How to use present perfect.

Times Square

Present Perfect is a great sentence pattern in English. It helps us talk about our experience. For example: 

A: Have you ever been to New York? 
B: Yeah! It’s the most amazing city I’ve ever been to. 
A: Really? I’ve never been there. 

Honestly, each of the following examples probably deserve their own posts. So, the following is a general reference and covers many, but not every usage of present perfect.

Have fun with the patterns below and try using them in your next class! 

Simple Past vs Present Perfect 

Simple Past = finished times or actions
Present Perfect = unfinished times or actions

– I went to Starbucks twice yesterday
– I have gone to Starbucks twice today

– My boyfriend made dinner every day last week
– My boyfriend has made dinner every day this week

– I 
worked at McDonald’s in high school
– I have worked at McDonald’s since high school. (I still work at McDonalds.)

– I 
lived in New York for three years from 2003 to 2006
– I have lived in New York for three years. (I still live in New York.)

Going Deeper

The difference between finished and unfinished times is a good starting point, so now, let’s go a little deeper. Below is a simple reference of ways we use present perfect. 

1. Life Experience 
Often, when no time is mentioned, we mean “in my life“, which is an unfinished time. We don’t usually say, “in my life”.

– In his life, Abraham Lincoln won many victories. (finished time = not alive.) 
– In my life, I’
ve won many victories. (unfinished time = I’m alive!)

We don’t usually say, “in my life”. 
– She 
has seen this movie many times.
– I’ve travelled to thirteen different countries.

2. For / Since
a. For
= how much time

– I worked at that company for two years. (I don’t work there now.)
– I have worked at this company for two years. (I work here now.)

b. Since
= from a time to now
worked at that company since 2019
O I have worked at this company since 2019

3. Recently / lately = not long ago
– I was very busy recently. (but not now) (simple past)
– I’
ve been very busy recently. (I’m still busy.) (present perfect)

Recently / lately vs These days
– He has sold a lot of cars recently. (present perfect)
– He sells a lot of cars these days. (simple present)

4. Ever / Never 
A: Have you ever eaten at that restaurant? = questions
B: No. I
‘ve never eaten there but it looks nice. = negative sentences 

We usually don’t use “ever” in positive sentences.
X I have ever seen this movie. 
O I have seen this movie. 

Ever + superlative adjectives
– This is the most amazing sunset I have ever seen.
– That is the biggest burger I have ever eaten

5. Just = very recently, perhaps a moment ago
A: Do you know where Dan is? 
B: I 
just saw him near the elevator. (simple past)
B: I
‘ve just seen him near the elevator. (present perfect)

6. Already = before an expected time
A: Can you do the dishes please? 
B: I 
already did them. (simple past)
B: I
‘ve already done them. (present perfect)

7. Yet = used with negative sentences and questions 
Did you finish your homework yet
B: No. I 
didn’t finish yet. / Not yet

A: Have you finished your homework yet
B: No. I 
haven’t finished yet. / Not yet

8. Have been to / Have gone to
Many people, myself included, use “been to” and “gone to” interchangeably. 

– Have you ever been to Thailand? 
Have you ever gone to Thailand? 

However, there is a difference. 
– My sister has gone to the shop. = she’s not here / she just left
– My sister 
has been to the shop. = she is here / she just came back

9. Present Perfect vs Present Perfect Continuous
a. Often, the basic meaning of these two patterns is the same. 
I’ve lived in this apartment for four years. 
I’ve been living in this apartment for four years. 

I’ve studied Japanese for a long time. 
I’ve been studying Japanese for a long time. 

I’ve worked at this company for a long time. 
I’ve been working at this company for a long time.

b. Use present perfect for finished actions during an unfinished time. 
I’ve read all those books. (recently / this year / in my life)
She’s made a lot of food. (It’s ready to eat). 
My son has written five reports. (They are done).
We’ve called our client several times this morning. (Focus on the action).

c. Use present perfect continuous for unfinished actions during an unfinished time. 
I’ve been reading all those books (but I haven’t finished any of them yet).
She’s been making a lot of food (she’s still cooking).
My son has been writing these three reports. (He hasn’t finished any.)
We’ve been calling our client all morning. (Focus on the time).

d. Use “already” and “yet” with present perfect, not present perfect continuous. 
X We’ve already been calling our client several times this morning. 
O We’ve already called our client several times this morning. (several calls)

X I haven’t been cleaning the house yet. 
O I haven’t cleaned the house yet.

Like these examples? Did I forget anything? Get in touch and let me know!

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