Present perfect tense

Affirmative Negative Question
I have written
She has written.
You have written.
I have not written.
She has not written.
You have not written.
Have I written?
Has she written?
Have you written?

Uses of the present perfect tense

past events connected with the present

We can use the present perfect tense to say that a finished action or event is connected with the present in some way.

  • He has broken his leg. (His leg is broken now.)
  • Somebody has let the cat in. (The cat is in now.)
  • Our dog has died. (Our dog is dead.)

recent events

We normally use the present perfect for giving news of recent events.

And here are the main points of the news again. The rupee has fallen against the dollar. The number of unemployed has reached ten million. There has been a plane crash …

Note that after using the present perfect to announce a piece of news, we usually change to simple or progressive tenses to give the details.

The present perfect is not used to talk about a finished event, if we say when it happened.

Compare:

  • There has been a plane crash near Tokyo.
  • There was a plane crash near Tokyo last night.
  • I have had a word with the boss.
  • I had a word with the boss today.
with indefinite time adverbs

We often use the present perfect tense for past events when we are thinking of a period of time continuing up to the present – for example when we use indefinite time adverbs like ever, before, never, yet and already.

  • I am sure we have met before.
  • Have you ever seen a ghost?
  • Has he come yet?

With more definite expressions of ‘time up to now’ (e.g. today, this week) we usually prefer a simple past tense in affirmative clauses. In questions and negatives, we use the present perfect.

  • I have spoken to him about my holiday.
  • I spoke to him today about my holiday. (more natural than I have spoken to him today …)
  • Have you seen Alice this week?
  • I haven’t seen Alice this week.
  • I saw Alice this week. (more natural than I have seen Alice this week)
past events that cannot be attributed to a definite time

The present perfect is used to talk about past events that cannot be attributed to a definite time.

  • I have visited Africa and Latin America.
  • He has done a lot for me.
  • I have never known him to be angry.
  • I have been to Europe twice.
continuation up to now

We often use the present perfect to talk about how long present situations have lasted.

  • We have known each other for ten years.
  • We have lived in this city since 1995.
  • I have studied hard for years.

present perfect and simple past: differences

We do not use the present perfect with expressions that refer to a completely finished period of time, like yesterday, last week, when, then, five years ago, in 1995. The simple past is used with this meaning.

  • I saw Alice yesterday. (NOT I have seen Alice yesterday.)
  • I was born in 1979.
  • She died three years ago.
  • John left ten minutes ago.
American English

In American English, the simple past is often used to give news.

  • Did you hear? France declared/has declared war on Britain.
  • (GB Have you heard? France has declared war on Britain.)
  • Lucy just called. (GB Lucy has just called.)
  • Honey, I lost/ have lost the keys. (GB Honey, I have lost the keys.)
this is the first time etc.

We use a present perfect tense in sentences constructed with this/it/that is the first/second/third/only/best/worst/etc.

  • This is the fifth time you have asked me the same question.
  • It is one of the most interesting books I have ever read.
  • This is the first time I have heard her sing.

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