English Grammar Guide

Present Perfect Simple

We use the present perfect tense a lot to start conversations, frequently to introduce things we have done in the past that are of interest to us now.

Present Perfect Simple


The present perfect simple is formed by using the auxiliary 'Have' and a verb past participle.

  • I have read this book.

  • She has moved to France.

  • I have written several emails.

The negative form is constructed by adding 'not' between the auxiliary 'Have' and the past participle.

  • I have not read this book.

  • She has not moved to France yet.

  • I have not written any emails.

Present Perfect Questions are formed by inverting the auxiliary 'have' and the subject. Any question words are placed before the auxiliary.

  • Have you read this book?

  • Has she moved to France?

  • Have you written any emails?

  • Why haven't you shaved today?

General principles

The present perfect can be used for the following purposes:

  • To describe an action or state which began in the past and which continues in the present.

  • To describe an action which was finished in the very recent past. (Often with 'just')

  • To describe an action which was finished in the unspecified past and which is of interest at the time of speaking.

  • To describe an action which was finished at a time which is not specified, or in unfinished time.

  • To talk about events or actions that have not happened until the time of speaking.


  • She has worked here for 6 years.           (The state began in the past and exists now)

  • I have just finished work and now I am going to the bar!      (I recently finished work)

  • He has been ill recently, but he's much better now.       (He was ill last week, and this is of interest now)

  • I have visited Paris, Berlin and Barcelona but my favourite city is London.      (I visited these places in the past, but I don't say when)

  • I haven't been to Moscow and I have never eaten Russian food.     (These actions have not happened)

Remember that the present perfect tense cannot be used with finished time (for example 'yesterday' or 'last year'). The present perfect can only be used when there is no time reference or when the time referred tp includes the present time (for example 'today' or 'this year').

Common time expressions

The following time expressions are frequently used with the Present Continuous:

  • just       (to say that something happened a short time before)

  • yet         (in negative statements to say that something has not happened until now, or in questions)

  • never      (with a positive verb form, to say that something has not happened before)

  • already     (to say that something has happened, usually earlier or quicker than you expected)

  • ever         (in questions, to ask if something has happened before the time of speaking)

  • so far          (meaning 'until this time')

  • up to now     (meaning 'until this time')

  • recently      (meaning an unspecified time in the recent past)

  • since         (to take about a period of time from a time in the past until the present)

  • for          (to talk about the duration of an action or state)

For... Since... How long...?

The words 'since...' 'for....' and 'how long....' are often used with the present perfect.

'For' is used to describe a period of time.
'Since' describes the time when an activity or state began, which extends to the present.
'How long' is used to ask about the period of time an activity has been happening, or a state has existed.

  • I have lived here for three years.

  • He hasn't had a job since 2007.

  • How long have you been a teacher?

Never - Ever

The words 'never' and 'ever' are used with the present perfect to talk about things that have not happened, or to ask if things have happened.

  • Never is used in statements with positive verb forms and means 'not in my life...'

  • Ever is used in questions (usually with a positive verb, but not always) and means 'in your life..?'

'Never' is placed between the auxiliary 'have' and the verb past participle.
'Ever' is placed between the subject and the past participle.

  • I have never eaten Vietnamese food.

  • She has never read a book by Shakespeare.

  • They have never been to America.

  • Have you ever eaten Vietnamese food?

  • Has she ever read a book by Shakespeare?

  • Have they ever been to America?

'has been to' and 'has gone to'

'Has gone to' is used to talk about another person who has left one place and travelled (or is travelling to) another place (not this place). 'Has gone' is never used to refer to the place where we are, and is not used in the first person (i.e. not:  'I have gone to the cinema')

For example:

  • Susan has gone to the cinema. =  She is in the cinema, or is now travelling to the cinema.

  • Martin has gone home.  =  Martin has left one place (perhaps here) and is either at home or travelling home now.

  • Paul has gone to Paris.  = He is in Paris or is travelling to Paris now.

'Have been to' is used to talk about places we have visited and returned from at some time in the past.

  • Susan has been to the cinema.  = She went earlier this evening and now she is at home.

  • Martin has been home.  =  He went home earlier and has now returned to the place where you are speaking.

  • Paul has been to Paris.  =  He visited Paris at a time in the past.