Present Perfect Simple – Form and Usage

Here we explain how to use the present perfect simple and how it is formed.

Present Perfect Simple – Form

The Present Perfect Simple is formed by:

Have / Has + the past participle (sometimes also called the 3rd form)

The past participle (also known in some places as the 3rd Form of a verb) is made by adding ed to a regular verb. Example: live becomes lived. (For irregular verbs please click here)

More examples:

Like       →          Liked                   verbs ending in e, add d.

Study    →          Studied               consonant + y, change yi + ed

Stop      →          Stopped              vowel + consonant, double the consonant and add ed

Note: in English the y and w at the end of a word are not consonant sounds and not pronounced as a consonant (for example study, where the y is pronounced as an i in English). So, for verbs that end in w or y we do not double the consonant.

Play       →          Played

Positive Form Positive Short Form Negative Form Negative Short Form Question Form
have played I‘ve played I have not played I haven’t played Have I played?
You have helped You‘ve helped You have not helped You haven’t helped Have you helped?
He has walked He‘s walked He has not walked He hasn’t walked Has he walked?
She has started She‘s started She has not started She hasn’t started Has she started?
It has opened It‘s opened It has not opened It hasn’t opened Has it opened?
We have studied We‘ve studied We have not studied We haven’t studied Have we studied?
They have closed They‘ve closed They have not closed They haven’t closed Have they closed?

Using the Present Perfect Simple

Describing something in the Indefinite Past and Finished actions

When you want to describe something that happened in the indefinite past, because time is not important here or perhaps we do not know when it happened.

  • Ive bought the ticket to London.
  • Ive seen this movie before.
  • Theyve dropped the children to school.
  • Shes bought the milk.

In all these cases, the time factor is not important as the thing or action has happened. It is important to note the difference between the Past Simple and Present Perfect Simple:

I went to Paris last year.               (Definite time – Past simple)

I’ve been to Paris.                          (at some time – therefore an indefinite period – and so we use the Present Perfect Simple here)

If you want to know more about the difference between using the Present Simple and the Present Perfect Simple click here.

Describing a Personal Experience or a Finished action

We often use the Present Perfect Simple to describe our personal experiences or a finished action:

  • Ive played football for Manchester United Juniors.
  • Theyve been to Hawaii.
  • Ive read this book before.

When using the question form of the present perfect simple, we often add ‘ever’ for personal experiences (though this is not always necessary, it adds emphasis to the question):

  • Have you ever played football for Manchester United Juniors?
  • Have they ever been to Hawaii?
  • Have you ever read this book?

Present Perfect Simple and ‘Since’ and ‘For’

We use the Present Perfect Simple + since / for especially when an action or experience started in the past and is continuing right now.

Present Perfect Simple + Since is used with a fixed time or date in the past: 2010, Christmas, Easter, June 22nd, last year.

  • I have been at university since
  • I haven’t eaten chocolate since
  • You’ve known her since

Present Perfect Simple + For is used with a period of time: ten years, a long time and so on.

  • I’ve worked at this company for 7 years.
  • They’ve been engaged for a long time.
  • We’ve lived here for six months.

NOTE: There is a difference in meaning when you use a period of time in the Past Simple and the Present Perfect Simple:

  • I have lived here for 10 years. (This means I am still living here).
  • I lived here for 10 years. (This means I am not living here now – it’s a past, finished action or experience).

When shouldn’t I use the Present Perfect Simple?

We don’t use the Present Perfect Simple with time words in the past (also known as finished time words), for example, with yesterday, last night and so on.

  • INCORRECT: I’ve met him last night.
  • INCORRECT: They’ve bought the tickets yesterday.
  • INCORRECT: We’ve eaten turkey at Christmas.
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