Understanding the present perfect and using it correctly is proof that your English is at least at a solid High Intermediate level. If you are an Intermediate learner, you may have learned the present perfect, but you may still need more practice in order to use it correctly and confidently.
Here's what you need to know to help perfect your use of the present perfect. First, you should master the structure. The present perfect uses "have" or "has" as the auxiliary verb and the past participle as the main verb. You must learn the past participle (third form) of verbs to be able to use the present perfect well.
(I, You, We, They) HAVE + past participle
(He, She, It) HAS + past participle
In other words, the present perfect of "she eats" is "she has eaten"; the present perfect of "they drove" is "they have driven," and for "I wrote," it's "I have written."
How do we use the present perfect?
I. LIKE THE PAST TENSE but without specific time! We use the present perfect to talk about something we have done already. Because of this, the present perfect can be similar to the simple past. However, you cannot say when you did the action when you use the present perfect. If you mention exactly when you did the action, you'll have to use the past tense.
Here are some examples of sentences in the present perfect and the past tense. The ones with specific time are in the past tense, while the ones without specific time are in the present perfect.
1. I have already eaten. - present perfect
I ate 2 hours ago. - past tense
2.He has taken out the garbage. - present perfect
He took out the garbage when he got home. - past tense
3. She has done her homework. - present perfect
She did her homework before dinner. - past tense
Similarly, we use the present perfect to talk about our experiences without saying when we experienced them. Like the above examples, we have to use the past tense if we want to say exactly when we did them. Here are some examples.
1. They have been to China. - present perfect
They were in China in 2010. - past tense
2. She has gone bungee jumping twice. - present perfect
She went bungee jumping when she visited New Zealand. - past tense
3. He's nuts. He has even swum with sharks before. - present perfect
He swam with sharks last summer. - past tense
*nuts - crazy (#slang)
II. TALKING ABOUT ACTIONS THAT CONTINUE TO THE PRESENT! We also use the present perfect to talk about actions that started in the past and continue to the present. Here are some examples.
1. They have lived in Miami for 10 years now. 2. She has studied English since she was 10 years old. 3. I've worked at this job since 2009.
The sentences above all show actions that started in the past and continue to the present. Remember to use "for" to indicate duration (10 years, 5 months, 5 seconds, a long time) or "since" to indicate the beginning of the action (10 years ago, yesterday, last year). A quick note: this particular usage can have a similar meaning as the present perfect progressive.
III. SAYING HOW MANY TIMES AN ACTION HAS HAPPENED! A third use of the present perfect is when we want to say how many times we have done or experienced an action. Here are some examples.
1. We have met the President once. 2. She has been to Tahiti twice. 3. They have moved several times since they came to New York.
Alright, folks. Practice makes perfect, so reread this post review, then practice each of the uses of the present perfect as much as you can.