English grammar – Present perfect

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Form

Affirmative: have / has + verb 3 (past participle)
Negative: haven’t / hasn’t + verb 3 (past participle)

Meaning

  1. Present perfect is used to show that a finished action/event has a connection with the present or has a result in the present.
    • I can’t go out because I’ve lost my keys.
    • She’s had an accident and she’s in the hospital now.
    • I’ve had lunch so I’m not hungry.
  2. Present perfect is used to give news or talk about recent events.
    • She’s had a baby girl.
    • There’s been a big fire at the factory.
    • The value of the dollar has risen in recent weeks.
  3. Just is used to express a very recent action.
    • She’s just had a baby.
    • I’ve just had lunch.
  4. Present perfect is used to talk about a period of time not finished at the time of speaking.
    • I‘ve had three cups of coffee today. (today is not finished)
    • I had three cups of coffee yesterday. (yesterday is finished)
    • Have you seen the news this week? (this week is not finished)
    • Did you see the news yesterday? (yesterday is finished)
    • I’ve been on holiday twice this year. (this year is not finished)
    • I went on holiday twice last year. (last year is finished)
  5. Present perfect is used with for or since to talk about how long a present situation has lasted.
    • I’ve lived in Spain for 10 years. (for + period of time)
    • She hasn’t spoken to him since April last year. (since + specific date/time)
  6. Present perfect is used to talk about experiences, or about an indefinite time in the past. We may not know when the action happened or it may not be important.
    • Have you ever eaten frogs’ legs? (at any time in your life until now)
    • I’ve never had a computer. (at any time in my life until now)
    • She has read all the Harry Potter books. (at some time in the past – it’s not important when)
    • I’ve seen Shrek. (at some time in the past – it’s not important when)
  7. We often talk about repeated actions/events from the past until now.
    • We’ve visited China many times.
    • I’ve been to France twice.
    • The phone has rung five times since lunchtime.
  8. Already is used to say something happened sooner than expected.
    • I’ve already seen Mission Impossible.
  9. Yet is used to say that we expect something to happen.
    • I haven’t seen Mission Impossible yet.
    • Have you spoken to Dave yet?

Additional points

  1. Been and gone
    • They’ve gone to Greece for a holiday. (they are in Greece now)
    • They’ve been to Greece. (they went to Greece and they’ve come back)

Pronunciation

See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.

  1. Been is usuallly reduced to its weak form.
    • I’ve been to New York: /bɪn/

Related grammar points

Present Perfect Continuous
Tense and aspect


2 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Sam says:

    Teacher informs students that he will exit the classroom and something will be different about him. When he comes back the students have to say what the teacher ‘has done’.

    Teacher leaves, comes back with no shoes on, watch taken off, tie over his shoulder, belt off etc.

    Teacher elicits “you have taken off your watch“.

    – for event in the past with present effects though when it happened is not important.

  2. Sam says:

    Find two pictures of the same building – maybe a house. One photo is of the house wrecked and the other is of it cleaned up. Now ask the students

    “what have I done to the house?”
    “You have replaced the door”…

    – for past event having present effect though when it happened is not important.

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