USE 1-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.
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:
You can use the Present Perfect to describe your experience. It is like saying, “I have the experience of…” You can also use this tense to say that you have never had a certain experience. The Present Perfect is NOT used to describe a specific event.
TOPIC 2-Change Over Time
We often use the Present Perfect to talk about change that has happened over a period of time.
We often use the Present Perfect to list the accomplishments of individuals and humanity. You cannot mention a specific time.
TOPIC 4-An Uncompleted Action You Are Expecting
We often use the Present Perfect to say that an action which we expected has not happened. Using the Present Perfect suggests that we are still waiting for the action to happen.
TOPIC 5-Multiple Actions at Different Times
We also use the Present Perfect to talk about several different actions which have occurred in the past at different times. Present Perfect suggests the process is not complete and more actions are possible.
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.
“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.
USE 2-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.
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.
The examples below show the placement for grammar adverbs such as: always, only, never, ever, still, just, etc.
ACTIVE / PASSIVE
Check out some of the other ‘Verb Tenses’