What Are the Perfect Tenses? (with Examples)
The Perfect TensesPerfect tense is a category of verb tense used to describe completed actions. It covers the past perfect tense, the present perfect tense, and the future perfect tense. It is sometimes called the complete tense.
Examples of Verbs in a Perfect TenseHere are some examples of verbs in a perfect tense:
The Past Perfect Tense
- I had gone.
- He had seen.
- I have gone.
- He has seen.
- I will have gone.
- He will have seen.
Slider Showing Verbs in the Perfect TensesThe 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.
Forming the Perfect TensesThe perfect tenses are formed using a form of the auxiliary verb "to have" and the past participle. For example:
Forming the Past Perfect Tense
- He had spoken.
Forming the Present Perfect Tense
"has" or "have"+
- She has spoken.
- They have spoken.
Forming the Future Perfect Tense
- He will have spoken.
The Perfect Tenses in the Past, Present, and FutureHere are the 12 tenses again. This time, the tenses are ordered under the headings past tense, present tense, and future tense. The perfect (or complete) tenses 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 tense||I 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 WidgetUse 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!
The Perfect AspectThe term perfect aspect is used to group all verbs (past, present, and future) in the perfect tenses. (Remember that the aspect of a verb is determined by whether its action is ongoing or completed.)
Read more about aspect.
Why Should I Care about the Perfect Tenses?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)