The Present Perfect Tense | English Grammar Lesson

Lesson Overview

This lesson is an overview of the present perfect tense: What it looks like, how to use it and when to use it!

Subject + have/has + main verb (past participle form)

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If you don’t feel confident using the present perfect tense in English yet… There are probably a few reasons why!

You need to know the past participle form of English verbs… And that can be pretty tricky with irregular verbs! And you need to understand how to use this tense! Perhaps you feel unsure about when to use the present perfect and when to use the past simple tenses.

I will explain all of this in this lesson.

Video Transcript
Okay! Get your notebooks ready! In this lesson, we’re focusing on the perfect tense – what it looks like, how to use it and when to use it.

Hello! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish. If you don’t feel confident using the present perfect tense in English yet, there’s probably a few reasons why. There’s those nasty irregular verbs in past participle form. Or maybe you feel unsure about when to use the present perfect and when to use the past simple tenses.

Even if you’re quite good at using the present perfect tense in English, it’s definitely worth reviewing this tense to jog your memory – that expression means to remind yourself.

So are you ready to start? Grab a notepad and a pen and let’s go over this beautiful tense right now so that you can feel more confident using it.

Oh and if you can think of a friend who needs to review this tense too, make sure you share this lesson with them. Click the
share button just underneath this video, they’ll thank you for it!

First thing, the grammatical structure. What does it look like?

Well, it looks like this:

Subject + have/has + your main verb (in past participle form)

So, the subject, you already know this. You can use a proper noun or a pronoun. I, she, they. In the perfect tenses, the verb “have” is an auxiliary verb, it’s a helping verb. It’s not the main verb in the sentence and that means that it’s usually unstressed and often contracted when spoken.

So “she has” becomes “she’s
I have” becomes “I’ve” – but I’ll talk more about that soon!

But then comes the main verb. In the present perfect tense, the main verb is in past participle form, not in past simple form. Now, this is no problem for regular past tense verbs. For regular verbs, the past participle form is the same as the simple past. So you just need to add -ed.

watch” in the present tense becomes “watched” in past simple and it’s also “watched” in past participle form.

Present Simple: laughed
Past Simple: laughed
Past Participle: laughed

Present Simple: dance
Past Simple: danced
Past Participle: danced

Present Simple: call
Past Simple: called
Past Participle: called

And even some irregular verbs use the same verb for past simple as the past participle form. “have” in the present tense becomes “had” in the simple past and it’s also “had” as a past participle. Easy, right?

Present Simple: win
Past Simple: won
Past Participle: won

But these really irregular verbs are the ones that cause all of the headaches because there are three different forms that you need to remember.

go” in the present tense becomes “went” in the past simple and in the past participle form, it’s “been” or “gone

Some more examples:

Present Simple: fly
Past Simple: flew
Past Participle: flown

Present Simple: throw
Past Simple: threw
Past Participle: thrown

Present Simple: do
Past Simple: did
Past Participle: done

Present Simple: speak
Past Simple: spoke
Past Participle: spoken

I’m sure you can think of many more examples but with these verbs, there’s no pattern, there’s no rule to follow. You just need to memorise the past participle form – but keep an eye out for my next video next week, which will help you to practise and memorise these past participle forms of irregular verbs.

In fact, if you subscribe to this channel – click the red button here – then you’ll find out as soon as it’s ready.

But to use the present perfect tense well, you may need to polish up on some useful irregular English verbs and remind yourself about their past participle form. But let’s get back to the structure!

Subject + have/has + main verb (past participle form)

  • I have asked my parents to loan me some money.
  • You have been really helpful today.
  • They have flown to the capital to meet with the officials.
  • He has saved enough money to buy a car.
  • She has forgotten where her hotel is.

Now, in this structure often “have” and “has” are contracted to ‘ve and ‘s

  • I’ve asked
  • You’ve been
  • They’ve flown
  • He’s saved
  • She’s forgotten

Got it? Good.

So when should you use the present perfect tense? Well, when there is a connection between the present and the past. Think of it like a bridge that’s connecting the present and the past. For example, when something started in the past and continues in the present.

  • They’ve been married for three years.

You can use it to talk about an activity that you’ve done several times in the past and that you continue to do now.

  • She has read many books.

And she’ll probably read more.

You can also use the present perfect to talk about life experience.

  • He hasn’t travelled overseas before.

Now before I give you some more examples let’s talk about when to use the past simple tense and the present perfect tense because this is often the confusing part about this tense.

To answer this question, you need to think about time – finished time and unfinished time.

So think about last week – that’s a good example of finished time. Last week is finished, it’s over.

But what about this week? Is this week finished? No, not yet. That’s an example of unfinished time. There is still more of this week to come, it’s not finished yet.

Yesterday, last week, last month, last year, 1991. These are all examples of finished time, time that is complete. When you’re talking about a time period that has finished – like these – you need to use the past simple.

But when you’re talking about a time period that is unfinished, like today, this week, this year, this month, use the present perfect tense.

So let’s compare some examples.

  • Last month, I visited my brother three times.
  • This month I have visited my brother twice.

But the month isn’t finished yet and I may visit him again.

Try an example with me.

  • He borrowed my car yesterday.

So this sentence is in the past simple. It’s finished time. Now, try to change it to the present perfect yourself. What do you need to do?

Two things. You need to add the auxiliary verb. “he has“, “has” not “have“. It changes because our subject is he.

“He has borrowed my car today” or this week. We need to change the time expression too for our sentence to work in the present perfect tense. It must be unfinished time.

Okay so those were all examples of the present perfect in positive sentences. But what about negative forms? Of course, we need to add “not” to our sentence, to our structure.

Subject + have/has + not + main verb (past participle form)

So compare these sentences.

  • Last month, I visited my brother three times.
  • This month, I haven’t visited him at all.

but the month isn’t over, yet. I may still visit him.

Again, see that this structure is usually contracted in spoken English.

Haven’t” This is the most common way to contract the negative form but you may also hear people say “I’ve not visited him.” Both ways are acceptable but you can’t contract all three words together. I’ve n’t. You can’t do that! It’s one contraction, or the other.

Another example:

  • He ate so much yesterday!

Notice the time word that we’re using. So in present perfect negative, we can say “He hasn’t eaten a lot today” but there is still more day so he could eat more food.

One more example.

  • They were at school yesterday.

In the present perfect:

  • They haven’t been at school all morning.

But the day’s not finished yet and they may arrive in the afternoon. Of course, you need to ask present perfect questions too, right? As with all English question forms, our auxiliary verb needs to change position. So we have “have” and “has“, our subject and our past participle verb.

  • Has he cleaned the bathroom?
  • Have you eaten enough?
  • Has it rained today?
  • Have they finished yet?

Now compare these two questions.

  • Did you go to Thailand last year?

This is a past simple question so the auxiliary verb “do” takes the tense it becomes “did” but now compare it to

  • Have you been to Thailand?

This means at any time in the past, it’s your life experience, but of course, you’re still alive, so you may go in the future. The difference is the time reference. There is a lot to think about when using the present perfect tense, right?

But I hope that this lesson made everything a little easier, especially the basics. If you’re clear on the basics, it’s a good thing.

Make sure that you’re subscribed to the mmmEnglish Channel because the next few lessons that I make will help you to practise using the present perfect tense. You don’t want to miss them! Just click that red subscribe button just there. You can watch more mmmEnglish lessons right here or you can improve your pronunciation and your English speaking skills by practising with the imitation technique right here!

Thanks so much for watching and I’ll see you in the next lesson. Bye for now!

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