While not the most widely used or well-known grammar tense in the English language, the ‘perfect’ tense does come up every now and then in either your writing, speaking, or listening skills so it’s important to understand both the usage of the ‘perfect tense’ as well as the forming of this grammar tense. We’ll begin this series of the ‘perfect tense’ with its’ usage and formation in the present. In the next two posts, we’ll then dive in to the past and future forms and uses of the ‘perfect tense.’ When you get the basic grammar tenses down as I have gone over in past ‘English Corner’ posts, you can move on to more challenging and specifically used tenses such as the ‘perfect tense.’
It may be surprising to teach this right off the bat but the present perfect tense helps to create a link between the past and the present. In a present perfect sentence, you are going to be describing an action or an event that has happened before but it isn’t certain whether that action or event is ongoing. When you use the present perfect tense, you are going to want to focus on the result or conclusion of an action rather than if it’s still continuing or not.
There are five main circumstances in which you can use the present perfect tense. You can do so when discussing an action or situation, which began in the past and has continued into the present. You can talk about an action that was undertaken during a period of time and that has not yet been finished. You could also discuss a repeated action or event that occurred over an unspecified amount of time between the past up until now.
You can also insert the word ‘just’ into your sentence to indicate that an action or event was completed very recently in the past to emphasize how close it was to the present. Lastly, you can describe an action or event that simply took place and was completed without mentioning the time or date at all. If you want to be more detailed about asking why, when, where, what, how, who, etc., you’re going to want to focus on using the simple past tense instead so as to not to confuse these two distinct tenses. In order to get a better idea of these five different uses for the present perfect tense, here are some examples to remember.
Actions Started In The Past that Continue Into The Present
- We haven’t lived in our house for years.
- He has worked in the high school for decades.
- Have you played the guitar since you were a teenager?
The Time Period Hasn’t Been Completed Yet
- I have traveled very far this week.
- They have danced a lot tonight.
- It has snowed a little bit this winter.
Repeated Actions Between The Past and Now (Unknown Period)
- We have seen The Terminator three times.
- I have been on that roller coaster ride multiple times.
- She has visited her parents occasionally.
Completed Actions In The Very Recent Past – ‘Just’
- Have you just eaten dinner?
- I have just finished my thesis.
- Has he just left the ballpark?
The Timing of the Action is Not Known or Not Important
- Have you been to Washington DC?
- Somebody has eaten my lunch.
- You have studied many foreign languages.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that additional words like ‘just’, ‘since’, ‘for’, and ‘still’ may pop up every now and then in your present perfect tense sentences depending upon which of the five uses you are utilizing this specific grammar tense for.
When it comes to forming the present perfect tense, there is an actual formula towards creating the right form that each English learner should be aware of. There are two elements to the present perfect tense. The first is the right form of the auxiliary verb represented by the verb to have in the present tense. The second element is represented by using the past participle of the main verb with the base verb + ed. For some examples, the past participle of these regular verbs could be danced, finished, worked, etc. The two elements will also go together when the base verb is irregular regardless of the circumstances.
Positive Form – Example
- He has traveled to Japan.
(Subject + verb ‘to have’ + past participle)
Negative Form – Example
- She has not traveled to Brazil.
(Subject + verb ‘to have + not’ + past participle)
Question Form – Example
- Have they traveled to Colombia?
(Verb ‘to have’ + subject + past participle)
Negative Question Form – Example
- Hasn’t he traveled to Japan?
(Verb ‘to have + not’ + subject + past participle)
To finish off this entry on the ‘present perfect’ tense, I’d like to leave my readers with an additional example of how to use a simple verb and express that word in the positive, negative, and question forms by using the present perfect tense. You can use these examples to help yourself when it comes time for you as the student to use this particular grammar tense in your everyday speaking and writing activities as an English language student.
As always, if you have any questions or comments about my ‘English Corner’ posts, please do let me know. Next time, I’ll be covering the ‘past perfect’ grammar tense, which is quite similar to the ‘present perfect’ tense but with a few differences to highlight. In the meantime, keep studying hard and do check out my previous ‘English Corner’ posts on my website.
To Run – Present Perfect Tense
- I have ran
- You have ran
- He, She, It has ran
- We have ran
- You have ran
- They have ran
- I haven’t ran
- You haven’t ran
- He, She, It hasn’t ran
- We haven’t ran
- You haven’t ran
- They haven’t ran
- Have I run?
- Have you run?
- Has he, she, it ran?
- Have we run?
- Have you run?
- Have they run?
Note: It’s important to remember that the verb ‘to run’ goes from ran to run when it comes to the question form of the ‘present perfect’ tense. Otherwise, in the positive and negative forms of this grammar tense, you will use ‘ran’ instead to describe this particular verb in the ‘present perfect.’ This is a helpful tip to remember for readers if you happen to be confused by this change.