When to Use the Present Perfect

by Meissa
(Indonesia)

Practical English Usage by Michael Swan

Practical English Usage by Michael Swan

How to Use Frequency Adverbs


Practical English Usage

I have a question and it relates with my writing. Please explain the difference between these two tenses below:
1. The effects are felt by many people and have cost us a great deal.

2. I even had to stay at home since there was no public transportation which could drive through the water. People who lived nearby the rivers suddenly became refuges; they (have) lost their homes, property or perhaps family members.
In the second sentence I used the present perfect "have lost" and you changed it to the past tense.

I am still confused by the present perfect tense, so if you could please give me more examples and the basic rule of how to use the tense, I would appreciate it.

Thank you very much for your help.

Hi Meissa,

Do not worry. The present perfect is confusing to a lot of people because in most other languages (like Spanish) you use the same tense to convey both the present perfect and simple past in English.

Let’s look at the basics first.

There is a wonderful explanation of the Present perfect in Michael Swan's, Practical English Usage.

Basically speaking, the present perfect deals with finished events that are connected to the present.



When we say that something has happened, we are thinking about it in the past and present at the same time.

  • I can't go to Portugal because I have hurt my back.


  • I hurt my back two days ago...and it still hurts today. (Both the past and present at the same time.)


  • You can also use the present perfect to express the idea that something is finished or complete.

  • I've finished my homework.

  • I have finished answering that question.


  • Tip!

    If you see the following words, you normally use the present perfect:

    ever, before, already, recently, never, lately, yet


    If you see the following words you don't normally use the present perfect

    yesterday, when, 2 years ago, then, last week, in 2001...anything time related.



    Here are some more examples of how to use the present perfect.

  • I haven't been to Hawaii yet, but I would love to go there someday.
  • I have started going to the gym 5 days a week.
  • I haven't visited my friends in Madrid for almost 6 months.
  • I've hurt my back.
  • Have you been to the dentist yet?
  • Have you graduated from University?


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