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Present Perfect: special uses

Present Perfect: special uses
Activity Drag&Drop
Activity Drag&Drop
You will have to choose between the Present Perfect and the Simple Past tense to complete these sentences.

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Click on the words at the bottom and drag them into the empty boxes of the sentence to complete it.

Note: this exercise is designed for British English usage. In American English some examples may prefer a different tense. Sometimes both possibilities look possible, choose the best one considering the context or the absense of context.

To use the present perfect we need two conditions:

1- We can give no information about when the action happens (unless it happened in a present period of time)
2- There must be a connection between past and present

Now we are going to see the specific situations when these two conditions are fulfilled. Let's remember the three general cases and then we will see some specific cases.




The word PERFECT in grammar means "past", and the word PRESENT means... "present", so the Present Perfect tense is talking about the past and about the present at the same time. There are three cases when this happens.

We will use standard action graphics, so first let's explain the meaning of them:

graphics explained

Remember that the PRESENT is not only this very instant of now, we usually have a wider conception of the present and it usually means "this time around now", which may include the past few minutes, hours or even days. And now let's see every case.


1 Past and Present action

The action started in the past and continues up to the present   (it may stop in the present or continue in the future)

graphic 1a

B   graphic 1-b

A-  I've known Kevin for years
(the action still continues in the present)
B- Here you are! I've been looking for you all day  
(the action stopped)


2 Past action, Present period of time

The action finished in the past but it happens in a present period of time

graphic 2

I saw Tim yesterday, but I haven’t seen him today           
("yesterday" is a past period of time, "today" is present)
This year he’s passed all his exams
("this year" is still present)


3 Past action, Present consequences

The action is past but the important thing is its present consequence (not the past action). That is, we use a past action to talk about a present consequence.

graphic 2

Bill is giving a party because he has been elected president

(he celebrates that now he is president)
You've bought a new car!
(now you have a new car)



These particular cases are part of of the three cases we have seen, but more specific

Repeated actions

This is a special case of case 1. Instead of one action, it may also be repeated actions: we use the present perfect to say that something has happened several times up to the present.

repetitions graph

In this case, the connection with the present must continue, that is, the action may be repeated in the future. If repetition in the future is impossible then we must use the simple past. It is not important if you want or want not to repeat the experience, the important thing is only the possibility.

I have seen wolves in the forest           
(there are still wolves there and I haven’t gone blind
so it is possible for me to see them again)
I saw wolves in the forest

(now there are no wolves so I can’t see them again)
My grand-mother has seen the queen twice  

(both are alive, so she might see the queen again)
My grand-mother saw the queen twice
(my grand-mother is dead or the queen is dead)

Life experience

We use the present perfect to talk about life experience.

    I have been to India
    She has never eaten pozole
    I've met people from Africa
    We haven't learned to speak French, but we want to
    I have seen the piramids in Egypt

This is a special case of case 3: the action is past but we’re not talking about my visit to India etc, but about the fact that I know India, I’ve got that experience. But, as we said in the special case above, if the experience can't be repeated then we must use the simple past.

    I went to the top of the World Trade Center towers in New York   (they don't exist anymore, so I can't repeat the experience)


Recent Past

this is a special case of case 2 if we consider the present as “the time around now” and not only this very instant. Everything that happened “a moment ago” is usually expressed with the present perfect.

    Oh, sorry, I’ve broken your glass
    You can't find it? I think I have put it there
    Mum, I've seen a man waiting outside. Do you know him?
    Sorry I'm late, I have met an old friend in the street
    TV news: a bomb has exploded near the bus station

But... if we talk about something that happened only a few seconds ago, then we use the simple past:

    Ssshhh, what was that? Oh, it was just a rabbit
    Sorry, What did you say? I couldn't understand you
    Oh no, you broke it again!
    What? Did you say she's coming?



Very often we use the present perfect with superlatives and "ever":
    This is the most interesting book I’ve ever read    (=this is the most interesting book I’ve read in my life)

It goes at the end and it is always used with the past tense
   I saw him two days ago       (when? Two days ago)

    She has just left            (= she left a moment ago)
    I’ve just finished my work        (= I finished only a few minutes ago)

    She has gone to Russia = she’s in Russia now
    She’s been to Russian  = she went there but now she’s back

- FOR expresses duration (it can be used with present perfect or simple past; question: how long?)

    I’ve lived in Madrid for 4 years (and still do)     graphic 6

    I lived in Madrid for 4 years but now I live in Rome     graphic 5

- SINCE indicates the moment when the action starts and we assume that the action continues up to the present (so we use present perfect; question: since when?)

    I’ve lived in Madrid since 1990        graphic 7

    I lived in Madrid from 1990 to 1994
       graphic 8



Gapped text Items
She ______________________ to Indonesia twice has travelled / travelled
The hotel Ta Piki was a five-star hotel, the best on the island. It was destroyed by a fire. We ______________________ in that hotel a few times, I remember very well. slept / have slept
I ______________________ Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the Machu Picho in Peru have seen / saw
She is only 30, but she ______________________ twice married / has married
I ______________________ to the U.S.S.R before Gorbachev, and it was very different from modern Russia have been / went
I ______________________ never worked in a bank have / -
______________________ tequila with cola? Have you drunk / Did you drink
When I was 6, I ______________________ the movie "Gone With The Wind" saw / have seen
I ______________________ with your father on the phone. He sounds very nice. have spoken / spoke
I ______________________ with Michael Jackson on the phone have spoken / spoke
I ______________________ Angkor Wat on my school trip. I'm very old now but I still remember it very well. have visited / visited
I'm late because I ______________________ my keys have lost / lost
Why do you look so tired? ______________________ running again? Have you been / did you run
He is the tallest man I ______________________ saw / have seen
This is the best soup I ______________________ ate / have eaten
He ______________________ work an hour ago has finished / finished
My girlfriend ______________________ in Pamplona two years ago, but now she's in Salamanca has lived / lived
We ______________________ this car just a month ago has bought / bought
Oh, here you are. Your friend Kyle ______________________ you. has just phoned / just phoned
My father ______________________ to the supermarket, he'll be back soon. has gone / has been
Yes, I ______________________ to Nepal, but it was a long time ago, I was only a child. have gone / have been
Dad's not here, he ______________________ to work has gone / has been
She looks so happy because she ______________________ to her first date with Tom has gone / has been
I ______________________ with her for two hours. It's totally enough, I need a rest! danced / have danced
We ______________________ for two hours, and then we took a taxi. walked / have walked
She ______________________ as a teacher since 2003 worked / has worked
Michael ______________________ on that house since he arrived in this city, but then he moved to a flat a few years ago. has lived / lived
My brother Tim ______________________ that movie three times this weekend has watched / watched
My grandfather ______________________ Winston Churchill many times, they were friends visited / has visited
I ______________________ five mountains have climbed / climbed
Total number of items: 30


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