What is Present Perfect Tense? - Definition & Examples

What is Present Perfect Tense? - Definition & Examples
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  • 0:03 Talking About the Past
  • 0:42 Forming the Present…
  • 1:42 Uses of the Present…
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

In English, verbs have different tenses to show the time the action occurred. One tense that is used frequently is the present perfect tense. In this lesson, you'll learn about the present perfect tense and how to use it.

Talking About the Past

Maizie went to a party. The guests were playing a game called Have You Ever. Everyone sat in a circle. One person stood in the middle of the circle and called out a question, such as 'Have you ever gone swimming after dark?' or 'Have you ever traveled to Mexico?' If the person's answer was yes, he or she had to get up and go to a new seat.

This game used the present perfect tense to talk about actions that Maizie and her friends had done at some point in the past. Talking about past experiences is one use of the present perfect tense. Let's look at this verb tense more closely.

Forming the Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense of a verb is formed using the helping verb 'have' or 'has' and the past participle form of the verb. Choose 'have' if the subject is first-person singular or plural ('I' or 'we'), second person ('you'), or third-person plural ('they'). Choose 'has' if the subject is third-person singular ('he', 'she', or 'it').

What is a past participle? For many verbs, the past participle is the '-ed' form of the verb, such as walk/walked, clean/cleaned, and play/played. Other verbs are irregular in the past participle, like eat/eaten, choose/chosen, and give/given.

Here are some examples of verbs written in present perfect tense:

  • drive: have + driven = have driven
  • talk: have + talked = have talked
  • decide: have + decided = have decided

Uses of the Present Perfect Tense

Now that you know how to form the present perfect tense, here are some times that you might want to use it in your writing:

1. Something happened in the past, and the time is unknown or unimportant.

  • Someone has lost the key to the bathroom.

When did they lose it? Who cares? The point is that the key is lost, and this is a problem.

  • Kayla has visited the Statue of Liberty.

When did she visit it? It's not important. The point is that she has seen the Statue of Liberty.

2. Something happened in the past, and it is still happening.

  • He has worked at the electric company for 12 years.

He worked there 12 years ago, five years ago, and now. The present perfect tense covers all of these times.

  • Pete has been sick since Thursday.

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