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The Present Perfect Simple Tense

The Perfect Tenses

The opinion of many native and non-native English speakers is that the perfect tenses are far from being ‘perfect’. They cause headaches for most people. On these pages, we will break the perfect tenses down into short sections that will make them easier to understand.

Useful Tip

Time Expressions in the Present Perfect

  • Use since with a specific year or a period in the past > since 2002 / since I was a child
  • Use for with a number of years > for twenty years
  • Use ever and yet in questions and negatives > Have you ever / hasn’t been yet
  • Use already and never, just between have/has and the verb > has already finished / have just been
  • Use before, since, for, already, many times, so far, yet at the end of a sentence or questions > Have you been there before?

The present perfect simple tense is used to

Describe actions that occurred in the past but are still relevant to the present.

  1. Rani has broken her arm. (She broke it in the past and can’t use her arm now.)

Describe an action that started in the past but is still happening on a regular or habitual basis (like the present simple).

  1. The girls have played tennis at the club since 2005. (They started to play tennis there in 2005 and still play there today. This does not mean they are playing tennis at the moment.)

Describe actions that were repeated several times in the past.

  1. I‘ve already made several calls. (Up until now)

The specific time in the past is unimportant, just the fact that it happened.

Note: Time Expressions – Present Perfect
NEVER use the same time expressions that you use in the past simple tense, such as: yesterday, a week ago, last night. You MAY use unspecific time expressions such as: ever, never, since, for, already, many times, before, so far, yet.

The Typical Present Perfect Sentence

In order to form a typical sentence in the present perfect simple, choose a subject ((the person or thing that has done the action), add an auxiliary (or helping) verb: has or have + the V3 (past participle) form of the verb and then add the rest of the sentence.

Subject have/has +Verb(V3)
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
I / You / We / They have met him before
He / She / It has lived here for three years

The V3 (past participle) form of a regular verb looks just like a regular verb in the past simple:

  1. walk > walked / study > studied / stop > stopped / create > created

There are quite a few irregular verbs in English. It pays to memorize them.

Note: Has Had – A verb combination that often causes confusion in the present perfect simple is has had or have had. Ex. I have had enough of your complaining! Have is the auxiliary (or helping) verb and had is the V3 (or past participle) of the main verb to have. It may look strange, but it is correct.

Contractions in the Present Perfect Simple

In general, we contract the subject (the person or thing that has done the action) and form of have:

  1. I have > I’veI’ve used those images before.
  2. He has > He’s / She has > She’s / It has > It’sHe’s already had the surgery.
  3. We have > We’ve / You have > You’ve / They are > They’veWe’ve just gotten home.

You may have noticed that the 3rd person singular (he, she, it) contractions look like those in the present progressive. You can tell them apart by the use of the V3 and from the context of the sentence: he is > He’s eating now. / he has > He’s eaten dinner already

Save the long forms for when you want to create emphasis. When speaking, you should stress the have/has.

  1. He has sung that song. I know he has.

Negative Sentences in the Present Perfect Simple Tense

Spelling Tip

When shortening the auxiliary verb have/has and the negative, just remove the o in not and add an apostrophe (‘)
has not > hasn’t
have not > haven’t

When creating negative sentences, we usually use hasn’t or haven’t together + the V3 (past participle) form of the verb. Save the long forms (has not, and have not) for when you want to create emphasis. When speaking, put the stress on ‘not’.

Subject Auxillery Verb Verb in V3
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
I / You / We / They haven’t (have not) ridden a bike in many years
He / She / It hasn’t (has not) lost enough weight yet
  1. I haven’t eaten at that restaurant in a long time.
  2. Jim hasn’t worked on Fridays since he joined the company.
  3. My friends haven’t ever gone to France.
  4. I have not forgiven you!

Yes/No Questions in the Present Perfect Simple

To create a question that will be answered with a yes or no, start the question with Have or Has, (Haven’t or Hasn’t for a negative question) then add a subject (the person or thing that has done the action) followed by the V3 (Past Participle) form of the verb and only then add the rest of the sentence.

Auxiliary Verb Subject Verb in V3
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
Have I / you / we / they begun the meeting yet
Has he / she / it answered your letter
Hasn’t he / she / it eaten dinner yet
  1. Have you ever gone ice skating?
  2. Has Jerry presented his ideas to the CEO yet?

Wh-Questions in the Present Perfect Simple

Wh- questions are questions that require more information in their answers. Typical wh- words are what, where, when, why, who, how, how many, how much.

To create a wh-question, start with the wh-word, then add have or has, then the subject (a person or thing that has done the action), followed by the V3 (Past Participle) form of the verb and only then add the rest of the sentence.

Wh-Word Auxiliary Verb Subject Verb in V3
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
What have I / you / we / they read lately
Why has he / she / it changed color
  1. When have I ever lied to you?
  2. Why has Tanya left the country?
  3. How much money have you spent so far?

Tag Questions in the Present Perfect Simple

Tag questions are those short questions that are tagged onto the end of a sentence. They are used just to make sure that the person you’re talking to understood what you meant or to emphasize what you said.

They’re formed by using a regular sentence in the present perfect simple, then adding haven’t or hasn’t and a pronoun (I, you, we, they, he, she, it) and a question mark.

Examples of the Present Perfect Simple – Tag Questions:

  1. John has known her for a couple of years, hasn’t he?
  2. They have been in business since 1980, haven’t they?

You may also add a positive tag when you’re using a negative sentence.

  1. Keisha hasn’t spoken to you yet, has she?
  2. Those kids have never played rugby, have they?

As a rule: When the sentence is positive, the tag is negative.
When the sentence is negative, the tag is positive.

Exercises – Present Perfect Simple

Fill in the correct form of the present perfect simple as in the examples.

  1. Dan has worked in that company for 12 years. (work)
  2. Have you heard the news? (hear)
  3. The boys have never eaten sushi. (eat)
  1. Daniel ____ that video clip at least twenty times. (see)
  2. The workers _______ a break in 4 hours. (not have)
  3. We ___________ them regularly over the last few years. (visit)
  4. _______ Ella _______ her driving test yet? (pass)
  5. Roger _______ to Mexico several times since 2002.(be)
  6. They______ to each other in ages, _______ they? (not speak)
  7. Why _______ Mathew _______his job? (quit)
  8. ______the nurses ______ on strike again? (go)
  9. ________ they ______ the post yet? (not deliver)
  10. I _____ already_______ you the answer. (tell)

Answers:

  1. has seen
  2. haven’t had
  3. have visited
  4. Has/passed
  5. has been
  6. haven’t spoken/have
  7. has/quit
  8. Have/gone
  9. Haven’t/delivered
  10. have/ told

Examples – Present Perfect Simple

Positive

  1. Rani has broken her arm.
  2. The girls have played tennis at the club since 2005.
  3. I’ve already made several calls.

Contractions

  1. I have > I’ve – I’ve used those images before.
  2. He has > He’s / She has > She’s / It has > It’s – He’s already had the surgery.
  3. We have > We’ve / You have > You’ve /They have > They’ve – We’ve just gotten home.

Negative

  1. I haven’t eaten at that restaurant yet.
  2. Jim hasn’t worked on Fridays since he joined the company.
  3. My friends haven’t ever gone to France.
  4. I have not forgiven you!

Yes/No Questions

  1. Have you ever gone ice skating?
  2. Has Jerry presented his ideas to the CEO yet?

Wh-Questions

  1. When have I ever lied to you?
  2. Why has Tanya left the country?
  3. How much money have you spent so far?

Tag Questions

  1. John has known her for a couple of years, hasn’t he?
  2. They have been in business since 1980, haven’t they?
  3. Keisha hasn’t spoken to you yet, has she?
  4. Those kids have never played rugby, have they?