Present perfect – a tutorial

Present perfect

Why use the present perfect?

We use the present perfect to talk about recently completed actions or states.  So why not just use the past simple? It’s usually because the recently completed action is connected to something we’re going to continue to talk about.


Emma: “Oh no! I’ve left my iPhone on the train.”

You and Emma will probably continue to talk about this.

When do we use the present perfect?

We use the present perfect whenever we want to talk about something that started in the past and has continued until now. The word now can be a bit difficult to understand. What does it really mean?


It basically means the time that we are living in at the moment.  In this way, “now” is both big and small because it can mean this….. minute, hour, part of day, week, month, year or lifetime. This is why the two following sentences are both correct.


“Have you had a coffee today?” and “Have you ever been to India?”


Let’s test this.


2-Question Quiz

It’s  3:30 in the afternoon. Which of these sentences is correct?

  1. “Have you had breakfast this morning?”
  2. “Have you had breakfast today?”
  3. Both


The answer is b. As it is no longer the morning, you cannot use the present perfect with a time that has been completed.

OK, let’s try another one. In the two statements below, which two pairs of great-grandfathers is still living?

  1. “I never met my great-grandfathers.”
  2. “I have never met my great-grandfathers.”


If you chose b, you’re correct.  It’s the only sentence that lets us know that the possibility of meeting both sets of great-grandfathers still exists.

Tricky? I know. Sometimes the time is a connected to the real time, and sometimes it’s connected to the situation. The important thing to remember is that either:

  1. whatever it is that you are talking about in terms of time or the situation isn’t finished yet, or
  2. the action, event or situation has been completed recently and you are going to continue to talk about it right now

Let’s test your understanding.



Are there other ways to use it?

Yes. We use it when we want to talk about how long an action has occurred or how long a state has existed.



“I have lived here for 5 years.”


Whenever we talk about how long we have done something, we are talking about a duration of time and whenever we talk about a duration, we use the preposition, “for”.


So can we say I have lived here for 2011?


No.  2011 is a point in time, so we have to use “since”

“I have worked here since 2011.”

What about yet and already?


If you want to talk about an action that you believe should have been completed recently, you can use yet.



  • “Has the pizza arrived yet? We ordered it 40 minutes ago.”
  • “Sorry. No, it hasn’t arrived yet.”

* Note: If you answer affirmatively, then you do not have to include the word “yet” in your answer.

  • “Have you finished yet?”
  • “Yes, I have.”


Already works in the opposite way. If you want to tell someone that an action has taken place. You combine already with the present perfect.



  • “Are you going to read that book next week?”
  • “No. I’ve already read it.”

Last question:


Are you going to start reading this tutorial now?
No! Because you’ve just finished it!




If you’ve found this tutorial informative, please share by clicking facebook or Twitter button to the right. Thanks!


For follow up exercises (PDF), click the one of the links below:

PP vs Present Simple 1
PP vs Present Simple 2