Present Perfect Tense in English Grammar

Introduction

The present perfect tense connects the past with the present. Use this tense to emphasise the result of a past action, especially when the exact time of this action is not important. The present perfect is formed using a present form of the verb have and the past participle of the main verb. Be aware that many languages have a tense that is similar to the present perfect, however, the usage is probably different.

Learn about the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in the present perfect and master the usage of this tricky English tense. In the exercise, you can test your grammar skills.

Example

James loves football and plays very well. He has bought new trainers and now he plays even better than before.

James is the team captain because he has never lost a match.

It looks like his team will win this match as well. James has just scored a goal and the referee has not blown the final whistle yet. The other team has not scored a goal so far.

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Usage

We use the present perfect tense to express:

  • an action that has just been completed
    Example:
    He has just scored a goal.

    When he scored the goal is not important.

  • a completed action with influence on the present
    Example:
    He has bought new trainers and now he plays even better than before.
  • an action that has never happened, or has happened once or several times up to the time of speaking
    Example:
    He has never lost a match.
    The referee has not blown the final whistle yet.
    The other team has not scored a goal so far.

Conjugation of English Present Perfect Tense

To conjugate the present perfect tense in English we use the present form of the auxiliary verb have and the past participle of the main verb. The table below provides and overview of the conjugation in positive, negative and interrogative sentences.

positivenegativequestion
I/you/we/they I have played/spoken I have not played/spoken Have I played/spoken?
he/she/it he has played/spoken he has not played/spoken Has he played/spoken?

Past participle

The past participle for regular verbs is formed by adding -ed to the base form of the verb. The past participle of irregular verbs is different and should be memorised.

Exceptions

There are few expections to take not of when conjugationg the past participle of regualr verbs:

  • When a verb ends with -e, we simply add a -d.
    Example:
    love – loved (not: loveed)
  • The final consonant is doubled after short stressed vowels.
    Example:
    admit – admitted
  • The final consonant -l is always doubled after a vowel in British English but not in American English.
    Example:
    travel – travelled (British), traveled (American)
  • A -y at the end of the word is replaced by an -i.
    Example:
    hurry – hurried

Contractions

Contractions are a combination of certain pronouns, verbs and the word not. They are mostly used in spoken and informal written English. The table below provides an overview of contractions in the present perfect tense using the verb have.

long formcontractionexample
have …’ve they’ve
have not …’ve not/… haven’t I’ve not/I haven’t
has …’s she’s
has not …’s not/… hasn’t he’s not/he hasn’t

Negated Contractions

In written English, we usually form contractions with a pronoun and an auxiliary verb, but not with a noun and an auxiliary verb.

Example:
They’ve not played football.
(but not: The girls’ve not played football)

However, the contraction of has and not, can be used after nouns as well as pronouns. Except when the word already ends in -s.

Example:
He’s/The boy’s played football.
(but not: James’s played football.)

Signal Words

Signal words can help us to recognise the tense in a sentence. The signal words for the present perfect are:

  • already, just, not yet
  • ever, never
  • so far, till now, up to now

just, already and yet

We use the signal words just, already and yet in different situations.

In positive sentences, we use just to say that something has happened very recently.

Example:
Have you read this book yet?
Yes, I’ve just read it.

To say whether something has happened or not, we use already and yet. Already is used in positive sentences, whereas, yet is used in negative sentences and questions.

Example:
Have you read this book yet?
Yes, I’ve already read it./ No, I haven't read it yet.