Past Simple

We use the past simple tense to speak about finished actions in ‘finished time’. The action and the time have no connection with the present.

For example:

  • I went to Milano yesterday.
  • My sister sold her car last week.
  • I lived in Holland from 2001 – 2003.
  • I woke up late this morning. (the time here is implied – for the speaker it means 9.30am)


  • Did you like the film? (the speaker knows you saw the film in the past)
  • When did you move to Saronno? (‘when’ is asking for a past time)
  • Why did you buy those shoes? (the speaker knows you bought the shoes in the past)


Present Perfect

The Present Perfect is used to talk about actions which:

  1. …are finished, but we don’t say when they happened
  2. …happened in a time period which is unfinished and includes the present (ie: this week)
  3. …to talk about states which began in the past and continue until the present time
  4. …to talk about things that did not happen in our lives (finora…)

Don’t use present perfect with “when” because it refers to a finished past time.

For example;

  • I have finished my homework. (no time)
  • I have been to Paris many times. (no time)
  • They have been to Paris. (no time)
  • She has gone home. (no time)
  • I have been to America, South Africa and to Indonesia. (no time)
  • We have been to Milan today. (today is not finished)
  • I have lived in Italy for 7 years. (for a period of time until the present)
  • I have worked in this company since 2003. (…from 2003 until the present)
  • I haven’t been to America, but I want to go there soon. (= not in my life)
  • I have never been to America. (= not in my life)
  • I have never been to this restaurant before (I did not do this before today)
  • I haven’t seen my parents for a long time. They live in Canada now. (= not for a long time until now)
  • I have not seen my parents this week. (= not this week until now)
  • He hasn’t finished his homework. (= not until now)

Making Questions with Present Perfect

To make a question using the present perfect, we need to invert the auxiliary ‘have/has’ and the subject.

  • In a positive sentence we say “He has been to New York”
  • In a positive question we ask “Has he been to New York?”
  • In a negative sentence we say “He hasn’t been to New York”
  • In a negative question we ask “Hasn’t he been to New York?”

If we use a question word (Who, where, why, etc) we put this at the start of the question:

  • What has he done today?
  • Where has Paolo gone?
  • Why haven’t you finished the report?
  • Which countries have you visited?
  • How many times have you been to Sardinia?

We do not use ‘When’ in questions or statements with the present perfect.

For and Since…..

We use the present perfect with ‘since’ to explain that an action or state started at a specific time in the past, and continues until the present. We use ‘since’ + a start time.

  • I have lived in Saronno since 2007.
  • I haven’t been to Paris since I was 25. (= from the time when I was 25 years old until the present)
  • I have written 20 emails since I started work this morning.
  • He has drunk at least 10 cups of coffee since he arrived.
  • I have worked for this company since January.
  • I haven’t been to Sardinia since Easter, two years ago.

We use the present perfect with ‘for’ to explain the duration of an action or state that started in the past, and continues until the present. We use ‘for’ + a time period.

  • I have lived in Saronno for two years.
  • I haven’t been to Paris for a long time.
  • I have known Marco for almost 20 years.

Already, Yet and Just

We use ‘Already’ in questions and positive statements to talk about something done earlier than expected. It cannot be used with negative statements. ‘already’ goes before the verb.

  • He has already gone home.
  • I have already eaten.
  • You’re late. The film has already finished.
  • Has she already finished?

Yet is used at the end of questions and negative statements with the meaning ‘until now’.

  • She hasn’t gone home yet.
  • Has she gone home yet?
  • I haven’t done my homework yet. I’ll do it later this evening.

Just is used to talk about actions or events which happened a short time ago. Just is normally used in positive statements and goes before the main verb.

  • Are you hungry? No, I have just eaten a sandwich.
  • Is Paola late again? No, she has just arrived. She’s in her office.
  • Where is Paolo? > I’m sorry, he has just left.

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Lesson tags: intermediate, present perfect
Back to: Intermediate English