Have -en: Present Perfect Tense

Many resources call “have -en” the “present perfect tense”. Most English speakers don’t know this terminology, but they do know the words “have done”. They know what they mean and how to use them.

We’ll look at what these words mean to help you better understand how they are used.

Or start with our practice exercises.

What is it?

Many common verbs have an -en form. These words end in -en, -ne or -n.

present form past form -ing form -en form
eat
do
know
ate
did
knew
 eating
doing
knowing
eaten
done
known

Some verbs change vowels for their different forms and have a u (n upside-down) for the -en form.

present form past form -ing form -en form
drink
swim
drank
swam
 drinking
swimming
drunk
swum

However, most verbs don’t have a separate -en form. We use the same form as the past form.

present form past form -ing form -en form
wash
have
love
washed
had
loved
washing
having
loving
washed
had
loved

We know it has the meaning of the -en form because of where it is used in the sentence, often after have. (The past form is used directly after the subject.)

I washed the car yesterday. (past form)
I’ve washed the car. (-en form meaning)

What does it mean?

The -en form to shifts focus away from an action.
Details of the action, such as when it happened, are not important.
We use have and the -en form to focus on the result of an action.

perfect aspect timeline diagram

How do we use it?

We often use it with have. We have results in the present.

We talk about recently completed actions.

We talk about experiences.

I have eaten breakfast.

present perfect tense timeline - present result - Recent action: happened at a time before now

Breakfast is complete.
When it happened isn’t important.
The result is important:
I don’t need to eat now.

I have lived in England.

present perfect tense timeline - present result - Experience: happened for a period before now

I lived in England sometime in the past.
When it happened isn’t important.
The result is important:
I have the experience now.

We are talking about the present. If we say when, we add a time that includes the present.

I have eaten breakfast today.

I have lived in England this year.

Examples

Recently completed actions
I’ve eaten.
She’s had breakfast.
They’ve cooked dinner.
Present Perfect Tense diagram - completed recently: I've been shopping. I've washed the car. I haven't done the laundry. I haven't cooked dinner.
Experiences
He’s played soccer.
We’ve lived in London.
They’ve worked in a shop.
present perfect diagram - experiences: I've been to Spain. I've played baseball. I haven't eaten takoyaki. I haven't ridden a horse.
Subject have Verb Object Place
We have eaten eggs.  We’ve eaten eggs.
She has worked in a bank.  She’s worked in a bank.
I have lived in Sweden.  I’ve lived in Sweden.
He has had breakfast.  He’s had breakfast.
You have played soccer.  You’ve played soccer.

Key Point

We add have -en to when we are talking about the present: we talk about the result in the present rather than the action in the past.

Adding a length of time

When we talk about experiences, we can add a time period to show how much experience we have. This is the amount of experience we currently have in the present. We often assume we are still gaining experience in these things.

Subject have Verb Object Place/Time Time period
She has worked in a bank for seven years.
It has rained for the last few days.
I have lived in Sweden since 2010.
He has played soccer since he was five.
It has been a while since I’ve seen you.
present perfect tense timeline - present result - Duration: happened for a period up to now

How long has she worked in a bank? She’s worked in a bank for seven years.
She started working in the bank seven years ago. She still works there now.

It’s rained for the last few days.
It started raining a few days ago. It is still raining now.

How long have you lived in Sweden? I’ve lived in Sweden since 2010.
I moved to Sweden in 2010. I still live there now.

He’s a good soccer player. He‘s played soccer since he was five.
He started playing soccer when he was five. He still plays soccer now.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen you.
I haven’t seen you for some time.

This pattern is also used for recently completed actions. We often add a time period when we think the action has happened for long enough and we want it to end now.

I’ve waited for two hours. It’s too long.
I’ve cooked every night for three months. Can you do the cooking for a change?
He hasn’t eaten anything since Monday. He really should eat something.

Practice Exercises

1. Find the -en form

2. Choose the correct form

3. Watch the video and complete the text