The Present Perfect

The Present Perfect is the link between the past and the present. In English there is a clear distinction between the past and the present.

When do we need the Present Perfect?

  • for actions which started in the past and are still true now.
    • e.g. “I have worked as an English teacher for twelve years.” This means that I started working twelve years ago and I still work there now. If I said “I worked as a teacher for twelve years.” it would mean that I do not work there any longer.
    • * In English you cannot say “I work with this company for twelve years.” because it is not allowed to tie the Present Simple to a past time. You could say “I work there.” because this is a present fact, but to say when it began or how long it has been, you  have to use the Present Perfect. E.g. “I have worked with this company since 1992.” or “I have worked with this company for seven years.”
  • indefinite time
    • The Present Perfect is often used with indefinite time. Compare: “I have seen the film ‘Monster’.” (but I don’t say “when”) & “I saw the film ‘Monster’ last week.”
  • open questions
    • We often combine this “indefinite time” use of the Present Perfect with the word “ever” to make open questions, which are great for starting conversations. E.g. “Have you ever been to Belgrade?”
    • A possible answer: “Yes, I have. I went there three years ago.” (Note how the tense changes to the Past Simple when we focus on what happened in the past.)

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