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Just, already, ever, yet, since and for with present perfect
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Vania Oliveira from Brazil writes:

If I speak without using the present perfect, can I still have a good conversation with someone in English? I find the present perfect so difficult and sometimes I can't understand it. Can I avoid it?

Roger Woodham replies:

It is not easy to communicate with someone without using the present perfect. We often need to talk about things which happened or started to happen in the past and which are linked to the present or future. The present perfect is the tense that we need in order to do this.

It may help you to fix it in your mind and start to use it if you note that it is often used with the adverbs just, already, ever and yet and with time phrases with for and since.

Present perfect with just /already

Just often emphasises the idea of close to the present, so it is often used with the present perfect. Already suggests that something has happened sooner than expected and again is linked with present time and therefore the present perfect:

  • Do you want me to make the salad for supper tonight? ~ I've already made it. It's on the table.

  • I've just spoken to Jane. She's not going to join us for supper tonight.
  Present perfect with yet / ever / never / always

These indefinite time adverbs suggest at any time up till now, so they are ideally suited for use with the present perfect:

  • Have you ever driven a car with manual drive? ~ No, I never have. I've always driven cars with automatic drive. ~ It's not too difficult. You'll soon get used to it.

  • I don't think you've met Rachel yet, have you? ~ No, I haven't. I've met a lot of your friends from work, but I've not met Rachel yet. ~ She's absolutely lovely. I'm sure you'll like her.

Notice how in all these examples, use of the present perfect is linked to the future as well as the present. Note also that the perfect tense in negative sentences has two possible forms: I've not OR I haven't, you've not OR you haven't, (s)he's not OR (s)he hasn't, we've not OR we haven't, they've not OR they haven't.

Present perfect with no indefinite time adverb

Note that we often use the present perfect with no indefinite time adverb, even though we are thinking of a period of time up to the present. In the following examples, yet is understood but not used:

  • Have you been to see the latest Spielberg film, Minority Report? It's fantastic!

  • Has anybody seen Brenda? She's supposed to be at work today.
Present perfect with since / for

We use for when we want to measure duration - when we want to say how long something lasts. If we want to measure duration up to the present, we therefore use it with the present perfect. Since tells about the starting time of the action and how it has continued up to the present time. It is therefore often used with the present perfect:

  • I've only been on this diet for a couple of weeks, but I've already lost half a kilo.

  • We've lived in this house for over twenty years - ever since July 1981 to be precise.

  • They've known Jennifer since she was two years old.

  • Nobody's seen her since 11 April - the day on which she walked out of the flat.
Present perfect progressive with since / for

Since and for are very often used with the present perfect progressive as this tense enables us to emphasise the on-going nature of the activity:

  • How long have you been working for that software company? ~ I've been working for them for two years now.

  • I'm out of work. Didn't you know? I've been looking for a job since last Christmas, but I can't seem to find anything.

Note that with verbs which describe a state rather than an action, verbs such as agree, consider, feel, find, know, like, love, prefer, the progressive form is not normally used, even if the meaning emphasises the continuous, on-going aspect:

  • I've agreed to lend her my car whenever she's in England.

  • We've known her family ever since we were neighbours in Frankfurt.

  • I've always loved her and always will.
    But I've felt for some time now that she doesn't love me.

If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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