Form of the Simple Present Perfect Tense

The Present Perfect is formed with the present of have + the past participle. For regular verbs the Past Participle has the same form as the Simple Past Tense: e.g. arrive, arrived, have arrived. For irregular verbs the Simple Past and the Past Participle can be formed in a variety of ways: e.g. drink, drank, have drunk.

I have (I've)
You have (You've) arrived /d/ (regular)
He has (He's) finished /t/ (regular)
She has (She's) started /Id/ (regular)
It has (It's) shut (irregular)
We have (We've) lost (irregular)
You have (You've) drunk (irregular)
They have (They've)


Present time and past time

Students speaking Serbian as their mother tongue often misuse the Present Perfect Tense in English since there is no such tense as the Present Perfect in their mother tongue. The Present Perfect is often wrongly seen as an alternative to the past, so that a student might think that I've had lunch and I had lunch are interchangeable. It is also confused with the Simple Present, so that an idea like I've been here since February is wrongly expressed in the Simple Present with I am.

The Present Perfect always suggests a relationship between present time and past time. So I've had lunch (probably) implies that I did so very recently. However, if I say I had lunch, I also have to say or imply when: e.g. I had lunch an hour ago. Similarly, I've been here since February shows a connection between past and present, i.e. duration between these two points in time, whereas I am here can only relate to the present and cannot be followed by a phrase like since February.

In the Present Perfect Tense, the time reference is sometimes undefined; often we are interested in present results, or in the way something that happened in the past affects the present situation. The Present Perfect can therefore be seen as a present tense which looks backwards into the past. Compare the Simple Past Tense, where the time reference is defined because we are interested in past time or past results. The following pairs of sentences illustrate this difference between present time and past time:

  • I haven't seen him this morning. (i.e. up to the present time: it is still morning)

  • I didn't see him this morning. (i.e. the morning has now passed)

  • Have you ever flown in Concorde? (i.e. up to the present time)

  • When did you fly in Concorde? (i.e. when, precisely, in the past)

  • He has been in prison for 3 years. (He is still in prison)

  • He was in prison for 3 years. (He served his sentence. He is free now)