Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

present perfect English tense

Do you ever hear people talk about the present perfect tense?

Is it hard to understand when you might use this in English conversations?

We’re going to look at how to use the present perfect and some of the fundamental rules around it.  

Though you may have struggled with this in the past, this will help you.

Here’s a letter that highlights this point and shows that you are not alone in this confusion.


Hey Lindsay,

Thank you for you follow up.

I guess the suggestion you’ve saw It was mini.

I know to use a present perfect tense when we combine the present tense of the verb “to have” plus the past participle of the main verb of the sentence. We can see that there is a time there, so how do we know the right time to use it?

Most of the time I have doubts in each situation if I should use it, so this makes me feel uncomfortable at the time I am talking to somebody.

That struggle might be common for most foreign students.

I’ve been watching a ton of series and movies and it is so common to hear them using present perfect all the time. For example: This is the first time I have eaten shrimp or Where’s Michael? He’s not here. He’s gone to the bathroom.

Most of the time they come together with: just, ever, already, never, since, yet.

For example:

Have you ever been to Brazil Lindsay? Or

I’ve never been to USA. I haven’t been to USA yet.

Could you guys please make it understandable for us?


Cledson Barros


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It Can Be A Confusing Part of Grammar

This is a great question about a very important grammar point.

The present perfect can be complicated and there are a lot of different tiny rules that make it seem like there are way too many exceptions.

 It’s summer, so a lot of people are thinking about travel, so we are going to talk about travel today.

So, how can you talk about traveling using the present perfect?

This confusing aspect of grammar can be best applied to something like travel.


When Do You Use This Tense?

To decide when to use the present perfect, ask yourself a couple main questions:

  • When did the event happen?  
    • In the past, of course! However, present perfect can be an event in the past may still be true now
    • Example: I have taken a summer vacation every year since I was 11 (you still take vacation now)


  • Is this a specific event you want to emphasize, or is it more general?
    • If it is a specific event that has started and ended and you want to say exactly when it happened, use the past simple.
    • If it’s more general, or perhaps it’s happened a few times, use the present perfect.
    • Example: I went to Spain last year. Second Example: I have been to Spain. In the first example, it’s a specific trip, in the second example, it doesn’t say when it was because it’s not necessarily important. The speaker wants to emphasize that he or she HAS HAD this experience sometime between the time they were born up until the moment of speaking.


Learn By Examples

Sometimes you have to consider this on a case by case scenario.

You may have to look at what is being said in each example and consider what is being asked or said.


Example 1: “I’m trying to plan my next trip. Have you been to Vermont?

Have you been? This question applies to asking if they have ever been in their life. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 times or 1 million times. The timing doesn’t matter either, but rather if they have ever been there at all.

A simple yes or no is all that is needed here.


Example 2: I haven’t been there yet. Have you?

You’re saying no, I haven’t been there at all in my life.

You are using yet as the key word here to say up until this point in your life you haven’t been.

The response is usually a question as to if this person has been there or not.


Example 3: I’ve been there many times. I think I went 3 times within a year. It’s really great!

You’re not talking about specific times, bur rather giving a bit more information.

The assumption is that you liked it so much that you may go back again.

When you say that you went 3 times in a year, you are switching to past simple because you are getting less general and more specific.

You are sharing information that will really show that you like this place.



The example centered around past travel experiences and asking others about their experiences.

You will notice that using words like yet, never, and ever is common in these conversations.

The main thing to understand is about WHEN and SPECIFIC v GENERAL– that’s the takeaway.  Start thinking in this way.

Practice talking about travel with a friend as a good point of reference.

If you think about ALL the different ways it can be used at once, it will stress you out.

So start with these main ideas and then you can get more specific in the future!

This is a great way to master a common grammar issue and make great connections.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. 

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