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The present perfect

The present perfect, formed from auxiliary have or has with a past participle, is usually used to talk about
the past in relation to the present. It suggests a connection between something that happened in the past and
a present time, often referring to an action in the past which has a result now, e.g:

Ive cut my finger.


Theyve forgotten to bring their tickets.
Your parents have arrived.

We often use the present perfect to give new information, reporting events that have occurred just
before the present time, e.g:

Theres been a serious accident on the bypass.


Ive won a competition.
Paula has got a new job.

The present perfect is therefore common with just and already, e.g:

Your parents have just arrived.


Paula has already got a new job.

and is often used to report information in news reports, e.g:

The British Olympic athlete Kelly Holmes has won two gold medals

The present perfect can be used to refer to past events which repeatedly occur up to and including
the present time, and may occur again in the future, e.g:

Ive been ice-skating several times.


Weve often eaten in this restaurant.
Hes an author who has influenced many young writers.

The present perfect is often used with stative verb senses and adverbials of duration to refer to a
state that began in the past, continues up to the present, and will perhaps continue into the future,
e.g:

Theyve lived in Paris for ten years.


Ive always liked Louise.
Hes owned the house since his mother died.

Situations or events described by the present perfect do not always continue until the time of
speaking, nor have they necessarily always happened immediately before the time of speaking, but
they usually imply some connection or relevance to the present time, e.g:

Ive finished with the computer now, you can use it if you like.
Have you locked all the doors and windows?
Both our children have had chickenpox.

The present perfect and time expressions


The present perfect is often used with time expressions which indicate a period of time that continues
from the past until now, e.g:

Ive made a lot of new friends in the last few days.


We havent had dinner together for a long time.
Have you had anything to eat since breakfast?

However, unlike the simple past tense, the present perfect cannot be used with adverbials that
indicate a specific point in time in the past. Compare, e.g:

I cut my finger yesterday.


* Ive cut my finger yesterday. X

Paula got a new job last week.


* Paula has got a new job last week. X

We can however use the present perfect with time expressions which include the present time such as
today, this morning/ year/ month, etc., to talk about events or states that may not be finished at the
time of speaking, e.g:

Ive answered the phone six times this afternoon.


Have you seen Andy today?
Jack has been really unwell this term.

However, if we think of this morning/ week, etc., as a past, completed time period, then we must use
the past simple. Compare:

Ive answered the phone six times this afternoon. (and I may well answer it again, the afternoon is not over)
I answered the phone six times this afternoon. (a completed period, the afternoon is over)

The present perfect can be used with time clauses introduced by after, when, until, as soon as, once,
by the time, and expressions like the minute/ the moment, etc., to refer to future events, e.g:

Hell call you as soon as hes got the results.


We wont know the details until weve talked to Jack.
Shell be forty by the time she has finished the course.
Ill let you know the minute Ive heard something.

Present perfect continuous


The present perfect can combine with the progressive aspect to form what is usually referred to as the
present perfect continuous. The present perfect continuous is formed from auxiliary have/ has + been + -
ing, e.g:

I have been watching you.


She has been sleeping.

The present perfect continuous is used to describe a situation or activity which began in the past and was in
progress until recently or until the time of speaking. It is often used to emphasise the duration of an event,
occurring with time expressions which indicate how long an activity has been in progress, e.g:

Ive been working at home all day.

It is therefore common with for and since, e.g:

Weve been living there for three years.


Its been raining since we arrived here.

Note that since the continuous aspect focuses on situations in progress, and there is no concept of
progression in verbs which describe states, the present perfect continuous cannot be used with stative
senses of verbs, and the present perfect is used instead. Compare:

* Weve been knowing Jackie for three years.


Weve known Jackie for three years.

* Ive always been hating olives.


Ive always hated olives.

The present perfect continuous is often used to describe repeated actions which have occurred up until the
time of speaking, e.g:

Hes been writing to her every day.


Ive been going to evening classes to improve my French.

It is therefore more likely to be used with verbs that suggest a repeated activity, rather than a single action,
compare:

Ive broken my leg.


* Ive been breaking my leg. (possible but unlikely )

The present perfect continuous is used to emphasise that an activity is ongoing and repeated, whereas the
present perfect suggests that an activity happened only once or a specified number of times, as illustrated in
the following example:

Jack has been writing letters all day, but he hasnt written one to his girlfriend.

When we want to focus on the result of an activity, we use the present perfect, but when we want to focus
on the process, the present perfect continuous is often used, compare:

Ive been washing the car and Im soaked. (process present perfect continuous)
Ive washed the car and it looks much better now. (result- present perfect)

However the present perfect continuous is often used in place of the present perfect when the speaker is
complaining about the situation resulting from some previous activity, e.g:
Whos been eating my chocolates?
Youve been using the phone again, havent you?
Whos been washing the car, theres water everywhere?