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Present Perfect

Because the present perfect is a compound tense, two verbs are required: the main verb and the auxiliary verb.

Using present perfect to observe actions

The present perfect is a common verb tense used to observe that some action has taken place within a present, ongoing situation. 

In a way, the present perfect edges against the past: when you say that someone "has spoken", you're kind of indicating that the speaking has been completed. 

However, the entire situation within which the speaking was done is presumed to be ongoing. Therefore, the action is completed in the present. 

You form the present perfect through the conjunction of the helping verb "has/have" and the past participle of the relevant main verb. 

Grammatical rules and examples

Here is an example of the present perfect being used correctly within a sentence. 

"He tells his friends that he doesn't want to make it to movie night, because he has seen that film a dozen times by now." 

In this sentence, "has seen" constitutes a correct use of the present perfect tense. 

Now, here is an example of the present perfect being used in an incorrect way

"I have gone to that concert last weekend; my ears rang for the whole next day since I was right up by the speakers."

In this sentence, "have gone" should be either "had gone" or "went", since it is clearly specified that the event ended at a distinct time in the past. 

In case you're still a little confused about the present perfect, here are a couple rules that you can follow when trying to make use of it in the right way. 

  1. Technically, the present perfect does talk about the past. However, it talks about the past in an indefinite way, such that the action it posts can be thought of as occurring within an ongoing situation. If you have seen a movie a dozen times, this did not happen sometime in the definite past; it is more of an ongoing state of affairs. 
  2. You absolutely cannot use the present perfect if a given event ended at a specific point in the past. In that case, you would need to switch to the past perfect. It is precisely the indefiniteness of the event that allows it to kind of bleed into the present, so to speak. The present perfect is used to talk about such actions or events. 

Understanding present perfect

Technically speaking, the very phrase present perfect seems like a misnomer. The perfect tenses talk about an event that has finished occurring; and by definition, this would put the event in the past. The secret of the present perfect is that it allows one to talk about events that are past, but not definitively past. Again, imagine a meeting where someone concludes by saying, "I have spoken." The actual speech is in the

Again, imagine a meeting where someone concludes by saying, "I have spoken." The actual speech is in the past; but the situation as a whole (the meeting) is still ongoing. On the other hand, if the same man were to reflect on the speech in the morning, he would have to say, "I had spoken."   

There are other things, such as the number of times you have seen a movie, that are inherently indefinite, insofar as they are not confined to a specific point in the past (even though they occurred in the past). It is as though they occurred within the ongoing context of your own life. This kind of indefiniteness is the hallmark of the present perfect tense. 

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