We use the present perfect to talk about something that has happened at an unspecified time before now. You cannot use time expressions such as ‘yesterday’, ‘last week, etc. but can use it with unspecific time expressions such as, already, yet, once, never, before, many times etc.
The present perfect is formed using two component verbs; the auxiliary verb to have (present tense) and the past participle of the main verb. The past participle for regular verbs is the same as for the simple past but the past participle for irregular verbs are different (and need to be learned separately).
Auxiliary verb (to have) + Main verb (past participle)
I have been (I’ve been)
She has seen (She’s seen)
They have walked (They’ve walked)
We have heard (We’ve heard)
It’s important to learn how to form the affirmative, negative and interrogative of the present perfect.
Affirmative: I have been to China before.
Negative: I haven’t been to China before.
Interrogative: Have you been to China before?
The present perfect is often used to express the following situations.
1. Something that has started in the past and continues to happen in the present (often used with for and For indicates how long something has been happening up to the present and since indicates from what point in time it has been happening up to the present)
I have been living in Malaysia for three years.
I have lived in Malaysia since 2013.
2. Something that is happening that hasn’t finished yet.
She hasn’t finished her homework yet.
The noise hasn’t stopped yet.
3. A repeated action that has happened between an unspecified time between now and the past.
We’ve been to Mexico a few times.
I’ve seen Titanic many times.
4. Something that started at an unspecified time in the past but is finished now. (notice that already and just go between the auxiliary and the main verb)
I’ve already had my dinner.
I’ve just been to the supermarket.
5. To convey that something has been experienced in some way.
Have you ever…?
I’ve seen that movie twice.
6. We also use the present perfect to talk about something that has changed over a period of time.
This city has become really crowded.
That company has grown very quickly.
Exercise 1: How long have you been…? / (for / since)
In small groups, have each member come up with 3 questions about ‘how long have you been…?)
Ask each other the questions and answer in full sentences using a mix of ‘for’ and ‘since’ answers.
Exercise 2: Have you ever….? (experience)
Ask students to come up with five questions each using ‘have you ever…?’ Students then ask their group members the questions and report back the answers to the class.
He/she has…. He/she hasn’t…
She has been to London. He hasn’t seen Star Wars.
Exercise 3: Have you…….yet? I have (already)…… (yet).
Explain that we use ‘yet’ in the question form. For the affirmative we use already, to indicate something has finished and for the negative, we use ‘yet’ to indicate that something hasn’t been finished yet. Please note that ‘already’ should go between the auxiliary and the main verb and ‘yet’ should go at the end of the clause. ‘Just’ can be used in place of ‘already’ to indicate the action has recently finished.
Have you seen the new Star Wars movie yet?
I have already seen it.
I have just seen the movie.
I haven’t seen it yet.
Have students come up with some questions and have them ask people in their groups, encouraging them to answer in full sentences, using ‘already’ and ‘yet’.