Present Perfect Tense

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Present Perfect Tense? (with Examples)

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.

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?

Infographic for the Present Perfect Tense

present perfect tense
The tables below show all 12 tenses so you can see the present perfect tense among the other tenses. (You can change the verb by clicking one of the green buttons.)

Top 10 Regular Verbs

Top 10 Irregular Verbs

All 4 Past Tenses

PersonSimple PastPast Progressive TensePast Perfect TensePast Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
  • past tense
The simple past tense is for a completed activity that happened in the past.
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • was present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
  • were present participle
The past progressive tense is for an ongoing activity in the past. Often, it is used to set the scene for another action.
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
  • had past participle
The past perfect tense is for emphasizing that an action was completed before another took place.
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
  • had been present participle
The past perfect progressive tense is for showing that an ongoing action in the past has ended.

All 4 Present Tenses

PersonSimple PresentPresent Progressive TensePresent Perfect TensePresent Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • base form
  • base form
  • 3rd pers sing present
  • base form
  • base form
  • base form
The simple present tense is mostly for a fact or a habit.
  • am present participle
  • are present participle
  • is present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
  • are present participle
The present progressive tense is for an ongoing action in the present.
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • has past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
  • have past participle
The present perfect tense is for an action that began in the past. (Often, the action continues into the present.)
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • has been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
  • have been present participle
The present perfect progressive tense is for a continuous activity that began in the past and continues into the present (or finished very recently).

All 4 Future Tenses

PersonSimple FutureFuture Progressive TenseFuture Perfect TenseFuture Perfect Progressive Tense
  • I
  • you
  • he/she/it
  • we
  • you
  • they
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
  • will base form
The simple future tense is for an action that will occur in the future.
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
  • will be present participle
The future progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will occur in the future.
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
  • will have past participle
The future perfect tense is for an action that will have been completed at some point in the future.
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
  • will have been present participle
The future perfect progressive tense is for an ongoing action that will be completed at some specified time in the future.

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

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See Also

Take a test on the present perfect tense See all the tenses What is a verb phrase? 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

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