Present Perfect Tense in English Grammar

Introduction

The present perfect tense connects the past with the present; it expresses completed past actions and experiences that have an influence on or connection to the present. We use the present perfect when the exact time of the 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 exercises, you can test your grammar skills.

Example

Adam: You have been on your phone all day, you should take a break from party planning!

James: I know, but I want everything to be perfect. Lisa has never had a surprise party before.

Adam: She’s going to be delighted.

James: Hopefully! I’ve invited all of her friends and family and now I’m waiting for their replies.

Adam: Has Tony replied yet? I haven’t seen him for ages!

James: Not yet, but Ella has just sent a message. She doesn’t know if she can come.

Adam: That’s annoying, you have reminded her at least seven times!

James: I know, I’m getting worried. I have already ordered food and drinks for thirty people, but so far only ten have said yes!

When to use the present perfect simple

We use the present perfect simple to express:

  • completed actions that have an influence on the present, usually without a specific time marker
    Example:
    I’ve invited all her friends and family, now I’m waiting for their replies.
    we don’t know when the invites were sent
  • past experiences with the signal words ever and never
    Examples:
    She has never had a surprise party before.
    Have you ever had a surprise party?
  • recently completed actions (usually with the signal word just)
    Example:
    Ella has just sent a message.
  • actions that did or did not happen up to the moment of speaking (with already and yet)
    Examples:
    Has Tony replied yet?
    I have already ordered food and drinks for thirty people.
  • how often or how many times up to now
    Example:
    You have reminded her at least seven times.
  • states and situations that began in the past and continue up to the present (with the signal words for and since)
    Example:
    I haven’t seen him for ages.
    She has wanted a surprise party for years.

Learn about the difference between the present perfect simple and other tenses in Lingolia’s English Tense Comparison section:

Signal Words for the Present Perfect Simple

Signal words can help us recognise which tense to use. The typical signal words for the present perfect simple are:

  • ever, never
  • already, just, not … yet
  • so far, until now, up to now …
  • for, since (often with stative verbs)

Info

The signal words just, already, ever and never follow the auxiliary:

Examples:
—i’ve just finished this great book.
—I’ve never read it. Can I borrow it?

Other signal words like yet, so far, for, since … come at the end of the phrase:

Examples:
I haven’t read that book yet.

Remember: already is used in positive sentences whereas yet is used in negative sentences and questions.

Examples:
Have you started this book yet?
Yes, I’ve already finished it. / No, I haven’t started it yet.

Some of the signal words for the present perfect simple are the same as those for the past perfect simple. The difference is whether they refer to a time in the present or the past.

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.

positive negative question
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 – Spelling Rules

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. However, here are a few exceptions to take note of when conjugating the past participle of regular 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

Learn the difference between the irregular past participles of the verb go with our page on been to/gone to.

been vs. gone

The verb go has two past participle forms: been and gone. The difference depends on where the subject is currently located.

  • Use gone for incomplete visits:
    Example:
    —Where’s Sarah? I haven’t seen her yet.
    —She’s just gone to the supermarket, she’ll be back soon.
    Sarah is still at the supermarket or on her way there at the time of speaking
  • Use been for completed visits:
    Example:
    —Oh no! Callum has just been to the supermarket, the fridge is already full!
    Callum is no longer at the supermarket at the time of speaking, this visit is complete

Read more about the difference between been and gone in English grammar.

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 form contraction example
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

Note

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

Example:
They’ve never played football.
(but not: The girls’ve never played football)

However, the contraction of has can be used after nouns as well as pronouns.

Example:
He’s/The boy’s never played football.
’s = has

Words that end in -s are an exception to this:

Example:
James’s never played football. → James has never played football.