Perfect Aspect

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What Is the Perfect Aspect? (with Examples)

The perfect aspect (or complete aspect as it's sometimes called) is the aspect of a verb that expresses a completed action.

In other words, "perfect aspect" is the collective term for all the verbs (in the past tense, present tense, or future tense) in a perfect tense.

The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" Verbs

There are 12 tenses in total. The table below shows all four aspects and the three tenses in each aspect. The three "perfect (or completed) aspect" tenses are highlighted in yellow.
The "Simple Aspect" TensesExamples
The simple aspect is used to describe facts and habits.
Simple Present Tense
  • The dog eats bones.
  • Simple Past Tense
  • The dog ate bones.
  • Simple Future Tense
  • The dog will eat bones.
  •   
    The "Progressive (or Continuing) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The progressive aspect expresses ongoing actions.
    Present Progressive Tense
  • The dog is eating bones.
  • Past Progressive Tense
  • The dog was eating bones.
  • Future Progressive Tense
  • The dog will be eating bones.
  •   
    The "Perfect (or Complete) Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect aspect expresses completed actions.
    Present Perfect Tense
  • The dog has eaten bones.
  • Past Perfect Tense
  • The dog had eaten bones.
  • Future Perfect Tense
  • The dog will have eaten bones.
  •   
    The "Perfect Progressive Aspect" TensesExamples
    The perfect progressive aspect expresses the end of an ongoing action.
    Present Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The dog has been eating bones.
  • Past Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The dog had been eating bones.
  • Future Perfect Progressive Tense
  • The dog will have been eating bones.
  • Slider Showing Verbs in the Complete Aspect

    The following slider shows all 12 tenses. Each infographic shows how the tense is formed, the role of the tense, and some examples. The perfect tenses (i.e., those in the perfect aspect) are highlighted with a yellow background.

    Examples of Verbs in the Perfect Aspect

    Here are some examples of verbs in the perfect aspect:

    In the Past Tense
    • We had seen.
    • I had cleaned.
    • She had drunk.
    In the Present Tense
    • I have seen.
    • She has taken.
    • It has found.
    In the Future Tense
    • You will have finished.
    • They will have eaten.
    • She will have swum.

    Forming the Perfect Aspect

    The perfect aspect is formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "have" and the past participle. For example:

    Forming the Past Perfect Tense

    "had"
    +
    [past participle]
    • They had played.
    Forming the Present Perfect Tense

    "has" or "have"
    +
    [past participle]
    • He has played.
    • We have played.
    Forming the Future Perfect Tense

    "will have"
    +
    [past participle]
    • He will have played.

    Verb Tenses Showing the Perfect Aspect

    Here are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. As before, the tenses in the perfect (or complete) aspect are shaded in yellow.
    The 4 Past Tenses Example
    simple past tense I went
    past progressive tense I was going
    past perfect tense I had gone
    past perfect progressive tenseI had been going
    The 4 Present Tenses Example
    simple present tense I go
    present progressive tense I am going
    present perfect tense I have gone
    present perfect progressive tense I have been going
    The 4 Future Tenses Example
    simple future tense I will go
    future progressive tense I will be going
    future perfect tense I will have gone
    future perfect progressive tense I will have been going

    Verb Tense Widget

    Use this widget to learn about the different tenses. How do you use this widget? Well, if there's a button, a drop-down menu, or a , then you can click it!
    to base form

    ( verb)

    Select the tenses.

    Present Tenses

    Simple Present Tense The simple present tense is mostly used to describe facts and habits. More...(opens new tab) I base form you base form he/she/it 3rd pers sing present we base form you base form they base form Present Progressive Tense The present progressive tense is used for an ongoing action in the present. More...(opens new tab) I am present participle you are present participle he/she/it is present participle we are present participle you are present participle they are present participle Present Perfect Tense The present perfect tense is used for actions that began in the past. (Often, the actions continue into the present.) More...(opens new tab) I have past participle you have past participle he/she/it has past participle we have past participle you have past participle they have past participle Present Perfect Progressive Tense The present perfect progressive tense is used for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present, or a continuous activity that began in past but has now finished (usually very recently). More...(opens new tab) I have been present participle you have been present participle he/she/it has been present participle we have been present participle you have been present participle they have been present participle

    Past Tenses

    Simple Past The simple past tense is used to describe a completed activity that happened in the past. More...(opens new tab) I past tense you past tense he/she/it past tense we past tense you past tense they past tense Past Progressive Tense The past progressive tense is used to describe an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action. More...(opens new tab) I was present participle you were present participle he/she/it was present participle we were present participle you were present participle they were present participle Past Perfect Tense The past perfect tense is used to emphasize that an action was completed before another took place. More...(opens new tab) I had past participle you had past participle he/she/it had past participle we had past participle you had past participle they had past participle Past Perfect Progressive Tense The past perfect progressive tense is used to show that an ongoing action in the past has ended. More...(opens new tab) I had been present participle you had been present participle he/she/it had been present participle we had been present participle you had been present participle they had been present participle

    Future Tenses

    Simple Future The simple future tense is used for an action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will base form you will base form he/she/it will base form we will base form you will base form they will base form Future Progressive Tense The future progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will occur in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will be present participle you will be present participle he/she/it will be present participle we will be present participle you will be present participle they will be present participle Future Perfect Tense The future perfect tense is used to describe an action that will have been completed at some point in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have past participle you will have past participle he/she/it will have past participle we will have past participle you will have past participle they will have past participle Future Perfect Progressive Tense The future perfect progressive tense is used for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future. More...(opens new tab) I will have been present participle you will have been present participle he/she/it will have been present participle we will have been present participle you will have been present participle they will have been present participle

    Why Should I Care about the Perfect Aspect?

    Native English speakers can use all twelve tenses without giving the grammar a second thought. However, if you're learning or teaching English, you must spend time learning the tenses because expressing when something occurs is a fundamental communication skill. Remember though that tenses do not just tell us whether something is a past, present, or future action. They also tell us whether the action is habitual, completed, or ongoing (called the aspects).

    The trick to learning tenses is mastering the following:
    • The verb "to be" in all its forms (am, is, are, was, were, will be)
    • The verb "to have" in all its forms (has, have, had, will have)
    • Present participles, i.e., the "ing" form of verbs (e.g., playing, thinking, eating)
    • Past participles (e.g., played, thought, eaten)
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    See Also

    complete aspect What is aspect? What is the perfect tense? What is the past perfect tense? What is the present complete tense? What is the future present tense? Glossary of grammatical terms