Five uses for the present perfect | Learn English grammar

When do we use present perfect instead of past simple in English? What's the difference between these two tenses? Watch this video lesson and learn five uses for the present perfect in English...


Hi everyone. In this lesson we're going to look at the present perfect. We're going to look at what the present perfect is, how we use the present perfect, why it's very useful in English and why it's used so much. And then we'll look at some of the different uses for present perfect in English.

First of all, why do we use the present perfect? In simple terms, we use it to talk about something that happened in the past but is connected to the present. It's important what happened, but it's not so important when it happened. The action is important and not the time. So that's why you can't use the present perfect with a reference to a point in time. The present perfect is used to talk about a period of time from a point in the past to the present.

So for example you can say: I have been to France, but you can't say *I have been to France last year. You would have to say: I went to France last year, and then the focus is on when it happened and not the action.

So you'd have to use the past simple. That sentence focuses on the time and not the action. Anyway, that's the main rule to remember, but there are quite a few different uses in different situations of the present perfect, so in this video lesson I'm going to give you a few examples and then in the next video I'm going to give you some further examples, some extra examples of how we use the present perfect.

OK, so the first example is for an experience, so if you want to talk about an experience in your life, you would use the present perfect. You could say: I've been to France, but I haven't eaten frog legs. These are interesting things that you have done or haven't done at some time in your life, but we're not interested in when it happened, we're interested in what happened. We're interested in the experience, we're interested in the action.

OK, the second example is using present perfect to talk about an accomplishment. This is something that you have achieved in your life and something you feel proud of having done. For example: I've learnt two foreign languages, or I've worked for lots of big companies. These are things that you have done in your life, they're things that you have completed, things you have achieved and things that make you feel proud. You feel good about them.

OK, the next example. You can use the present perfect to describe a change over time. You could say: My business has grown a lot in the last year, or My brother has put on a lot of weight. These are things that have changed slowly over time, that started in the past and have changed from that point in the past to now.

Example number four is for explaining a situation over a period of time. So you could say: I have lived in London for ten years. This focuses on a continued situation over a period of time and it's likely to continue into the future.

In the fifth example, you could use the present perfect to express an incomplete or unfinished period of time. For example, I haven't practised my English this week. This is incomplete because this week has not finished yet. There is still time for you to practise your English. Maybe I will practise my English tomorrow, this situation can still change, it's not complete.

So as I said, there are a few more uses of the present perfect and we'll look at those in the next video. I don't want to hit you with everything in one video as that might be a bit confusing. Obviously, the more you see or hear these examples in context, it will make sense to you.

OK, so just to check, let's have a look at the form of the present perfect. How do we form the present perfect? It's very, very simple. You use 'have' plus the past participle. For example: have lost, have worked or have eaten.

OK, let's finish this video lesson with a little quiz. I'm going to give you a few example sentences using the present perfect and I want you to think about how each example is being used. For example, is it an incomplete period of time or is it an experience?

Number one, I have never tried sushi.

Number two, you've lost a lot of weight.

Number three, I have passed my driving test.

Number four, I haven't seen my dog all day.

Number five, we have known each other for ten years now.

OK, so in this video we've looked at five different uses of the present perfect. If it's not clear, you can always go back, watch the video lesson again. The second time it'll make a lot more sense to you. And as I said, in the next video, we'll look at another five uses for the present perfect with examples.

OK, I hope that's clear. Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you see and hear and use examples of the present perfect the more it'll become much clearer to you.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel, don't forget to like the video, put a comment below and you can practise your present perfect here. And finally, go to where you can practise your English more and you can find full courses to help you improve your English.

Good luck and I'll see you soon!