What is Perfect Tense? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Perfect Tense
  • 0:54 Present Perfect Tense
  • 1:25 Past Perfect Tense
  • 2:05 Future Perfect Tense
  • 2:39 Negatives & Interrogatives
  • 3:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

It's easy to recognize perfect tense because perfect tense verbs always contain a form of the auxiliary verb 'to have.' Verb tenses help writers establish time; they tell whether something occurred in the past, present or future.

Perfect Tense

To understand perfect tense, let's first look at what verb tense is all about. Verb tense is the form of a verb that expresses the time an action takes place.

Perfect tense verbs show completed or perfected action. The perfect tenses are formed with some form of the auxiliary verb 'to have.' As we will see from the examples in this lesson, verb tense is used to convey time. Careful writers select the verb tense that will best help the reader understand when an action occurred. Perfect tense is the perfect tense to use when you want to show completed action in your writing. The perfect tense includes the present perfect, the past perfect, and the future perfect.

Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense uses the auxiliary verbs 'have' or 'has.'

  • I have called.
  • You have listened.
  • We have eaten.
  • She has gone to bed.

As you can see here, we are discussing something that has already happened. This is easy to remember because you can think of it as a person explaining what has just happened. 'You have completed your homework' means that your homework is completed.

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense uses the auxiliary verb 'had.'

  • I had called.
  • You had listened.
  • We had eaten.
  • She had gone to bed.

Here we're discussing something that has happened in the past before something else happened. It sounds as if we are telling someone right now about something that had happened in the past. 'You had completed your homework' sounds as if your homework was finished before something else. In a way, it sounds as if this sentence could continue: 'You had completed your homework before bed.'

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