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Unit 51: - Present Perfect 1

Present Perfect 1

The Present Perfect is used to connect the past and the present. It's core purpose is to show the present relevancy of a past action or situation. For example:
- John has gone home.
John went home in the past, but our real interest is where he is now. This sentence gives past information to inform a present situation.

Form

The Present Perfect is made with have/has (the auxiliary verb "to have") and the past participle. For example:
- I have worked in London.
- She has worked in a bank.
Regular past participles are made by adding -ed to the verb, for example work - worked, play - played. There are however many irregular past participles which you can see at the Irregular Verb Page.

Here are the Present Perfect forms of the verb to work.

 

Singular

Plural

Affirmative

I have worked
You have worked
He has worked
She has worked
It has worked

We have worked
You have worked
They have worked

Negative

I haven't worked (haven't = have not)
You haven't worked
He hasn't worked
She hasn't worked
It hasn't worked

We haven't worked
You haven't worked
They haven't worked

Interrogative

Have I worked?
Have you worked?
Has he worked?
Has she worked?
Has it worked?

Have I worked?
Have you worked?
Have they worked?

Usage

Here are some of the many usages of the Present Perfect. Bear in mind that for all these individual cases the main purpose of connecting past and present is essentially the same.

A. Past informing Present

1. The Present Perfect is used to give past information that is relevant to the present. For example:
- Have you been shopping? Yes, I went this morning.
The question "Have you been shopping?" asks about a past fact - did you go shopping or not. However this question is asked because of a present need - If you have been shopping, we don't need to go now - If you haven't been shopping we need to go now. This question is about a present need, not a past fact.

2. The Present Perfect is used to relate past experience. For example:
- Have you been to Italy?
- No, I haven't been there.
Again the question "Have you been to Italy?" asks about a past fact, but the past time or circumstances are not so important. Instead we want this information for a present need - perhaps we are having a conversation about travel abroad, or maybe I'm interested in Italy. We can't tell from just one sentence, but the focus here is on a present need, not a past fact.

3. The Present Perfect is used for achievements. For example:
- James has won first prize for math.
James won the prize in the past, but the focus is on his present achievement.

B. Past Time - Present Time

1. The Present Perfect is used to show change from the past to the present.
- John's English wasn't very good, but he's got much better.
Between a past time and the present, John's English has improved. The focus is less on how poor John was in the past, but rather how much better he is now.

2. The Present Perfect is used for a situation or action that started in the past and continues to the present. It's common to use for and since in these situations.For example:
- John's lived in Boston for 5 years.
John came to Boston 5 years ago, and he still lives there.
- He's been a lawyer for 12 years.

3. The Present Perfect is used for repeated actions that started in the past and continue to the present. For example:
- We've been to England 4 times.
We went to England several times the past, and it's possible we could go there again in the future.

4. The Present Perfect is used for a period of time that started in the past but still continues in the present.
- I've studied at the library every day this week.
This week started in the past, but it's still going on, it isn't finished yet.

Indefinite and Definite Time

One convenient rule about the Present Perfect is it cannot be used with definite time. For example:
- I've been on vacation. OK
- I went on vacation last month. OK
- I've been on vacation last month. Incorrect.
We cannot use definite time with the Present Perfect. By definition the Present Perfect uses past information to focus on the present time, so introducing a past time as well is non-sensical.

As a general rule: If the exact past time is important use the Present Simple - If the exact past time is not important use the Present Perfect. For example:
- I went to Paris last year. - Focus is on the past time.
- I've been to Paris. - Focus is how our past experience affects the present.

The Present Perfect can be used with time adverbs. For example:
- I haven't had a vacation recently.

Note the Present Perfect can be used with time periods that haven't finished yet. For example:
I haven't had a vacation this year. OK - This year isn't finished yet, so the Present Perfect is used for a time that continues from past to present.
I haven't had a vacation last year. Incorrect

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