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.

Infinitive Past Simple Past Participle
work
live
watch
worked
lived
watched
worked
lived
watched

So we have, for the present perfect:

I have worked
He has lived
They have watched

For the past participle of irregular verbs, check this page.

Here is the verb live in all forms of the present perfect.

Present Perfect
Positive Negative Question
I have lived
You have lived
He has lived
She has lived
It has lived
We have lived
You have lived
They have lived
I haven't lived
You haven't lived
He hasn't lived
She hasn't lived
It hasn't lived
We haven't lived
You haven't lived
They haven't lived
Have I lived?
Have you lived?
Has he lived?
Has she lived?
Has it lived?
Have we lived?
Have you lived?
Have they lived?

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.
I have been to Paris two times.

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".

Examples:

I have lost my watch. - but we don't say when.
She has seen that film before. - again, we don't say when.
President Bush has told his advisors to work on tax cuts. - was is yesterday, last Wednesday? We don't know - we just know he has done it.

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.
She saw that film with Terry before Christmas.
President Bush had a meeting with his cabinet yesterday late in the evening and told them he was interested in working towards tax cuts.

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?
B: No, I haven't. I would like to one day.

A: Have you ever been to New York?
B: Yes, I have. I went in 1993.

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.
George Bush has been the President since 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".

Examples:

I have lived in this house for 18 years. I love it!
He has worked for this company since 1987 and is now department manager.

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.
He worked for IBM for six years, then went to work for Microsoft.

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?

Read this:

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.
I bought it in 1976. - here we talk only about the past and so use the past simple.
I have had it for over 25 years. - here we are talking about the past and the present together. You had the watch in the past and you still have it now in the present. So here we use the present perfect.

Remember what we said before about the present perfect connecting the past and the present.




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