The present perfect is often associated with the Italian “Passato Prossimo” and that is mainly because it is formed in a similar way, however its uses are somewhat different than its Italian correspondent.
How is it formed? With the present simple of the verb “To Have” and the past participle of the main verb. Therefore we will have: I have walked (regular verb), but I have bought (if the verb is irregular).
Present Perfect Simple
- Look! I have bought a new car, now we can take that cross-country trip we have always wanted to
Actions that have JUST taken place
- They have just called from the airport, they found your missing suitcase
Actions that have ALREADY taken place or haven’t YET
- She has already left the train station, but she hasn’t got home yet
- I have travelled quite a lot in my life
Present Perfect Continuous
The Present Perfect Continuous, as we have seen so far, all the continuous tenses have a common characteristic, they all use the verb “To Be” and the Gerund of the main verb, it all depends on the conjugation of “To Be”, in fact, it can be present, past or future. In this case we will have: the present tense of the verb “To Have”, as this is what characterises instead the perfect verb tenses, the past participle of the verb “To Be” + the -ing ending (or Gerund) for the main verb. Thus we will have: We have been working.
Special attention must be given to the Duration form, we call it such because it refers to an action that lasts for some time, we use SINCE to show the time in which the action has originated, whereas we use FOR to show how long the action has lasted and may still be true as we speak, keep in mind that much depends on the overall context.
- We have been working SINCE eight o’clock (SINCE is used to underline the time when the action began)
- We have lived here FOR ten years (FOR is used to underline the length of time for which an action lasts, however it doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t live here anymore as we speak, it only means that as of right now it has been ten years since we came to live here.)
To Sum Up
Past Perfect Simple
The only difference in form compared to the previous one is that in this case we use the past simple tense of the verb “To have” and the past participle of the main verb. So: I had left.
Actions that had occurred before other past actions
- The students had already left the room when the headmaster walked in. (The students left the room. Then the headmaster walked in.)
Past Perfect Continuous
In this case, similarly to the above examples: past simple of the verb “To Have” + past participle of the verb “To Be” + the -ing ending (or Gerund) for the main verb. Thus we will have: We had been working.
Actions that had been happening before other past actions
- They had been trying to put out the fire for over an hour when the firefighters arrived (They had started putting out the fire an hour before and they were still trying when the firefighters arrived.)
To Sum Up
Both are used to speak about habits in the past, however in the case of used to the habit is definitely belonging in the past and it is no loger true, in the case of would it could be that that past habit can also be true in the present. Remember: the overall context.
- We used to cycle to school when wer were children. (But we don’t anymore)
- She would help anyone who was in need. (Given the need she might still do.)
For the Past Simple and Continuous click here.
© L. R. Capuana