Thinking Box

Fundamentals of English Grammar - Chapter 4: Present perfect and Past Perfect

4-1 Past Participle

Simple Form / Simple Past / Past Participle

  • REGULAR VERBS
    finish / finished / finished
    stop / stopped / stopped
    wait / waited / waited

  • IRREGULAR VERBS
    see / saw / seen
    make / made / made
    put / put / put

The past participle is one of the principal parts of a verb.
The past participle is used in the PRESENT PERFECT tense and the PAST PERFECT tense.
The past participle of regular verbs is the same as the simple past form: both end in -ed.

4-2 Present Perfect with Since and For

  • (a) I've been in class since ten o'clock this morning.
    (b) We have known Ben for ten years. We met him ten years ago. We still know him today. We are friends.

    The present perfect tense is used in sentences with since and for to express situations that began in the past and continue to the present.

    In (a): Class started at ten. I am still in class now, at the moment of speaking.

    INCORRECT: I am in class since ten o'clock this morning.

  • I have / You have / She, He, It has / We have / They have + been here for one hour.

    FORM: Have/has + past participle
    CONTRACTED FORMS: I've, You're, He's, She's, It's, We've, They've.

Since

  • (d) I have been here + since + eight o'clock. / Tuesday. / 2009. / yesterday. / last month.

    Since is followed by the mention of a specific point in time: an hour, a day, a month, a year, etc.

    Since expresses the idea that something began at a specific time in the past and continues to the present.

  • (e) CORRECT: I have lived here since May.*
    CORRECT: I have been here since May.
    (f) INCORRECT: I am living here since May.
    (g) INCORRECT: I live here since May.
    (h) INCORRECT: I lived here since May.
    (i) INCORRECT: I was here since May.

    Notice the incorrect sentences:
    In (f): The present progressive is NOT used.
    In (g): The simple present is NOT used.
    In (h) and (i): The simple past is NOT used.

  • (j) I have lived here since I was child. [MAIN CLAUSE(present perfect) + SINCE-CLAUSE(simple past)]
    (k) AI has met many people since he came here.

    Since may also introduce a time clause(i.e., subject and verb may follow since).
    Notice in the examples: The present perfect is used in the main clause; the simple past is used in the since-clause.

For

  • (l) I have been here + for + ten minutes. / two hours. / five days. / about three weeks. / almost six months. / many years. / a long time.

    For is followed by the mention of a length of time: two minutes, three hours, four days, five weeks, etc.

    NOTE: If the noun ends in -s(hours, days, weeks, etc.), use for in the time expression, not since.

*Also correct: I have been living here since May.

4-3 Negative, Question, and Short-Answer Forms

Negative

  • (a) I have not (haven't) seen Tom since lunch.
    (b) Ann has not (hasn't) eaten for several hours.

    NEGATIVE: have/ has + not + past participle
    NEGATIVE: CONTRACTIONS: have + not = haven't / has + not = hasn't

Question

  • (c) Have you seen tom?
    (d) Has Ann eaten?
    (e) How long have you lived here?

    QUESTION: have/has + subject + past participle

  • (f) Have you ever met a famous person?
    -> No, I've never met a famous person.

    In (f): ever = in your lifetime; from the time you were born to the present moment. Questions with ever frequently use the present perfect.
    When answering questions with ever, speakers often use never. Never is frequently used with the present perfect.

    In the answer to (f), the speaker is saying: "No, I haven't met a famous person from the time I was born to the present moment."

Short Answer

  • (g) Have you seen Tom?
    -> Yes, I have. OR No, I haven't.
    (h) Has Ann eaten lunch?
    -> Yes, she has. OR No, she hasn't.

    SHORT ANSWER: have/haven't or has/hasn't
    NOTE: The helping verb in the short answer is not contracted with the pronoun.
    INCORRECT: Yes, I've. OR Yes, he's.

4-4 Present Perfect with Unspecified Time

Toshi has already eaten lunch.
Eva hasn't eaten lunch yet.

  • (a) Toshi has just eaten lunch.
    (b) Jim has recently changed jobs.

    The PRESENT PERFECT expresses an activity or situation that occurred (or did not occur) before now, at some unspecified or unknown time in the past.
    Common time words that express this idea are just, recently, already, yet, ever, never.
    In (a): Toshi's lunch occurred before the present time. The exact time is not mentioned; it is unimportant or unknown.

  • (c) Pete has eaten at that restaurant many times.
    (d) I have eaten there twice.

    An activity may be repeated two, several, or more times before now, at unspecified time in the past, as in (c) and (d).

  • (e) Pete has already left. OR Pete has left already.

    In (e): Already is used in affirmative statements. It can come after the helping verb or at the end of the sentence.
    Idea of already: Something happened before now, before this time.

    (f) Min hasn't left yet.

    In (f): Yet is used in negative statements and comes at the end of the sentence.

    Idea of yet: Something did not happen before now (up to this time), but it may happen in the future.

    (g) Have you already left?
    Have you left already?
    Have you left yet?

    In (g): Both yet and already can be used in questions.

4-5 Simple Past vs. Present Perfect

  • (a) I finished my work two hours ago. (SIMPLE PAST)
    (b) I have already finished my work. (PRESENT PERFECT)

    In (a): I finished my work at a specific time in the past(two hours ago).
    In (b): I finished my work at an unspecified time in the past (sometime before now).

  • (c) I was in Europe last year / three years ago / in 2006 / in 2008 and 2010 / when I was ten years old. (SIMPLE PAST)
    (d) I have been in Europe many times / several times / a couple of times / once / (on mention of time). (PRESENT PERFECT)

    The SIMPLE PAST expresses an activity that occurred at a specific time (or times) in the past, as in (a) and (c).

    THe PRESENT PERFECT expresses an activity that occurred at an unspecified time (or times) in the past, as in (b) and (d).

  • (e) Ann was in Miami for two weeks. (SIMPLE PAST)
    (f) Bob has been in Miami for two weeks / since May 1st.

    In (e): In sentences where for is used in a time expression, the simple past expresses an activity that began and ended in the past.

    In (f): In sentences with for and since, the present perfect expresses an activity that began in the past and continues to the present.

4-6 Present Perfect Progressive

  • Al and Ann are in their car right now. They are driving home. It is now four o'clock.
    (a) They have been driving since two o'clock.
    (b) They have been driving for two hours. They will be home soon.

    The PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE talks about how long an activity has been in progress before now.
    NOTE: Time expressions with since, as in (a), and for, as in (b), are frequently used with this tense.
    STATEMENT:
    have/has + been + -ing

  • (c) How long have they been driving?

    QUESTION: have/has + subject + been + -ing

Present Progressive vs. Present Perfect Progressive

Present Progressive

  • (d) Po is sitting in class right now.

    The PRESENT PROGRESSIVE describes an activity that is in progress right now, as in (d). It does not discuss duration (length of time).
    INCORRECT: Po has been sitting in class right now.

  • Po is sitting at his desk in class. He sat down at nine o'clock. It is now nine-thirty.
    (e) Po has been sitting in class since nine o'clock.
    (f) Po has been sitting in class for thirty minutes.

    The PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE expresses the duration (length of time) of an activity that began in the past and is in progress right now.
    INCORRECT: Po is sitting in class since nine o'clock.

  • (g) CORRECT: I know Yoko.
    (h) INCORRECT: I am knowing Yoko.

    (i) CORRECT: I have known Yoko for two years.
    (j) INCORRECT: I have been knowing Yoko for two years.

    NOTE: Non-action verbs (e.g., know, like, own, belong) are generally not used in the progressive tenses.
    In (i): With non-action verbs, the present perfect is used with since or for to express the duration of a situation that began in the past and continues too the present.

4-7 Present Perfect Progressive vs. Present Perfect

Present Perfect Progressive

  • (a) Gina and Tarik are talking on the phone.
    They have been talking on the phone for 20 minutes.

    The PRESENT PERFECT PROGRESSIVE expresses the duration of present activities, using action verbs, as in (a). The activity began in the past and is still in progress.

Present Perfect

  • (b) Gina has talked to Tarik on the phone many times(before now).
    (c) INCORRECT: Gina has been talking to Tarik on the phone many times.
    (d) Gina has known Tarik for two years.
    (e) INCORRECT: Gina has been knowing Tarik for two years.

    The PRESENT PERFECT expresses
    (1) repeated activities that occur at unspecified times in the past, as in (b) OR
    (2) the duration of present situations, as in (d), using non-action verbs.

Present Perfect Progressive and Present Perfect

  • (f) I have been living here for six months. OR
    (g) I have lived here for six months.

    (h) Ed has been wearing glasses since he was ten. OR
    Ed has worn glasses since he was ten.

    (i) I've been going to school ever since I was five years old. OR
    I've gone to school ever since I was five years old.

    For some (not all) verbs, duration can be expressed by either the present perfect or the present perfect progressive.
    Example (f) and (g) have essentially the same meaning, and both are correct.
    Often either tense can be used with verbs that express the duration of usual or habitual activities/situations (things that happen daily or regularly), e.g., live, work, teach, smoke, wear glasses, play chess, go to school, read the same newspaper every morning, etc.

4-8 Past Perfect

  • Situation:
    Jack left his apartment at 2:00. Sue arrived at his apartment at 2:15 and knocked on the door.
    (a) When Sue arrived, Jack wasn't there. He had left.

    The PAST PERFECT is used when the speaker is talking about two different events at two different times in the past; one event ends before the second event happens.

    In (a): There are two events, and both happened in the past: jack left his apartment. Sue arrived at his apartment.

    To show the time relationship between the two events, we use the past perfect (had left) to say that the first event (Jack leaving his apartment) was completed before the second event (Sue arriving at his apartment) occurred.

  • (b) Jack had left his apartment when Sue arrived.

    FORM: had = past participle

  • (c) He'd left. I'd left. They'd left. Etc.

    CONTRACTION: I / you / she / he / it / we / they + 'd

  • (d) Jack had left before Sue arrived.
    (e) Jack left before Sue arrived.
    (f) Sue arrived after Jack had left.
    (g) Sue arrived after Jack left.

    When before and after are used in a sentence, the time relationship is already clear so the past perfect is often not necessary. The simple past may be used, as in (e) and (g).

    Examples (d) and (e) have the same meaning.
    Examples (f) and (g) have the same meaning.

  • (h) Stella was alone in a strange city. She walked down the avenue slowly, looking in shop windows. Suddenly, she turned her head and looked behind her. Someone had called her name.

    The past perfect is more common in formal writing such as fiction, as in (h).

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