How long have you studied English? How many years have you known your best friend? How long have you been at your job? All of these sentences are questions using the Present Perfect tense.
The Present Perfect is a tense that confuses many students. When do we use it? And why? There are many ways to use the Present Perfect; today, we will look at using the Present Perfect to talk about specific times that we started something, and show its relationship to the present.
A Quick Overview of the Present Perfect
Present Perfect = has/have + past participle
The Present Perfect is often used to talk about experiences. For example:
I have been to Thailand.
I have ridden in a helicopter.
I have seen dolphins in the ocean.
I have never met a famous person.
I have never been sailing.
But these students have been sailing!
But when did these things happen? With the Present Perfect, we do not know. That is why we need to use words like “for” and “since” to show when these things happened or started.
The Present Perfect + For
The Present Perfect is for things that started in the past and have a connection to today; for example, “I have lived in San Diego for three months”. In this example, the speaker still lives in San Diego, and the speaker started living in San Diego three months ago.
Some more examples of this include:
I have been a teacher for five years.
I have lived in my apartment for two months.
She has driven her car for 10 years.
I haven’t been to Italy for 20 years.
In each of these examples, we use the Present Perfect with “for + a period of time”. You must always use “for” with a period of time, as with “five years”, “two months”, and “10 years” in the above examples.
The Present Perfect + Since
We can also use the Present Perfect with “since”. Unlike “for” which is used with a length of time, “since” must be used with a specific time or date. For example:
I have been a teacher since 2007.
I have lived in my apartment since December.
She has had her car since June.
It has been cloudy since Monday.
I haven’t seen him since this morning.
We can also use the Present Perfect + since + time + “ago”.
She has had her car since five months ago.
Another way we can use the Present Perfect + since is with a time clause. A time clause has a subject and a past tense verb. For example:
She has worn glasses since she was a child.
They haven’t been to Thailand since they were children.
I haven’t seen her since I lived in San Francisco.
Example 1: How long has Jen lived in her apartment?
Jen has lived in her apartment since June.
Jen has lived in her apartment for three months.
Jen has lived in her apartment since she moved to San Diego.
How long have you lived in your house/apartment?
I have lived in my house/apartment for _______________________________.
I have lived in my house/apartment since _____________________________.
Example 2: How long has Fabricio studied English?
Fabricio has studied English since 2008.
Fabricio has studied English for four years.
Fabricio has studied English since he was in high school.
How long have you studied English?
I have studied English for __________________________________________.
I have studied English since ________________________________________.
There are many ways to use the Present Perfect. Next month, we will focus on another way to use this tense: talking about experiences. Until then, have a great March!