Present Perfect Tense vs. Simple Past Tense



We have been to the cinema today.

subject + has (singular) or have (plural) + verb (past participle)


We went to the cinema yesterday.

subject + was (singular) or were (plural), + verb (past)

Many students know how to correctly use Simple Past Tense. However, Present Perfect Tense is not so clear to some. I’ve talked to several intermediate students and I noticed that they tend to shy away from the Present Perfect Tense.

Undoubtedly, these students have studied the Perfect Tenses but for some reasons, they avoid using these tenses especially when speaking.

Present Perfect Tense is as important as Simple Past Tense. So you should know when and how to use it.


PPT is used for actions which started in the past but continue to exist up to the present.


  1. We have been friends for 5 years. (Until now we’ re still friends)
  1. Ana has worked for the company since she was 18. (Until now she is still working for the same company)

PPT is also used for finished actions in someone’s life such as experiences, which have the possibility of being repeated.


  1. Mary has visited London for three times already. (Mary likes going to London. Possibly, she may go back there.)
  1. I have written at least two books in English. (I may write another book again.)


PT is used for actions, which started and completed in the past.


  1. We were friends for 5 years. (We were friends for 5 years until they moved to another city and we lost contact.)
  1. Ana worked for the company for 2 years. (Ana worked for the company for only 2 years.)

PT is also used for finished actions in someone’s life such as experiences, which don’t have any possibility of being repeated.

  1. Mary visited London for three times. (Mary doesn’t like going to London anymore. There is no possibility for her to go back to London)
  1. I wrote at least two books in English. (I am not going write an English book anymore.)
Grammar Tip:

1.   The sentences in the Present Perfect Tense may contain the words for, since, already and so far.

2.   The sentences in the Past Tense may contain a finished time indicator such as last week, yesterday, a week ago, etc.

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