The Present Perfect tense can cause confusion to English learners. This page gives you some advice on when to use it.
Compare these two sentences:
“I went to London in 2010.”
“I have been to London.”
The first sentence is in the Past Simple tense. We use the Past Simple for events and situations which are finished. Often there is a time reference, such as “in 2010”, or “last year”, for example. The focus of the sentence is on the past.
The second sentence is in the Present Perfect tense. We use the Present Perfect for actions and situations which are in the past (or which start in the past) but which have a connection with the present.
For example, if I say “I have been to London”, the connection is that I can remember this experience now. The focus of the sentence is on my experience – not when it happened.
How to form the Present Perfect
The Present Perfect is formed with the auxiliary verb “have” + the past participle of the verb. This is usually formed with -ed on the end of the infinitive.
For example: play – played, live – lived
(There are also many irregular past participles. See this page for a list of the most common ones.)
In spoken English the auxiliary form is usually abbreviated: “I’ve visited”, “he‘s been”, “she hasn’t worked”, etc.
I have worked (I’ve worked)
You have worked (You’ve worked)
He / She / It has worked (He’s worked)
We have worked (We’ve worked)
They have worked (They’ve worked)
Use the negative form of have / has:
I have not worked (I haven’t worked)
You have not worked (You haven’t worked)
He / she / it has not worked (He hasn’t worked)
We have not worked (We haven’t worked)
They have not worked (They haven’t worked)
Use the auxiliary have / has to make a question.
Have I worked?
Have you worked?
Has she worked?
Have we worked?
Have they worked?
Short form answers
Yes I have / No I haven’t
Yes you have / No you haven’t
Yes he / she / it has; No he / she / it hasn’t
Yes we have / No we haven’t
Yes they have / No they haven’t
Talking about your experiences
When we talk about our experiences, we use the Present Perfect tense. But if we start to give more information and details, we move into the Past Simple.
Have you ever visited France? (Present Perfect tense to talk about general experiences.)
Yes, I have.
When did you go? (Past Simple tense because you’re now talking about specific details in the past).
I went two years ago.
Note: When we ask about experiences, we often use “ever”.
For example: “Have you ever ridden a horse?”
We can also use “never”:
For example, “I’ve never been to Scotland.”
For more information about the Present Perfect tense, see our grammar page.
Now try our grammar quiz
Now go to the next page to get a complete list of the most common irregular past participles in English: English Irregular Verbs and Past Participles