Present perfect

The present perfect is a grammatical combination of the present tense and perfect aspect that is used to express a past event that has present consequences. The term is used particularly in the context of English grammar to refer to forms like "I have finished". The forms are present because they use the present tense of the auxiliary verb have, and perfect because they use that auxiliary in combination with the past participle of the main verb.
Analogous forms are found in some other languages, and they may also be described as present perfect; they often have other names such as the German Perfekt, the French passé composé and the Italian passato prossimo. They may also have different ranges of usage: in all three of the languages just mentioned, the forms in question serve as a general past tense, at least for completed actions.
In English, completed actions in many contexts are referred to using the simple past verb form rather than the present perfect. English also has a present perfect continuous form, which combines present tense with both perfect aspect and continuous aspect: "I have been eating". The action is not necessarily complete; and the same is true of certain uses of the basic present perfect when the verb expresses a state or a habitual action: "I have lived here for five years."


In modern English, the auxiliary verb used to form the present perfect is always to have. A typical present perfect clause thus consists of the subject, the auxiliary have/has, and the past participle of main verb. Examples:
Early Modern English used both to have and to be as perfect auxiliaries. The usage differs in that to have expressed emphasis in the process of the action that was completed, whereas to be put the emphasis in the final state after the action is completed. Examples of the second can be found in older texts:
In many other European languages, the equivalent of to have is used to form the present perfect for most or all verbs. However, the equivalent of to be serves as the auxiliary for other verbs in some languages, such as German, Dutch, Danish, French, and Italian. Generally, the verbs that take to be as an auxiliary are intransitive verbs denoting motion or change of state.
For more details, see Perfect construction with auxiliaries.


The present perfect in English is used chiefly for completed past actions or events when it is understood that it is the present result of the events that is focused upon, rather than the moment of completion. No particular past time frame is specified for the action/event. When a past time frame is specified for the event, explicitly or implicitly, the simple past is used rather than the present perfect.
The tense may be said to be a sort of mixture of present and past. It always implies a strong connection with the present and is used chiefly in conversations, letters, newspapers and TV and radio reports.
It can also be used for ongoing or habitual situations continuing up to the present time. That usage describes for how long or since when something has been the case, normally based on time expressions with "for" or "since". Then, the present perfect continuous form is often used, if a continuing action is being described.
For examples, see as well as the sections of that article relating to the simple past, present perfect continuous, and other perfect forms.


Modern German has lost its perfect aspect in the present tense. The present perfect form implies the perfective aspect and colloquially usually replaces the simple past, but the simple past still is frequently used in non-colloquial and/or narrative registers.
The present perfect form is often called in German the "conversational past" while the simple past is often called the "narrative past".
In Standard German, the '-vs-' distinction includes the intransitive-+-motion idea for sein usage but is independent of the reflexive-voice difference when forming the Perfekt.
French has no present perfect aspect. However, it has a grammatical form that is constructed in the same way as is the present perfect in English, Spanish, and Portuguese by using a conjugated form of avoir "to have" plus a past participle. The term passé composé is the standard name for this form, which has perfective aspect rather than perfect aspect. The French simple past form, which also conveys perfective aspect, is analogous to the German simple past in that it has been largely displaced by the compound past and relegated to narrative usage.
In standard French, a verb that is used reflexively takes rather than avoir as auxiliary in compound past tenses. In addition, a small set of about 20 non-reflexive verbs also use être as auxiliary.
The Spanish present perfect form conveys a true perfect aspect. Standard Spanish is like modern English in that haber is always the auxiliary regardless of the reflexive voice and regardless of the verb in question:
I have eaten
They have gone
He has played
Spanish differs from French, German, and English in that its have word, haber, serves only as auxiliary in the modern language; it does not denote possession, which is handled by the verb tener.
In some forms of Spanish, such as the Rio Platense Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, the present perfect is rarely used: the simple past replaces it. In Castilian Spanish, however, the present perfect is normal when talking about events that occur "today".
For example, to refer to "this morning", one would say, Me he levantado tarde y no me ha dado tiempo de desayunar rather than Me levanté tarde y no me dio tiempo de desayunar. With no context, listeners from Spain would assume that the latter occurred yesterday or a long time ago. For the same reason, speakers of Castilian Spanish use the present perfect to talk about the immediate past, such as ¿Qué has dicho? No te he podido oír rather than ¿Qué dijiste? No te pude oír.


The Portuguese present perfect form conveys a true perfect aspect. Modern Portuguese differs from Spanish in that the auxiliary used is normally ter rather than haver. Furthermore, the meaning of the present perfect is different from that in Spanish in that it implies an iterative aspect. Eu tenho comido translates "I have been eating" rather than "I have eaten".
The perfect aspect may be indicated lexically by using the simple past form of the verb, preceded by "já" : Eu já comi connotes "I have already eaten".
E.g.: Ele já foi, como sabem, duas vezes candidato ao Prémio Sakharov, que é atribuído anualmente por este Parlamento.
He has, as you know, already been nominated twice for the Sakharov Prize, which this Parliament awards each year.


The word "perfect" in the name comes from a Latin root referring to completion, rather than to perfection in the sense of "having no flaws". Perfect tenses are named thus because they refer to actions that are finished with respect to the present ; for example, "I have eaten all the bread" refers to an action which is, as of now, completed. However, as seen above, not all uses of present perfect constructions involve an idea of completion.
In the grammar of languages such as Latin and Ancient Greek, the form most closely corresponding to the English "present perfect" is known simply as the perfect. For more information see the article Perfect.