Present Perfect Tense – A difficult tense

In this video we are going to look at the Present Perfect tense. It’s probably the most difficult tense to understand in English because it can be used in several different ways and it is not easy into translate to other languages because the equivalent tense is often not used in the same way.

Present Perfect comparison

Lets start by comparing the Present perfect with some other, more easy to understand tenses. Here are some examples.

  • “I walk to work every day.” This is present simple because it refers to something that happens regularly or normally.
  • “I walked to work yesterday.” This is past simple because it refers to something that happened at a specific point in the past and the action is completed.
  • “I am walking to work right now.” This is present continuous because it refers to an action that is in the process of happening now at this moment.
  • “I have walked to work.” This is present perfect. So what does that mean?

It can be confusing because it looks and sounds like it is referring to the past right? So why is it called present perfect? Well it is actually talking about the present moment, but specifically how an event in the past affects the present moment.

In this case, “I have walked to work.” means. I am at work now and I got here by walking.

Here are some more examples.

  • I have washed my car.
  • I have done the shopping.
  • You have had three cups of coffee.
  • I have been to New York.

Forming the Present Perfect

Here you can see that the present Perfect is formed using the Auxiliary verb ‘have’ and the ‘Past Participle” form of the main verb.

All of these examples are positive but sentences can be expressed negatively or as questions too. If you have seen our video on Basic English Verb Structure you will see more about this.

Let’s have a look at them in their negative forms.

  • I haven’t washed my car.
  • I haven’t done the shopping.
  • I haven’t had three cups of coffee.
  • They haven’t stolen my phone.

And let’s look at the question forms.

  • Have you washed my car?
  • Have you done the shopping.
  • How many cups of coffee have you had?
  • Have they stolen my phone?

So in all of those examples you can see how, to some extent we are talking about the present moment, now, but specifically about how something from the past affects the present moment.

As you can see, the present perfect tense is used in many different ways which is why it is a difficult tense to learn, but this timeline is always true to some extent, we are talking about how the present moment is affected by something in the past. That is why it is called Present Perfect even though it talks about something from the past.

We have made some more videos to examine the ways it is used in more detail.

We are going to look at how the present perfect is used to talk about information that is new for the listener like news.

  • Using Present Perfect to talk about new information.
  • We often use the adverbs Just, Already and Yet with the present perfect as well as the adverbs ever and never.
  • Present perfect vs past simple, they are often confused so we will look at that in more detail and do a comparison.
  • We will also look at how the present perfect is used differently in American English.

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