Present Perfect Usage 1: Actions started in the past and continuing in the present

Present Perfect is used when an action started in the past and continues into the present.

Continuing in the present doesn’t mean it has to be necessarily happening at the moment of speaking. Although it could.

Incomplete action, action still continues in(to) the present.

I’ve lived here for 5 years

Note there is indication of duration: for 5 years. I started living here 5 years ago in the past and I continue living here in the present.

Let’s talk simple

Very often we use Present Perfect when actions started in the past and continue in(to) the present with the verbs expressing habits and mostly with stative verbs. These are very typical verbs:

(1) live, work, know

and we have duration of action / state.

(2) We use for / since / other expressions to show that action is continuous.

So we have two green components.

I’ve (1) lived here (2) for 5 years (and continue living here)

I’ve (1) worked here (2) since 2010 (and continue working here)

If we ask questions about duration of an action that started in the past and that continues in the present, we include these two green components:

(1) Since when … …. ? or How long …. …. ?

(2) Verbs expressing habits and stative verbs: live, work, know, be

(1) Since when have you (2) lived in India?

(1) How long have you (2) worked in Brazil?

Recap:

We use Present Perfect when we have:

How long .. ?

How long have you lived in Brazil?

Since when … ?

Since when have you lived in India?

… for …

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

… since …

I’ve lived here since 1956.

… in the past few years

I’ve seen it a lot in the past few years, and keep seeing it.

Usually with: work, live, know

I’ve lived here for 5 years

Advanced learners start here:

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

An action started in the past, and it continues into the present AND we have indication of action duration (for / since).

Watch out, Present Perfect Continuous has the same use, but slightly different. These two tenses are so close in this sense, that they are sometimes interchangeable. However, if you know the difference, it would be super good for you to understand the very nature of these 2 tenses and make better decisions when you speak. See the lesson on difference between Present Perfect Continues and Present Perfect when it comes to actions started in the past and continuing into the present with indication of duration: Short- vs long-term actions: Present perfect continuous.

Now let’s talk about the components:

1. Action started in the past AND

2. Action continues in the present AND

3. We have indication of duration: for / since or their synonyms or we can infer this duration from the context.

The action doesn’t have to be happening right now (although it could). It starts in the past, and continues into 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 Norway?

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

She has(n’t) worked in this company for 4 years

Since when have you known him?

I’ve known him since 1956.

I’ve studied English since I remember myself! (example of a verb that is not stative, however it sounds good in this example)

Since and for in general questions

Have you played chess since childhood?

Use of Present Perfect with Stative Verbs when state started in the past and continues in the present and there is indication of state duration.

We usually use verbs that don’t take ing with this tense (non-continuous verbs, also called stative verbs ) I explained, in one of the lessons, why “usually” and why not always. As an example, I used another tense from the “continuous” line of tenses: present continuous tense, but you can apply the same principle to this tense, see:

Present Continuous: Stative verbs , also Stative verbs: Present Perfect Continuous

See also Where is the border between Action and Stative Verbs?

So, these are a few of stative verbs.

prefer, hate, love, want, like, wish, hear, see, feel, believe, know, imagine, mean, matter, need, possess , own, have, owe, be 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 and not Present Perfect Continuous.

I have hated this policy since 1956

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 when action started in the past and continues in the present and there is indication of action duration.

They may be action verbs, progressive verbs, instant verbs .They describe an action, change, or process rather than a state. Links: lesson: Verb, Action Verb, Stative Verb / lesson: Where is the border between Action and Stative Verbs?

We may still use Present Perfect with Dynamic Verbs

I have asked this question for years (and keep asking in the present)

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)

Note, “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.

More on Present Perfect:

Back to: Present Perfect Tense

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