Present Perfect Tense: Everything you need to know

Let’s start with the basics, so what actually is Present perfect Tense?

The Present Perfect Tense is the time period used to express a situation or event that occurred in the past and whose effects are still ongoing. It should not be forgotten that; in sentences made with the Present Perfect Tense, it is important whether the work done in the past was done, not when it was done.

Structure of present perfect tense:

Present perfect tense Have or has + past participle (3rd verb form for irregular verbs or infinitive ending -ed for regular verbs.

Present perfect tense is formed by Auxiliary verb have / has + the past participle (the third form of the verb)


SubjectAuxiliary verbMain verb
I /we/ you/ theyHaveplayedfootball.

Negative sentences: 

SubjectAuxiliary verbMain verb
I /we/ you/ theyHavenotplayedfootball.

Interrogative sentences:

 Auxiliary verbSubjecthas/ haveMain verb
HaveI /we/ you/ theyHaveplayedfootball?

Before examining the usage areas of the Present Perfect Tense with example sentences, let’s take a look at the sentence structures with the Present Perfect Tense.

Present Perfect Tense Positive, Negative and Interrogative Sentence Structure

Positive sentenceNegative sentencesQuestion sentence
I have played. (I played.)I have not played. (I didn’t play.)Have I played? (Did I play?)
You have played. (You played.)You have not played. (You didn’t play.)Have you played? (Did you play?)
He/She/It has played. (He played.)He/She/It has not played. (He didn’t play.)Has he/she/it played? (Did he play?)
We have played. (We played.)We have not played. (We didn’t play.)Have we played? (Did we play?)
You have played. (You played.)You have not played. (You did not play.)Have you played? (Did you play?)
They have played. (They played.)They have not played. (They didn’t play.)Have they played? (Did they play?)

you can see in the table above, when constructing a sentence in the Present Perfect Tense, first the subject is at the beginning of the sentence , the appropriate auxiliary verb is chosen next to it, and finally the 3rd form of the verb is used. As can be seen in the table, this tense is translated into Turkish as Past Tense. Actually, there is a difference in meaning between them. To fully understand this difference, we will now look at the situations in which it is used.

Usage of Present Perfect Tense 

Now let’s look at the uses of the Present Perfect Tense. The Present Perfect Tense is used in events that started in the past and still continue, when conveying previous experiences and experiences, and with prepositions such as “just, yet, already, since, for, ever/never”.

Events that started in the past and are still going on

The most common use is for actions and situations that started in the past and whose effects are still ongoing.


I have been ill for two weeks. (I’ve been sick for two weeks.)

My illness started two weeks ago. It still continues.

I have known Marta since 1985.

I met Marta in 1985. I still know him.

They have been here since 5 pm. (They have been here since 5 o’clock.)

They arrived at 5 o’clock and are still here.

She has danced for a month. (She’s been dancing for a month.)

He started dancing a month ago, still does.

As seen in the examples, the prepositions since and for often appear in the use of the Present Perfect Tense with unfinished continuing verbs. Since refers to a specific time in the past, while for refers to a specific time period, a process.

We use the Present Perfect tense when the actions are completed and are in Past.

  1. Action has just been completed.
    We just visited Karachi.
  2. To describe actions that have happened in the past, without time specification. She has watched the football match
  3. Action Started in the past and still continue.
    Mrs. Asshad has lived here since in 1999.
    This Irish pub has existed since 1930.
  4. To describe actions that has just been completed. Here, auxiliary verb the adverb “just” is adjusted.
    Mr. Wick has just called for me but I cannot seem to remember why.
    I have lost my keys. Can you help me to look for them?
    Watch out! I have mopped the floor.

Negative Sentences in the Simple Present Perfect Tense

Spelling Tip

While shortening the auxiliary verbs has/have and the negative, just get rid of the o in not and add then an apostrophe (‘).
Has not > hasn’t
have not > haven’t

When creating negative sentences, we usually use hasn’t or haven’t together + the V3 (past participle) form of the verb. Keep the long forms i.e., (has not, and have not) for when you need to create focus/emphasis. While speaking, we should stress on ‘not’.

SubjectAxillary VerbVerb in V3
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
I / We / You / Theyhaven’t (have not)Riddena bicycle in 3 years
He / She / Ithasn’t (has not)Lostenough weight yet
  1. They haven’t eaten at that cafe in a long time.
  2. Kim hasn’t worked on Thursdays since he joined the office.
  3. My friends have not ever gone to Pakistan.
  4. have not forgiven you!

Sentence structure in negative sentences with Present Perfect Tense; It is in the form of subject, have/has, not negative suffix and the third form of the verb.

  • I have not (haven’t) been to Italy. – I haven’t been to Italy.
  •  You have not (haven’t) been to Italy. – You haven’t been to Italy.
  • He has not (hasn’t) been to France. – He has not been in France.
  • She has not (hasn’t) been to India. – He has not been in India.
  • We have not (haven’t) been to Italy. – We haven’t been to Italy.
  • You have not (haven’t) been to Italy. – You have not been to Italy.
  •  They have not (haven’t) been to Italy. – They haven’t been to Italy.

Questions in the Present Perfect Simple

There are questions that demand more information in the answers. Typical words are when, where, what, why, how, who, how much, how many.

To create a question, start with the word, then add have or has, then the subject (a person or thing that has done the action), followed by the V3 (Past Participle) form of the verb and only then add the rest of the sentence.

WordAuxiliary VerbSubjectVerb in V3
(Past Participle)
Rest of Sentence
WhatHaveI / you / we / theyreadlately
WhyHasShe/he / itchangedcolor
  1. When have I ever lied to you?
  2. Why has Tanya left the country?
  3. How much amount have you paid so far?

Sentence structure in interrogative sentences with Present Perfect Tense; Have/has becomes the subject, the third form of the verb.

  • Have I played basketball? – Did I play basketball?
  •  Have you played basketball? – Did you play basketball?
  •  Has he played basketball? – Did he play basketball?
  •  Has she played basketball? – Did he play basketball?
  •  ​Have we played basketball? – Did we play basketball?
  • Have you played basketball? – Did you play basketball?
  •  ​Have they played basketball? – Did they play basketball?

Tag Questions in the Present Perfect Simple

The Tag questions are those small questions which are tagged on the end of the sentence. These questions are used to ensure that the person you’re conversing with understands what you mean or to emphasize what you just said.

These questions are formed by the use of a regular sentence in the simple present perfect, and then adding hasn’t or haven’t and a pronoun (I, we, you, they, she, he, it) and a question mark at the end.

Following are some of the Examples of the Simple Present Perfect – Tag Questions:

  1. Smith has known Ashley for almost three years, hasn’t he?
  2. They have been in stock exchange since 1989, haven’t they?

We can also add a positive tag, when we are writing a negative sentence.

  1. Keisha hasn’t spoken to you yet, has she?
  2. These kids have never played Basketball, have they?

As a general rule: Whenever the sentence is positive, tag is negative, and Whenever the sentence we are using is  negative, tag is positive.

The Present perfect Tense quite often occurs in the conjunction with following 

Yet, since, for; Already, never, so far, before

Signal words in the Present Perfect

By the Use of different signal words, it is possible for us to find out the right time form. In the Present Perfect, the signal words that are best known are:

  • never
  • ever
  • already
  • just
  • so far

Look at following examples to understand how yet, just, and still already are used.

  • I’ve just seen Paul. He’s really enjoying his new job.
  • They have not decided what they should do yet.
  • I still haven’t called Yamna to see how she is.
  • I’ve already had lunch but I’ll join you for coffee.

Adverbs of Time in Present Perfect Tense

Although it is not clear exactly when the event took place in the sentences formed with the Present Perfect Tense, there may be some adverbs of time in these sentences.

  • I have already seen the doctor. – I already went to the doctor.
  •  They haven’t come yet. – They haven’t arrived yet.
  •  Has she ever been to the USA? – Has he been to America before?
  • No she hasn’t. / Yes she has. – No, it wasn’t found. / Yes found.
  •  We have just finished our homework. – We just finished our homework.
  • He has stayed in London for 5 years. – He stayed in London for five years.
  •  You have waited since 5 o’clock. – You’ve been waiting since 5 o’clock.

Present perfect continuous

The present perfect tense can be combined with the progressive aspect to develop what’s usually referred as present perfect continuous tense. The present perfect continuous is made from auxiliary has /have + been + ing, e.g.

  • I have been watching you.
  • She has been sleeping.

This tense is used to narrate a situation which started in past and was in development until recently or even until time of speaking. This is often used to focus on the duration of an event, taking place with time expressions, which shows how long a specific activity has been in the progress, e.g.

  • I’ve been working at home all day.

Hence it is commonly used with for and since, for example.

  • He has been living here for five years.
  • It has been snowing since they arrived here.

It is noteworthy that since the continuous aspect focuses on situations in progress, and there is no concept of progression in verbs which describe states, the present perfect continuous cannot be used with stative senses of verbs, and the present perfect is used instead. Compare:

  • We’ve been knowing Jackie for three years.
    We’ve known Jackie for three years.
  • I’ve always been hating olives.
    I’ve always hated olives.

The present perfect continuous is used very often to showcase the repeated actions, which have taken place up until the time of speaking, for example:

  • He has been writing to Shiza every day.
  • I’ve been going to evening classes to improve my French.

Therefore, it is more likely to be used along with verbs that suggest an activity that is repeated, rather than a single action, compare:

  • I’ve broken my leg.
  • I’ve been breaking my leg. (Possible but unlikely.)

The present perfect continuous is used to emphasize that an activity is ongoing and repeated, whereas the present perfect suggests that an activity happened only once or a specified number of times, the difference is illustrated in the following example:

  • Henry has been singing songs all day, but he hasn’t sung one to his girlfriend.

When you want to emphasize the result of an activity, you use present perfect tense, but when you want to emphasize on the process, then the present perfect continuous is used, for comparison:

  • I have been washing the bike and I am soaked. (process – present perfect continuous)
  • I have washed the bike and it looks good now. (result – present perfect)

However, present perfect continuous is commonly used in place of present perfect, when speaker is complaining about some situation that resulted from some prior activity, e.g.

  • Who’s been eating my chocolates?
  • You’ve been using the phone again, haven’t you?
  • Who’s been washing the car, there’s water everywhere?


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