Use of the present perfect simple

(Explanation how to use the present perfect simple in English)

Table of contents – present perfect simple

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the present perfect simple
  2. Conjugation of the present perfect simple
  3. Further explanations and exercises

When is the present perfect simple used?

The present perfect is an English tense that has a strong relation to the present and is therefore rather used to express the present than the past (this may be different in other languages). However, it is possible that the action or the process completely or partly took place in the past – but still bearing an effect on the present.

The following cases demonstrate the use of the present perfect simple:

  • The present perfect simple stands for processes and particularly states that started in the past and are still true in the present (some signal words for indication are: ‘since, for, lately’, etc.):
    • “Julia has lived in Spain for 17 years.”
    • “They’ve always wanted to go on a boat trip.”
    • Lately, I’ve been very busy.”
    • Careful: For processes that have not been interrupted the present perfect continuous is usually used:
      • “Sue and Ellie have been playing tennis for over 2 hours now.”
  • This tense is also utilized when a present result of a past action or process needs to be emphasized:
    • “I’m sorry, I can’t write that letter. I’ve broken my arm.”
  • When actions or processes have just stopped or have just been terminated, you can also use the present perfect simple. In this case, ‘just’ is a frequent accompanying word:
    • “No, I’m not hungry. I’ve just eaten.”
    • “Maria has just arrived at the train station.”
  • Finally, it describes processes that have not taken place yet or that have taken place once, twice, or more often (typical signal words could be: ‘ever, already, never, so far, till now, yet, lately, recently’):
    • Have you read the book yet?”
    • “They have never been to Rome.”

How is the present perfect simple conjugated?

The present perfect simple is formed by using the present form of the auxiliary verb ‘to have’ (which is ‘have’ or ‘has’) and the past participle of the corresponding verb. The past participle of regular verbs is basically formed by adding ‘-ed’ to the verb; irregular verbs have special forms, which are listed in the third column of the table of the irregular verbsTable of the irregular Verbs.

Rule for conjugation of the present perfect simple

Auxiliary verb ‘to have’ + past participle of the corresponding verb

Additional examples for the formation of the present perfect simple

Except for questions, the auxiliary ‘to have’ is often used with its short forms:

  • Have you been to work today?”
    • question with inversion; for more details see the explanation ‘word order in English questions’Word order in English questions
  • “James works a lot. He hasn’t been on holiday for a long time.”
    • with the short form of ‘has not
  • “We’ve bought a new house for our children.”
    • with the short form of ‘have

Further explanations relating to the ‘Present perfect simple’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Use of the present perfect simple’ and could also be interesting:

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