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Mastering the Present Perfect Simple: A Guide to Clear Communication

Good for you! You've made it halfway through your free Summer Grammar Revision Course! If you've missed any of the previous posts, check them out here:



Today we'll be reviewing the Present Perfect Simple, which is my favorite tense to talk about. Why? Because I like making my life difficult. This tense doesn't exist in Italian or Spanish (and probably not in any other language in the world, knowing the English and their desire to make everything impossible), so it makes it quite difficult to explain to my poor, confused students. But I've gotten pretty good at it (example of the present perfect!), so keep reading if you need to refresh your memory on how to use it correctly.

 

Formation and Structure


I'm changing the order and giving you the structure first and its use later, just because the structure is the easy part...the rest is more complicated! To form a sentence in the present perfect simple, you need the helping or auxiliary verb "have" ("has" for the 3rd person singular) + the past participle of the verb. For regular verbs, it's just the verb +ed, but for irregular verbs, unfortunately you've got to remember these forms, just like in the past simple.

Subject + have/has + past participle

I have finished cooking.

She has been to the supermarket.


Here's a list with all the irregular verbs:

Complete list of IRR verbs
.pdf
Scarica PDF • 182KB

 

Usage and Significance


We use this tense to show the connection that a past (usually) finished action has with the present. Its purpose is to give your listener more information than if you were to use the present simple or the past simple. The chart below should help you understand this concept.

​Rules and use

Examples

  • Use when talking about life experiences (when you don't say "when").

  • If you say when, you must use the past simple.

A: Have you (ever) been to Egypt?

B: No, I haven't, but I have been to Morocco! I went last summer.

Use when saying how many times an event has occurred in the past (that has the possibility of occurring again in the future).

​A: Last night we went to the theatre to see Carmen. It was great!

B: Isn't it? I've (already) seen it five times, but I always enjoy it as if it were the first!

​Use it when talking about a finished action that has a direct consequence in the present.

Oh no!!! I've left my keys at work, now I can't get into my house!


I left my keys in the past, but this action directly affects my present.

​Use it when talking about an unfinished action that is a permanent situation (with for and since).

I have lived in Italy for 7 years.

She has worked in a school since 2015.

​Use it for any unfinished state (stative verbs are verbs that cannot be used in the continuous form)

He has been a doctor for 20 years.

- I've always thought that English was silly.

- We've never wanted to move house.


Use it when the period of time you are referring to is not finished.

- I have spent a lot of money this month (the month isn't finished).

- She has travelled a lot this year (the year isn't finished).

- I haven't seen her this week (the week isn't finished).

Use it with the words:

  • just: very recent past

  • already: undefined moment in the past

  • yet: must happen in the future

  • still: must happen in the future

​- I have just finished work (now I can go home).

- We have already seen that film (we don't want to watch it again now).

- He hasn't finished his homework yet (he must finish it in the future)

- He still hasn't finished his homework (he must finish it in the future).


 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. The present perfect simple is a strange combination of the past and the present. Be careful! It is NOT the direct translation of sentences like, "sono andato/a" or "he estado/a" because in English, the context is what determines the use of present perfect or past simple.

  2. You must not say when something happened if you want to use the present perfect. For all major details, you must use another past tense. For example, "I have been to Paris. I went in 2018".

  3. Don't forget to use the auxiliary verb "have/has" before your main verb.

  4. Don't forget to change your main verb into its participle form.


Download the guide below and stay tuned for next week's post on the present perfect continuous!


 

Glossary

  • to refresh [one's] memory: a phrasal verb to say, "to remind" someone of something or "to review" something.


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