This blog is managed by Song Hock Chye, author of Improve Your Thinking Skills in Maths (P1-P3 series), which is published and distributed by EPH.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Simple Present Perfect Tense

The structure of this tense is – “have/has + past participle”

Jane has completed her homework.
I have cleaned my room.

So when do we use the Simple Present Perfect? Why can’t we just use the Simple Past? Let’s compare them.

A) I have cleaned my room. (Simple Present Perfect)
B) I cleaned my room. (Simple Past)

In Example A, the impression we get is that I have just cleaned my room recently. In Example B, there is no time inferred at all. It could mean I cleaned my room yesterday, last week, or even last month.

Generally speaking, the simple present perfect tense (has/have + past participle) is used when the event has taken place recently.

Frequency of Occurrence -

So how recent is recent? A few minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months?

The answer lies in the frequency of the event. Here are more examples, with varying degrees of frequency of occurrence.

1. I have eaten – We eat about 3 times a day. Hence, when I say, “I have eaten”, it means that I have eaten about an hour or two hours ago at most. We don’t say, “have eaten”, if we meant the last meal we had was yesterday.

2. He has gone to school - Going to school is a daily affair. Most of the time, school students go to school once a day. Hence, again, it is quite reasonable to say “has gone to school” if we meant it happened a few hours ago, but not yesterday.

3. She has received her salary – Most salaried employees receive their pay once or twice a month. In this case, we can say “has received her salary”, if we meant it happened a few days ago. Unlike the first two examples, the frequency of occurrence for this event is spread out in a month, and not over a day.

4. He has celebrated his birthday – This is a yearly affair. Hence, it is reasonable to say, “has celebrated his birthday”, if we meant it happened a few weeks ago.

5. Auntie Jen has given birth to a baby girl – Mothers don’t give birth every month. Most don’t give birth even every year. In this case, even if the event occurred a few months ago, we still can say, “has given birth”.

6. We have seen a new millennium – A millennium occurs every 1000 years. The last millennium was the year 2000, and the next will be the year 3000. We are now in the year 2008, and the next millennium will occur 992 years from now. As such, even though the last occurrence happened 8 years ago, we still can say, “We have seen a new millennium.”


As can be seen from the above examples, the simple present perfect tense can be used for an event that occurred recently. How one judges an event to be "recent" depends on the frequency of the occurrence. In Example 6, the frequency is once every 1000 years, making 8 years “recent”.

However, going to school is an everyday affair and hence, it would not be appropriate and even ridiculous to say, “He has gone to school”, if you meant that event occurred 8 years ago.


keentolearn said...

Dear Mr Song

Is Simple Present Perfect Tense the same as Present Perfect Tense?

Excel Eduservice said...


The Present Perfect Tenses are made up of

1. The Simple Present Perfect – I have worked on this sum.

2. The Present Perfect Continuous – I have been working on this sum.

In #1, it is inferred I have just worked on the sum - and I am no longer working on it.

In #2, it is inferred I have worked on the sum - and I am still working on it.

(I discarded earlier post because there was an error in it.)

Anonymous said...

the best explaination ever! thank you so much.