Using the Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is common in English. It is used for many different functions. This page will explain the most important uses of the present perfect tense.

Use 1: Actions which started in the past and are still continuing

The present perfect is often used for an action which started at some time in the past, and are still continuing now. Often, the words for (with a length of time) and since (with a starting time) are used along with the present perfect.

He has lived in Canada for five years.
(He started living in Canada five years ago, and he's still living there now.)
She has worked at the University since 1994.
(She started working at the University in 1994, and she's still working there now.)

Use 2: Actions which happened at some unknown time in the past

Sometimes, it's important to say that something happened (or didn't happen), but it's not important (or not known) when it happened. In this case, we can use the present perfect too. In this case, we often use the words already, yet, ever or never along with the present perfect. These words usually go before the past participle in the sentence.

I've already seen that film. I don't want to see it again.
(It doesn't matter when I saw it.)
Have you ever been to Germany?
(It doesn't matter when you went -- I just want to know whether you have been there or not.)

Use 3: Actions which happened in the past, but have an effect in the present

This use is a little more difficult than the other two. In this case, the action happened at some time in the past, but the effect of the action is still important now. It's easiest to understand this use if we compare present perfect sentences with simple past sentences.

Present perfect
I've lost my keys.
I haven't found the keys yet -- they're still missing.
Simple past
I lost my keys yesterday.
I've probably found them again already.
Present perfect
She's broken her arm.
The arm is still injured.
Simple past
She broke her arm.
The arm is probably OK by now.