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English grammar explanations: present perfect simple.

Understanding present perfect.

The basics - structure:

The syntax of the structure is: subject + auxiliary verb "have" or "has" + past participle.

I have finished my lunch. I'm going back to work now.

John y Mary have come back from a holiday in Spain. They look very brown.

The contracted forms are:

I have done = I've done; you have done = you've done; she / he / it has done = she's, he's, it's done; we have done = we've done; they have done = they've done.

 

Question forms:

To make a question in present perfect simple, we invert the auxiliary "have" or "has" with the subject:

They have been to see the Olympic Games.
Have they been to see the Olympic Games?

The cat has fallen out of a tree.
Has the cat fallen out of a tree?

 

Negative forms:

Negative sentences use the word "not" which combines with the auxiliary:

It has not (hasn't) rained one day yet this summer.

John and Mary have not (haven't) gone out together this week.

There have not (haven't) been a lot of tourists in our city this year.      top arrow

 

Present perfect - use in real life:

1) Completed actions with implications in the present.

We must remember that present perfect is a present tense. However, present perfect can be used to talk about completed action in the past:

I've finished my English homework.

But the person who said this was also implying something which is present. For example, he could be saying

Can I go home now? or,
Can I do another exercise now? or,
Can you check it for me , teacher? etc.

If we are thinking about or we mention a past time when we speak, then we can't use present perfect; we use past simple:

I finished my English homework before dinner last night.      top arrow

2) An action that started in the past and continues in the present.

If a past action continues to the present time, we use present perfect to express that action. Present perfect simple is often preferred when we use stative verbs (have, be, like, etc.) or the time period is more permanent, eg. a long time, ages. (Compare with present perfect continuous):

I've had this shirt for two days.

Our country have been world soccer champions for a long time.

Mary has always liked John.

In the above examples we assume that: I have the shirt now; our country are world soccer champions now; Mary likes John now.

It is a mistake to use present simple in these situations:

I have this shirt for two days.

Use of for and since.

With this use of present perfect, it is common to use the prepositions "for" and "since" to express how much time has passed. "For" is used to talk about the length of a period of time and "since" is used to mention the starting moment of the period of time:

I've wanted to own a car like that for years.

He's only known that girl for about two weeks.

There's been a power cut since eight o'clock this morning.

Mary has dressed in that way since she was a teenager.

 

Repeated actions.

Present perfect is also used in a similar way to talk about repeated actions in the past but with reference to a present time like: this year, this month, recently, etc:

My husband has been to Madrid three times this year.

I've had a cold twice this month.

There have been several robberies in this area recently.

Use of yet y already.

Yet and already are common with present perfect although they can be used with other tenses too. We use these words to talk about whether an action has been done or has finished. With questions, we usually see yet. Also observe that yet is after the complement or at the end of the sentence:

Have you finished your homework yet?

Has it stopped raining yet?

We also use yet in negative sentences:

I haven't finished yet.

He hasn't arrived at work yet.

In affirmative sentences we usually see already. It comes after the first auxiliary or at the end of the sentence:

I've seen than film already / I've already seen that film.

The police have already been here. / The police have been here already.

We can use already in questions when we suspect that the answer is "yes". Really, we are confirming what we think we know:

"They've told six people to leave their jobs today!"
"Oh, dear. Is your company having problems already?"

Also see already in past perfect...

This second use of present perfect is closely related to present perfect continuous...

- Exercises on present perfect...

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