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The present perfect simple

IS MOST CERTAINLY NOT SIMPLE! Don't despair, I'll try to make it as simple as possible, even though the basic grammar rules cannot be changed. But, there are rules! And this is a good thing. Keep reading to see exactly when to use (and not to use) the present perfect simple.

 

The ground rules


There are a few ground rules that you must know before starting to use this mysterious tense, so here we go:

  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".

So, now that that's out of the way, let me give you some tips and examples of when you do want to use this pesky grammar tense.


Rule or use

Example

  • 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 Morrocco! 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've lived in Italy for 6 years.

- She's played basketball since she was a child.

  • ​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).


 

I know it seems like you always need to use the present simple, but actually, you only need it in specific situations. So hopefully this chart will give you some clarity, and when in doubt, just try! Even if you make a mistake, the person you are speaking to will understand and perhaps even correct you, helping you to avoid making the same mistake in the future.


Practice makes better, not perfect, just remember that!

 

Glossary

  • despair: verb - to feel desperate, upset, without hope

  • ground rules: compound noun - the basic rules

  • now that that's out of the way: set phrase to say - we've discussed the basic details, now we can discuss the more important information

  • pesky: synonym for irritating, annoying



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