Grammatical Aspect of Present Perfect

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

The verb phrase have met is an example of the present perfect: have + the past participle. (Pogo by Walt Kelly, 1971)

In English grammar, the present perfect is an aspect of the verb expressing an action that began in the past and that has recently been completed or continues into the present. Also known as the ​present perfective.​​​​

The present perfect is formed by combining has or have with a past participle (usually a verb ending in -d, -ed, or -n).

Examples and Observations

  • "The highway in front of him is empty. He has forgotten the numbers of the routes he has taken and the names of the towns he has passed through."
    (John Updike, Rabbit, Run. Random House, 1960)
  • "This is the saddest story I have ever heard."
    (Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier, 1915)
  • "The language of the passage describes wisdom as a great lady who has prepared a great banquet. She has built her house, she has overseen the slaughter of the cattle, she has mixed the wine, and she has set the table."
    (Douglas Wilson, For a Glory and a Covering. Canon, 2006)
  • "'Oh, Mommy!' she said. 'Look! There's the very bear I've always wanted.'
    "'Not today, dear.' Her mother sighed. 'I've spent too much already. Besides, he doesn't look new. He's lost the button to one of his shoulder straps.'"
    (Don Freeman, Corduroy. Viking, 1968)
  • "Like a bird on the wire
    Like a drunk in a midnight choir
    I have tried in my way to be free."
    (Leonard Cohen, "Bird on the Wire." Songs From a Room, 1969)
  • "History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; art has remembered the people, because they created."
    (William Morris)
  • "He was a Frenchman, a melancholy-looking man. He had the appearance of one who has searched for the leak in life's gas-pipe with a lighted candle."
    (P.G. Wodehouse, "The Man Who Disliked Cats")
  • "I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains.
    I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways.
    I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests."
    (Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963)
  • "Someday when peace has returned to this odd world I want to come to London again and stand on a certain balcony on a moonlit night and look down upon the peaceful silver curve of the Thames with its dark bridges."
    (Ernie Pyle, "This Dreadful Masterpiece," December 1940)
  • "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
    (Henry David Thoreau)

The Present Perfect vs. the Simple Past

  • "The prime factor which is felt to influence the use of the present perfect over the simple past is a writer's feeling that a past action is relevant to a particular current situation. This situation is to be found in the context of present perfect statements and would most naturally be expressed in the present tense. Two conditions for the use of the present perfect are then seen to be: 1) the existence of a situation to which past actions can be related, and 2) the expression of this situation in the present tense."
    (Raymond H. Moy, "Contextual Factors in the Use of the Present Perfect." TESOL Quarterly, September 1977)
  • "In American English, there is a tendency to use the past tense instead of the present perfective:
    Did you eat?
    (British: Have you eaten?)
    Did you ever see "Lear"?
    (British: Have you ever seen 'Lear'?)
    You told me already.
    (British: You've told me already.)
    Did they come home yet?
    (British: Have they come home yet?)" (David Crystal, Rediscover Grammar. Pearson Longman, 2004)
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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Grammatical Aspect of Present Perfect." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Grammatical Aspect of Present Perfect. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Grammatical Aspect of Present Perfect." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).