Grammar - Pre-Intermediate
Present Perfect Structure
The present perfect is made using the auxiliary verb have plus the past participle of the main verb.
The past participle, for regular verbs, is the same as the past simple.
So we have, for the present perfect:
I have worked
For the past participle of irregular verbs, check this page.
Here is the verb live in all forms of the present perfect.
She's not lived is also possible but not as common as she hasn't lived.
Present Perfect Use
We use the present perfect for two main functions.
A. Indefinite Past.
Look at these two sentences. What is the difference?
I went to Paris in 1997.
In the second sentence, we use past simple because we are talking about a specified time in the past, 1997.
In the second sentence, though, we are just saying "at some time in my life" without being specific as to exactly when we have been to Paris - so we use the present perfect.
The present perfect used in this way means "at some time in the past".
I have lost my watch. - but we don't say when.
Now look at the same examples with more specific time expressions. Note how we have to use the past simple in these sentences.
I lost my watch last Wednesday at the swimming pool.
Using the present perfect in this way is often used to talk about one's experiences of life. Have you ever..? is a common question.
A: Have you ever visited Russia?
A: Have you ever been to New York?
Note how, in the second dialogue, the person responding uses the past simple to say when he went to New York.
B. Unfinished Past.
Look at these two sentences, what is the difference?
Bill Clinton was the President from 1992 to 2000.
Who is the President now? Bill Clinton was the President in the past. Now his time in the White House is finished, over - so we use the past simple. George Bush is still the president. His time at the White House started in the past but it continues now - so we use the present perfect.
The Present Perfect in this way, joins the past and the present and speaks about both.
The present perfect used in this way means "unfinished past".
I have lived in this house for 18 years. I love it!
In both these examples, the action started in the past but continues still today. If the action started and finished in the past, we must use the past simple:
I lived in that house for ten years but then I bought a new house in the country.
Using the present perfect in this way is often used to talk about the duration of your current activities. A common question is How long have you...?
Present Simple, Past Simple or Present Perfect?
I have a beautiful gold watch. It is from France and it's very old. I bought it in 1976 when I spent the summer in Paris as a student. I have had this wonderful timepiece for over 25 years.
I have a watch. - here we talk only about the present and so use the present simple.
Remember what we said before about the present perfect connecting the past and the present.
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