Present Perfect: Actions started in the past and continuing in the present

The second use of present perfect: generally incomplete action, action still continues in the present.

Yes, this is a paradox that makes this tense so confusing. “Perfect” means “complete”, but we use the Present Perfect to show an incomplete action that is still continuing now this time, and we normally translate the sentence into another language using the verb in the present tense. This is more of a “Present” aspect of the tense this time rather than the “Perfect” one. In the other lessons I have explained you even more: actually, all the sentences are in the present tense because of the verb “have/has” which as you can see is not “had”. This is the second “why” it is “Present” Perfect, but just don’t yet think about it, I discuss it in the lesson “When we don’t use Present Perfect.”

Action stated in the past, and it continues in the present

So let me me focus on one idea now for the purpose of this lesson. We use Present Perfect when an action started in the past (usually a few days/months/years ago or many years ago) and continues in the present. (Watch out, Present Perfect Continuous has the same use, but slightly different, see the lesson on Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous compared). The action in the Present Perfect in this sense doesn’t necessarily have to be happening at the moment the sentence is spoken (moment of speech), simply saying:

The action doesn’t have to be happening right now. It starts in the past, and continues up to the present, usually expressing ongoing or habitual situations. We use how long and since when asking a question and for and since in positive (affirmative) or negative sentences.

How long have you lived in the Norway?

I’ve lived here for ages (for a long time)

She has worked in this company for 4 years

Since when have you lived in Norway?

I’ve lived here since 1956.

I’ve studied English since I remember myself!

Instead of since and for synonymous expressions may be used:

I haven’t seen them in the last few days = I haven’t seen them for a few days.

Use of Present Perfect with Stative Verbs

We usually use verbs that don’t take ing with this tense (non-continuous verbs, also called stative verbs )

prefer, hate, love, want, like, wish, hear, see, feel, believe, know, imagine, mean, matter, need, possess , own, have, owe etc.

All these verbs express a state (emotion, feeling, sense, state of mind, possession) rather than action. An action can be progressive and take ing, and a state is more of stability and consistency. That’s why these verbs don’t usually take ing and that is also why we usually use Present Perfect with such stative verbs.

I have hated this policy since 1999

Now let’s break down this passage:

There`s been no sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 since it disappeared. The families of the missing have been angry with Malaysia`s government. They say it`s been slow to release information

We use stative verbs with Present Perfect under the same conditions as with other verbs. For instance, if a state started in the past and stays active for some time until now. We can explicitly show this with since or for:

There`s been no sign of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 since it disappeared.

We can also understand it from the content without using since or for:

The families of the missing have been angry with Malaysia`s government.

Another use is when we talk about the facts of states that just recently occurred or still active:

They say it`s been slow to release information.

Use of Present Perfect with Dynamic Verbs

They may be action verbs, progressive verbs, instant verbs. They describe an action, change, or process rather than a state.

We may still use Present Perfect with Dynamic Verbs

I have asked this question for years

Though I can think of it as “being in the state of asking” which is a little confusing. This is somewhat as

I have lived here for years (and keep living now)

Though “live” by many people is considered to be a stative verb expressing a sate of living.

That’s why to me it’s still an open question which requires research.

Let’s talk simple

Very often we use Present Perfect when actions started in the past and continue in the present with the verbs expressing habits and mostly with stative verbs

live, work


In a nutshell (exceptions may apply)

We use Present Perfect when we have:

How long .. ?

Since when … ?

… for …

… since …

… in the last few days

Usually with: work, live, know

Back to: Present Perfect Tense

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