What is the Present Perfect Tense? Definition, Examples of English Tenses

Present perfect definition: The present perfect tense is a verb tense used to express actions that occurred at a non-specific time. The present perfect tense is also used to express actions that started in the past but continue to the present.

What is the Present Perfect Tense?

The present perfect tense expresses actions that happened at a time that is not specific.

The Present Perfect is Used to Express:

  • actions of duration that occurred in the past (before now) of unspecified time
  • actions that started in the past but continue to the present
  • actions that started in the past but stopped recently

It is important to consider that the TIME of the present perfect tense is unknown.

To form the present perfect:

  • Subject + has/have + past participle of verb

perfect present tense

Present Perfect Tense Examples

  • actions in the past of indefinite time
    • She has passed the test.
  • actions that started in the past but continue to present
    • We have been a family of four since 1996.
  • actions that started in the past but stopped recently
    • He has arrived.

What is It Used For?

Let’s look at some additional examples to understand the uses of the present perfect tense.

For actions of duration that occurred in the past (before now) but are of unspecified time:

present perfect examples

  • She has visited the Guggenheim.
  • We have built a fence.
  • They have been to France.

These examples indicate that the action is completed. Furthermore, all of these actions occurred before the present. Each of these statements also expresses that the actions occurred over a period of time rather than a single moment in time.

For actions that started in the past but continue to the present:

present perfect English

  • I have spent 20 years studying French.
  • He has worked as an administrator for years.
  • We have owned this house since 1985.

These examples indicate that the action began at a time before now. Additionally, these actions continue on into the present and will likely extend to the future.

For actions that started in the past but stopped recently:

what to use present perfect

  • I have spoken.
  • She has called.
  • We have forgotten.

These examples indicate that the action began before now. These actions are all completed actions.

What is important to note is that the completion of these actions actually puts a focus on the present or on the result of the action. The “I have spoken” example, especially, puts emphasis on the “now.”

Other Perfect Tenses

There are two other forms of the perfect tenses: the past perfect and the future perfect.

Past Perfect

present perfect sentencesWhat is the past perfect? The past perfect tense most often expresses actions in the past that finished before another action (also in the past) started.

To form the past perfect:

  • Subject + had + past participle of verb

The past perfect is used to express:

  • completed action before another begins (both in past)
    • After she had called the customer service department, she was able to resolve her concern.
  • actions of duration before something in the past
    • She had had the item for years without ever calling the customer service department.
  • conditional statements
    • If she had called the customer service department, she been able to resolve her concern.
  • reported speech
    • My husband asked if I had called the customer service department.
  • show dissatisfaction with the past
    • I wish I had called the customer service department.

Future Perfect

present perfect exercisesWhat is the future perfect? The future perfect tense expresses actions that will be finished at some point in the future.

To form the future perfect:

  • Subject + will have + past participle of verb

The future perfect is used to express:

  • actions that will be finished at some point
    • By the she wakes up, we will have finished the movie.
  • actions that occur in the future will continue beyond a certain point in the future
    • He will have traveled to Europe six times by next spring.

Present Perfect Tense Exercises

Fill in the blanks to make the sentences into the present perfect tense.

  • I ______ (to spend) 20 years studying this.
  • She ______ (to live) in Washington for many years.
  • We ______ (to know) each other since middle school.

See answers below.

Summary

Define present perfect: the definition of the present perfect tense is a tense denoting an action that occurred at an unspecified time before now.

In summary, the present perfect tense is:

  • formed by: Subject + has/have + past participle of verb
  • used to express actions of duration that occurred in the past (before now) of unspecified time
  • used to express actions that started in the past but continue to the present
  • used to express actions that started in the past but stopped recently

 

Answers

  • Have spent.
  • Has lived.
  • Have known.
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