What Is the Present Perfect Tense? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense describes an action that began in the past (despite being a present tense). For example:
  • John has taken Sarah's advice.
  • They have fixed the fence.
Often, the action being described is still continuing into the present (e.g., John continues to take Sarah's advice). This is how the present perfect tense differs from the simple past tense.

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the present perfect tense:

Infographic for the Present Perfect Tense

Here is an infographic explaining the present perfect tense:

present perfect tense

More Examples of the Present Perfect Tense

Here are some more examples of the present perfect tense:
  • The board has decided to uphold the appeal.
  • (This sentence carries the connotation that the board continues to uphold the appeal.)
  • I have taken the wrong path.
  • (Connotation: I am still on the wrong path.)

Comparing the Present Perfect Tense and the Simple Past Tense

Here is another example of the present perfect tense (highlighted). For comparison, the example is given alongside similar-looking example featuring the simple past tense.
  • Janet has run two miles.
  • (This is the present perfect tense. In this example, Janet is still running when the words were said.)
  • Janet ran two miles.
  • (This is the simple past tense. In this example, Janet has stopped running when the words were said.)
Here is another example:
  • David has worked alongside two of the world's finest scientists in the field of entomology.
  • (This is the present perfect tense. In this example, David might have finished working with those scientists, but the sentence carries the connotation that he is still working as an entomologist.)
  • David worked alongside two of the world's finest scientists in the field of entomology.
  • (This is the simple past tense. This example carries the connotation that David no longer works as an entomologist.)

Forming the Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is formed:

[subject]
+
"has" or "have"
+
[past participle]

  • I have worked.
  • She has painted.

Forming the Past Participle (Regular Verbs)

If it's a regular verb, the past participle is the same as the simple past tense. In other words, it is formed like this:

Add "ed" to most verbs:
  • jump > jumped
  • paint > painted

If a verb of one syllable ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the final consonant and add "ed":
  • chat > chatted
  • stop > stopped

If the final consonant is "w," "x," or "y," don't double it:
  • sew > sewed
  • play > played
  • fix > fixed

If last syllable of a longer verb is stressed and ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], double the last consonant and add "ed":
  • incur > incurred
  • prefer > preferred

If the first syllable of a longer verb is stressed and the verb ends [consonant-vowel-consonant], just add "ed":
  • open > opened
  • enter > entered
  • swallow > swallowed

If the verb ends "e," just add "d":
  • thrive > thrived
  • guzzle > guzzled

If the verb ends [consonant + "y"], change the "y" to an "i" and add "ed":
  • cry > cried
  • fry > fried

Forming the Past Participle (Irregular Verbs)

If it's an irregular verb, the past participle is formed in all sorts of different ways. Here are some examples:
  • arise > arisen
  • catch > caught
  • choose > chosen
  • know > known

You just have to learn them.

Read more about irregular verbs (includes a list of the most common irregular verbs).

The Negative Version

If you need the negative version, you can use the following construction:
[subject]
+
"has not" or "have not"
+
[past participle]
  • The board has not decided to uphold the appeal.
  • I have not taken the wrong path.
Remember that "has not" is sometimes written as the contraction "hasn't."

The Question Version

If you need to ask a question, you can use the following word order for a yes/no question:
"has" or "have"
+
[subject]
+
[past participle]
  • Has the board decided to uphold the appeal?
  • Have I taken the wrong path?
You can use the following word order for a question-word question:
[question word]
+
"has" or "have"
+
[subject]
+
[past participle]
  • Why has the board decided to uphold the appeal?
  • How have I taken the wrong path?

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 , you can click it!

The Other Present Tenses

The present perfect tense is one of four present tenses. This table shows all four of the present tenses:
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

Slider Showing All the Tenses

The following slider shows all 12 tenses. The present perfect tense is highlighted with a yellow background.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Take a test on the present perfect tense Tenses Simple past tense Past progressive tense Past perfect tense Past perfect progressive tense Simple present tense Present progressive tense Present perfect progressive tense Simple future tense Future progressive tense Future perfect tense Future perfect progressive tense