Grammar: Present Perfect

One of the most difficult grammar structures for language learners is present perfect. For many this structure doesn’t exist in their native language and is often confused with the past simple grammar tense. So what is present perfect and when should you use it?

Present perfect is used in the following ways:

  • to describe something that started in the past and continues up to the present – e.g.They’ve been married for nearly 20 years
  • to describe an important life experience without specifying when – e.g. I’ve been scuba diving
  • to describe something that happened in the past which has a connection or importance to the present – e.g. I can’t get into the house. I’ve lost my keys

In terms of structure, the present perfect is formed using the following rules:

(+) Subject + have/has + past participle + object

e.g. I have lived in London for 10 years

(-) Subject + haven’t/hasn’t + past participle + object

e.g. I haven’t been to Greece

(?) Have/Has + subject + past participle + object

e.g. Has she been to London?

You will notice in the above rules, have/has and haven’t/hasn’t are used to form the present perfect. If the subject is he/she/it, use has or hasn’t. For all other subjects, use have or haven’t.

Present perfect is not easy to learn and it will take some time so don’t be frustrated if you don’t understand this grammar straightaway. I teach some upper intermediate and advanced level students who still have problems using this grammar.

Here is a short video I did last year with more of an explanation. If you would like to find out more about using the present perfect tense or improving your English language skills online, please sent me an e-mail at or alternatively please complete the contact form on this website.

Good luck!

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