[has/have + past participle]
- You have seen that movie many times.
- Have you seen that movie many times?
- You have not seen that movie many times.
Unspecified Time Before Now
We use the Present Perfect to say that an action happened at an unspecified time before now. The exact time is not important. You CANNOT use the Present Perfect with specific time expressions such as: yesterday, one year ago, last week, when I was a child, when I lived in Japan, at that moment, that day, one day, etc. We CAN use the Present Perfect with unspecific expressions such as: ever, never, once, many times, several times, before, so far, already, yet, etc.
- I have seen that movie twenty times.
- I think I have met him once before.
- There have been many earthquakes in California.
- People have traveled to the Moon.
- People have not traveled to Mars.
- Have you read the book yet?
- Nobody has ever climbed that mountain.
- A: Has there ever been a war in the United States?
B: Yes, there has been a war in the United States.
How Do You Actually Use the Present Perfect?
The concept of “unspecified time” can be very confusing to English learners. It is best to associate Present Perfect with the following topics:
Duration From the Past Until Now (Non-Continuous Verbs)
With Non-Continuous Verbs and non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, we use the Present Perfect to show that something started in the past and has continued up until now. “For five minutes,” “for two weeks,” and “since Tuesday” are all durations which can be used with the Present Perfect.
- I have had a cold for two weeks.
- She has been in England for six months.
- Mary has loved chocolate since she was a little girl.
Although the above use of Present Perfect is normally limited to Non-Continuous Verbs and non-continuous uses of Mixed Verbs, the words “live,” “work,” “teach,” and “study” are sometimes used in this way even though they are NOT Non-Continuous Verbs.
Time Expressions with Present Perfect
When we use the Present Perfect it means that something has happened at some point in our lives before now. Remember, the exact time the action happened is not important.
Sometimes, we want to limit the time we are looking in for an experience. We can do this with expressions such as: in the last week, in the last year, this week, this month, so far, up to now, etc.
- Have you been to Mexico in the last year?
- I have seen that movie six times in the last month.
- They have had three tests in the last week.
- She graduated from university less than three years ago. She has worked for three different companies so far.
- My car has broken down three times this week.
“Last year” and “in the last year” are very different in meaning. “Last year” means the year before now, and it is considered a specific time which requires Simple Past. “In the last year” means from 365 days ago until now. It is not considered a specific time, so it requires Present Perfect.
- I went to Mexico last year.
I went to Mexico in the calendar year before this one.
- I have been to Mexico in the last year.
I have been to Mexico at least once at some point between 365 days ago and now.
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
- You have only seen that movie one time.
- Have you only seen that movie one time?
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
- Many tourists have visited that castle. (Active)
- That castle has been visited by many tourists. (Passive)
–Check out some of the other ‘Verb Tenses’–