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Present Perfect: Common rules

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Some common rules for advance learners.

Recent events.

Present perfect simple

The present perfect simple is used to describe recent events without a definite time. The idea of time or place in the speaker's mind makes the event recent. A time expression may emphasize relentless.

                I've left my shopping bag behind.

                I've just broken my watch.

We can also describe events that have not happened.

                I haven't found her phone number yet.

The event may be connected with the present, because the result of the event is present. No definite time is given for the event.

                I've broken my arm, as you can see.

Indefinite events

1. Present perfect simple

No definite time is given for the event.

               I've been to France three times.

2. Compared with the past

Events described using the past simple have definite times.

               I went to France last year.

The tense used can depend on the time expression.

               This is the first time I have eaten Japanese food.

3. Definite Places

If we think of a definite place for an event, this may suggest a definite time.

               I left my shopping bag on the train.

Extended or repeated events

1. Present perfect simple

With verbs that describe states, he present perfect simple describes a state whith lasts up to the present.

               I've lived in this house for five years.

2. Present perfect continuous

The present perfect continuous can also describe a state whitch lasts up to the present moment.

               I've been living in this house for five years.

There is a little difference of nmeaning between simple and continuousin this case, or with "How long" question. The verbs sit, lie, wait, stay prefer the present perfect continuous.

               How long have you been waiting?

3. Present perfect simple

The present perfect simple can describe a habitual action in a period of time up to the present moment.

               I've never worn a tie to work, and refuse to start now!

Contrast between simple and continuous

1. Not completed

Use of the present perfect continuous can suggest that an action is not completed, or has recently finished.

               We've been walking for hours! Let's have a rest.

               I've been digging the garden. That's why I'm so dirty!

2. Completed

Use of the present perfect simple can show that an action is complete. Giving the number of actions suggests completion.

               I've written ten pages of my homework assignment!

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