Present Perfect


    1 Differences between Past Simple and the Present Perfect Tense

    We do not have the Present Perfect tense in Czech so it is difficult for us to
    distinguish this tense from the Past Simple.

    The main difference is that the Past
    Simple describes an event that happened in the past.
    I was born in 1988. – it happened in the past
    The Present Perfect is more connected with the present or at least the time of the action is in
    the present.
    I have found it. – I see the result here and now in the present.
    I have lost it. – I see here and now that I don’t have it.

    Past Simple tensePresent Perfect
    - contains the detail of when the event occurred.
    - Time is an important part of the sentence.
    - does not indicate when the event occurred
    - the exact time is not relevant
    - it may be the event had already happened (a thing of the past) but it happened during
    the time that is still running, e.g. today, this week, etc.
    I saw her yesterday.I've seen her today.
    - the period ended- the period has not yet ended
    They got married last year.They have been married for two years.
    - the exact time of the event in the past- repeated events
    I was in Berlin in 2014.I have never been to Berlin.
    - without a relation to the presence
    - simple storytelling
    - Something now is the result of what happened.
    - The relation to the present
    I broke my hand when I was a child.I've broken my hand and I can't play.
    LANGUAGE: five days ago, last year, yesterday, last week, in 1998LANGUAGE: just, already, a not yet, this week/year, so far, today, ever, never

    2 Forming the Present Perfect Tense

    How to correctly create sentences in the Present Perfect tense?
    subject + have / has + past participle + rest of the sentence

    Positive form:  
    I have seentwo films today.
    Youhave beena teacher for 4 years.
    Hehas boughta fast car.
    Shehas eatenall my breakfast.
    Wehave metfive actors in our life.
    Youhave donea good job.
    Theyhave livedin Prague since 1998.

    We use the short form in conversation and the full form in formal correspondence.

    • We create the negative Present Perfect by adding NOT to the auxiliary verb have / has.
    Negative form:   
    Ihaven't seenthis film yet.
    Youhaven't givenme the right book.
    Hehasn't toldme so far.
    Shehasn't comeyet.
    Wehaven't seenthem for ages.
    Youhaven't gotmy idea.
    Theyhaven't hada good time.
    • Another way to create a negative of the Present Perfect is to use the word “never”.

    Never forms a negative sentence and so we no longer use the negative NOT after
    the auxiliary verb HAVE.
    I have never cried in the cinema.
    I have not never cried in the cinema.
    I’ve never eaten an octopus.

    • When creating a question in the Present Perfect tense, we just switch the subject and the
      auxiliary verb have / has.
    HaveIsaid it right?
    Haveyouever read this book?
    Hasheapologized yet?
    Hasshetold you about the baby?
    Haveweever seen each other?
    Haveyouever arrived late for a date?
    Havetheyever met their boss?

    3 When to use the Present Perfect

    There are complicated definitions and theories for using the Present Perfect tense in English which most students can’t wrap their heads around. But please don’t worry! We will explain this tense in an easy to understand way.

    Three basic rules will be enough for correct use:

    1) The time we are talking about is not over yet
    I have seen my friend today.
    She has won three tournaments this year.
    2) We do not specify time at all
    Have you seen my car keys?
    3)  Using ever and never
    I have never been to Prague.
    Have you ever eaten an octopus?

    4 Prepositions and Adverbs associated with the Present
    Perfect Tense

    The Present Perfect tense in English is characterized by the frequent use of the following
    prepositions and adverbs.

    • JUST
      indicates that the event took place a short while ago
    I’m not hungry. I’ve just had lunch. 
    I’ve just been on a trip to France. 
    It can’t be ready. They’ve only just started.
      we often use already if something happens before we expected
    I’ve already told him. 
    A: When are you going to do your homework? 
    B: No worries, I’ve already done it.
    • YET
      shows that the speaker expects something to happen
    I’ve written the letter, but I haven’t sent it yet
    I haven’t spoken to her yet
    He hasn’t finished yet
      we want to say that only a brief moment has passed since something happened
    She has recently bought a new car. 
    Have you seen any good films recently
    • FOR
      the time during which something happens
    He’s been married to Annie for 5 years. 
    I have worked in England for ten years. 
    I haven’t seen you for ages.
    • SINCE
      the moment from which something happens
    She’s been married to Thomas since 2014.
    The country has been independent since 1948. 
    England has not won the football World Cup since 1966. 
      something happens from a certain moment to the present
    He started working for the company when he left school, and has been there ever since.
    I’ve felt fine ever since.
    • SO FAR
      something happens from a certain moment to the present
    I haven’t done it so far.
    So far we’ve made £32,000.

    5 Present Perfect Continuous

    Unlike the Present Perfect, which focuses on the outcome of the event, the Present Perfect Continuous focuses on the course of the activity.

    These are still the present perfect tenses, thus the events we describe in this way have started in the
    past and are still in existence.

    Here’s an example:

    I have been drawing a picture. – Here we emphasize that we are drawing a picture, not whether it is already done, so we will use the Present Perfect Continuous. (The event began sometime in the past, and now it continues. However, its result is not important, nor whether it has ended.)
    I have drawn a picture. – Here we are interested in the fact that the picture is already finished and therefore we will use the Present Perfect. We’re just saying we’ve finished the activity. (Even this
    form connects the past with the present. I have drawn a picture (it happened, the finished event, the past) – the picture is now finished (impact on the present).

    6 Forming the Present Perfect Continuous

    How to correctly form a sentence in the Present Perfect Continuous?
    subject + have / has + past verb “to be” + gerund  (-ing) + rest of the sentence

    Positive form:  
    Ihave been repairingmy car.
    Youhave been searchingfor it for two hours.
    Hehas been playingtennis.
    Shehas been doingher homework since 5 o'clock.
    Wehave been runningfor half an hour already.
    Youhave been paintingthe room for ages.
    Theyhave been trainingsince their last defeat.
    • The negative of the Present Perfect Continuous is created by adding the negative NOT to the auxiliary verb have / has.
      • For example: I haven’t been talking on the ‘phone all evening!
    • It is rarely used, for example, when we want to say that instead of doing one thing we were doing something different.
      • A: You have been lying in your bed since this morning!
        B: I haven’t been lying in my bed, I’ve been repairing the car in the garage.
    • If we use a negative in the Present Perfect, we show that the activity has not taken place at all, it has not been taking place – thus the emphasis on activity is disappearing, and therefore we use a simple variant of the Present Perfect.
      • For example: We haven’t been dancing since the last ball. x We haven’t danced since the last ball. – We are not trying to show that the activity has not taken place at all, but that it has not been taking place.
    Negative form:  
    Ihaven't been teachingsince last September.
    Youhaven't been usingyour tools recently.
    Hehasn't been listeningfor the last five minutes.
    Shehasn't been sleepingwell for some time.
    Wehaven't been takingour medicine for that long.
    Youhaven't been walkingyour dog for ages.
    Theyhaven't been doinganything all day.
    • As we already know from the Present Perfect, another way to form a negative in the Present Perfect tenses is to use the word “never”. The same rule can be applied for the Present Perfect Continuous.

    Never forms a negative in the sentence and therefore we no longer use the negative NOT after the auxiliary verb HAVE.
    I have never been working so hard.
     I have not never been working so hard.
    I’ve never been running for so long.

    HaveIbeen doing it right?
    Haveyoubeen waiting for him?
    Hashebeen running recently?
    Hasshebeen sleeping well?
    Havewebeen studying enough?
    Haveyoureally been repairing the car for that long?
    Havetheyever been running in the town?

    7 Using the Present Perfect Continuous

    We use the Present Perfect Continuous:

    a) When we talk about an activity (event), which started sometime in the past and is still going on.
    Example: I have been sitting here for ten minutes.

    b) If we focus on the course and not on the outcome.
    Example: She has done her homework. x She has been doing her homework.

    • In the first case, the activity is finished – the homework is already done, so we use the Present Perfect. In the second example, the activity is likely to continue – the person started doing their homework in the past and (probably) is still doing it.
      Therefore, we use the Present Perfect Continuous.

    c) If we are talking about an activity (event) that has led to something that is happening at the same time.
    Example: I am prepared because I have been training – In this example I do not mention the exact time when the activity was going on, but I just mention it as the reason for the current state. We use the Present Perfect Continuous because we indicate that the course of the activity is the reason for the current state.

    8 Differences between the Present Perfect and the Present Perfect Continuous

    The Present Perfect ContinuousThe Present Perfect
    - I started in the past, I haven't finished yet
    - emphasis on the action
    - a simple statement that I did something
    - emphasis on the result
    I have been writing a letter for two hours.I’ve written a letter.
    I have been picking mushrooms.I have picked five mushrooms so far.
    - It doesn't matter how many mushrooms I have, but that I collected them
    - Emphasis on the action, I just say I collected them
    - the most important point is the result - how many mushrooms I already have.
    - The event that repeats for some time that still lasts- a simple announcement that something has happened (we don't mention when
    He’s been losing his keys regularly.He’s lost his keys.
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    Vendula Nedělová
    She completed her master's degree at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, specializing in English language, music culture, pedagogy, and social pedagogy. She has many years of experience in language teaching in the Czech Republic, USA, Indonesia and Germany. She works as a methodologist and coordinator of language courses in ONLINE learning, where she leads a team of lecturers and the creation of language courses for more than 137 000 students. Vendula follows the motto: “Learning should be fun, because if we enjoy what we do, then it makes sense”.