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Using the Present Perfect Tense | Advanced Verb Tenses

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Advanced Level

Although the present perfect tense has different meanings, each of them brings to the present the action or state that the verb expresses.

In this lesson, you will learn what the present perfect tense expresses in its different uses.

In this lesson

(This page) Uses of the present perfect tense

More uses of the present perfect tense

Practice 1 (conversational)

Practice 2 (formal, academic)

You Must Understand Time Frames First

When you use verb tenses, you place actions, events, or states within a particular time frame. (If needed, you can learn more on time frames here, but the the summary below should give you enough information for now.)

Do not get caught up on the names of the verb tenses; otherwise, it can get confusing. For now, just keep in mind that different verb tenses change the time frame regardless what they are called.

The same action in three time frames

To study

I’m studying now.

(a present time frame; it’s happening now)

I studied last night.

(a past time frame; it’s history)

I’ll study again tomorrow.

(a future time frame; it will happen in the future)

I have studied English for three years now.

(a time frame starting before now and moving up to the present)

Throughout this lesson, keep in mind that the present perfect tense always has a connection to a present time frame. Even when an action, event, or state may have initiated or happened in the past, the focus is on present time frame.


When you use the present perfect tense, you bring to the present the action or state expressed by the verb. Even when an action may have started in the past, the present perfect tense is actually about the present.

For example, an action may have initiated or occurred in the past, but the effect or result of the action is still current:

I have lived in the United States for 10 years.

In the above example, “living somewhere” started in the past, but it is still occurring in the present. Keep this notion in mind as you analyze the meanings what the present perfect tense expresses in the situations below.

1. An ongoing (now) action, event, or state that started in the past

As you saw earlier, an action, event, or state may have started in the past, but it is still ongoing in the present. It’s happening now.

Common expressions: You often see this use of the present perfect tense with for or since, which brings the event, action, or state to a present time frame:

  • for + amount of time (up to the present)
  • since + the starting point in time in the past (up to the present)

Examples of ongoing action starting in the past

I have worked for this company for 20 years.
(I started working there 20 years ago, and I still work there now.)

This store has been here for 100 years.
(It was here 100 years ago and is still around today.)

John has lived in Chicago all his life.
(John lived in Chicago when he was born and still lives there today.)

Senator Ecks has been a senator for a long time.
(Senator Ecks started being a senator a long time ago and is still a senator today.)

2. An experience, accomplishment, or change that is still important in the present

You use the present perfect tense to talk about experiences or accomplishments. The action or state may have happened in the past, but its effect carries on to the present.

Similarly, you use the present perfect tense to express that something happened in the past that created a change that is still relevant in the present.

Common expressions: You often see this use of the present perfect tense with recently, before, never, or not yet.

Note that in these situations, when an experience, accomplishment, or change happened is not important. The focus is not on the past time frame but, rather, on the present impact of the experience, accomplishment, or change.

Compare the present perfect and the simple past
Present Perfect (focus on the experience)

Ella has graduated from college. (She has a college degree now.)

Do you know if she has found a job yet? (Do you know if she has a job now?)

Past Simple (focus on the even in the past)

Ella found a job with Acme Corporation right after college. (This happened in the past.)

Do you know when she started working there? (Do you know when that happened in the past?)

Examples expressing prior experience

Have you ever been to Japan?
(The focus is on the experience at present. It does not matter when it may or may not have happened.)

I have been to Japan twice before.
(In the present, I can say that I have had this experience twice before.)

I have already read this book.
(It doesn't matter when I read this book happened, only that it is on my list of books I have read before.)

Examples expressing present accomplishment

Mary has earned a degree in psychology and a degree in sociology.
(These are the degrees Mary has now; it does not matter when the earned each of them.)

Oncologists have found a promising new treatment for cancer.
(What matters is that they have a promising new treatment today, not when they found it.)

The long-time senator has recently lost his re-election.
(It does not matter exactly when he lost happened, only that today he does not have that victory.)

Examples expressing change with an effect in the present

John has been promoted recently. He is a supervisor now.
(When he was promoted is unimportant, only the effect in the present.)

My coffee has gotten cold.
(When it happened does not matter, only that I have a cold cup of coffee in front of me right now.)

Summers have been warmer lately due to climate change.
(The focus is on the present effect; exactly when it got warmer does not matter.)

I have lost my glasses.
(The focus is on the present effect; I do not have my glasses anymore.)

3. An action or thought ever or never experienced at any time before now

Obviously, if an action or thought has never occurred, it has no link to the past. You are using a present time frame, so the present perfect is used.

Common expressions: You often see this use of the present perfect tense with ever, ever... before, never, and not... ever.

Examples expressing actions ever or never experienced

Have you ever seen a ghost?
(any time before now? ever?)

Scientists have never observed black matter directly.
(at no time before now; never)

I have never understood why people vote against their own interests.
(not at any point before now)

Lesson continues