When should I use the Present Perfect Simple TenseFor information on how to make the present perfect, click here.
Download this explanation in PDF here.
We use this tense for unfinished and finished actions.
1: We use this tense when we want to talk about unfinished actions or states or habits that started in the past and continue to the present. Usually we use it to say 'how long' and we need 'since' or 'for'. We often use stative verbs.
- I've known Karen since 1994.
- She's lived in London for three years.
- I've worked here for six months.
We use 'since' with a fixed time in the past (2004, April 23rd, last year). The fixed time can be another action, which is in the past simple (since I was at school, since I arrived).
- I've known Sam since 1992.
- I've liked chocolate since I was a child.
- She's been here since 2pm.
- I've known Julie for ten years.
- I've been hungry for hours.
- She's had a cold for a week.
2: Life experience. These are actions or events that happened sometime during a person's life. We don't say when the experience happened, and the person needs to be alive now. We often use the words 'ever' and 'never' here.
- I have been to Tokyo.
- They have visited Paris three times.
- We have never seen that film.
- I haven't seen her this month.
- She's drunk three cups of coffee today.
- I've already moved house twice this year!
I've seen him yesterday.
- I've lost my keys (so I can't get into my house).
- She's hurt her leg (so she can't play tennis today).
- They've missed the bus (so they will be late).
- The Queen has given a speech.
- I've just seen Lucy.
- The Mayor has announced a new plan for the railways.
In this tense, we use both 'been' and 'gone' as the past participle of 'go', but in slightly different circumstances. We use 'been' (often when we talk about life experience) to mean that the person we're talking about visited the place and came back.
- I've been to Paris (in my life, but now I'm in London, where I live).
- She has been to school today (but now she's back at home).
- They have never been to California.
- Where's John? He's gone to the shops (he's at the shops now).
- Julie has gone to Mexico (now she's in Mexico).
- They've gone to Japan for three weeks (now they're in Japan).
Read more about the difference between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous here.
Try some present perfect exercises here.
If you want to learn more about the tenses, especially about how to use them when you're speaking, you could try my video course, Terrific Tenses, which is part of Perfect English Grammar Plus.