specific time (Saturday, last year, two years ago, 1999, January).

New Information

“Ouch, I’ve cut myself!”
We use the present perfect to talk about new information or a change.

  • I have bought a new car. (I didn’t have one but now I do)
  • She’s left (She was here and now she isn’t)
  • They have gone to Spain. (They were here yesterday but now they are in Spain.

Actions still waiting to be completed

This is used to talk about an action when we are still waiting for it to be completed. Look out for – “still.”

  • But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (from the song).
  • She still hasn’t arrived yet.
  • They still haven’t done it.
  • The game still hasn’t finished.

Exercise

1. Write about where you have been to. E.g., I have been to France, Italy etc.

2. Write about other experiences. What you have and haven’t done. E.g., I have tried sushi but I haven’t tried Indian food. I’ve watched a lot of films etc.,

3. Write about what has changed over the past year. E.g., I’ve passed my driving test etc, I’ve bought a new car and I’ve moved to London Etc.,

4. Read the following present perfect dialogues to become familiar with more examples.