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The Present Perfect Tense is one of the more difficult English tenses to use correctly. The reasons are first, the Present Perfect does not exist in many other languages, so English learners of other languages have difficulty understanding this concept. Second, explanations in text books are quite often inadequate.
The explanation given here for the Present Perfect is as used by both British English and American speakers. Below are ten different ways we use the Present Perfect. This categorization is a generalization we offer. This is to say that the usage of the Present Perfect varies as a matter of preference among English speakers of different backgrounds . Americans tend to use this tense more loosely than the British. For example, Americans would say: "Did you go to lunch?", but the British, "Have you gone to lunch?". Americans would ask:"Did you see that movie?", instead "Have you seen that movie?" the British would prefer. However, please do not worry about this matter much, but learn the rules first and then use them the way you prefer, the American or British usage.
Ten different ways we use the Present Perfect:
We can use the present perfect to describe an action in the past which has a result in the present.
Paul has eaten all the cookies.
When was the action done? In the past: a few minutes ago/yesterday.
Result? There is no cookie left. There is nothing left for me.
She's broken her glasses. (She can't see...)
Paul has lived in London for 10 years.
When did it start? 10 years ago.
Is it finished? No, it isn't. Paul is still in London. He lives in London.
We use the Present Perfect to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important. You CANNOT use the Present Perfect with time expressions such as "yesterday," "one year ago," "last week," "when I was a child," "when I lived in Japan," "at that moment," "that day" or "one day." We CAN use the Present Perfect with expressions like "ever," "never," "once," "many times," "several times," "before," "so far," "already" and "yet."
I have seen that movie twenty times.
I think I have met him once before.
There have been many earthquakes in California.
Has there ever been a war in the United States?
Yes, there has been a war in the United States.
You can use the Present Perfect to describe your experience. It is like saying, "I have the experience of..." You can also use this tense to say that you have never had a certain experience.
I have been to France.
(This sentence means that you have the experience of being to France. Maybe you have been once, or several times.)
I have been to France three times.
(You can add the number of times at the end of the sentence.)
I have never been to France.
(This sentence means that you have not had the experience of going to France.)
I think I have seen that movie before.
He has never traveled by train.
Joan has studied two foreign languages.
Have you ever met him?
No, I have not met him.
We often use the Present Perfect to talk about change that has happened over a period of time.
You have grown since the last time I saw you.
The government has become more interested in arts education.
Japanese has become one of the most popular courses at the university since the Asian studies program was established.
My English has really improved since I moved to the United States.
We often use the Present Perfect to say that an action which we expected has not happened. Using the Present Perfect suggests that we are still waiting for the action.
James has not finished his homework yet.
Susan hasn't mastered Japanese, but she can communicate.
Bill has still not arrived.
The rain hasn't stopped.
We use the Present Perfect to mention an action that happened in the past and we remember.
You seem familiar. I think I have met you before.
Where are my keys gone? I remember I have left them right here on this table.
Helen has always acted like an angel when we were classmates in the sixth grade.
We often use the Present Perfect to list the accomplishments of individuals and humanity. You cannot mention a specific time.
Man has walked on the moon.
Our son has learned how to read.
Doctors have cured many deadly diseases. Scientists have split the atom.
9. Multiple actions at different times: We also use the Present Perfect to talk about several different actions which occurred in the past at different times. The Present Perfect suggests the process is not complete and more actions are possible.
The army has attacked that city five times.
I have had four quizzes and five tests so far this semester.
We have had many major problems while working on this project.
She has talked to several specialists about her problem, but nobody knows why she is sick.
When we use the Present Perfect it means that something happened at some point in our lives before now.
Sometimes we want to limit the time we are looking in for an experience. Expressions such as "in the last week," "in the last year," "this week," "this month," "so far" and "up to now" can be used to narrow the time we are looking in for an experience.
Have you been to Mexico in the last year?
Have you seen that movie six times in the last month.
They have had three tests in the last week.
She graduated from university less than three years ago. She has worked for three different companies so far.
This week my car has broken down three times.
" Last year" and "in the last year" are very different in meaning. "Last year" means the year before now. "In the last year" means from 365 days ago until now.
I went to Mexico last year.
(I went to Mexico in 1998.)
I have been to Mexico in the last year.
(I have been to Mexico at least once at some point between 365 days ago and now. We do not know exactly when.)P
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