Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Tense – Definition and Concept

We have already defined the tense of the verb as the time of occurrence or execution of the verb with respect to the time of making the statement. One of the three tenses of the verb is the present tense, which is further classified into four types.

The Present Perfect tense is that tense of the verb which is used when the verb has finished occurring or is completely executed at the same time in which the statement is being made. A few examples below:

  • The union has met
  • She has performed to her potential.
  • I have expected a full house at the multiplex.

In this article, we explore this tense in detail.

At the end of this article, the reader should be able to:

  • Understand the basic idea of Present Perfect Tense
  • Understand Subject-Verb agreement for the Present Perfect Tense
  • Understand the influence of auxiliaries and modals on Subject-Verb agreement
  • Study Present Perfect Tense in the Passive Voice
  • Study the Interrogative form of sentences in the Present Perfect Tense
  • Study the Negative form of sentences in the Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Tense

As we’ve discussed above, the Present Perfect tense is that tense of the verb which is used when the verb has finished occurring or is completely executed at the time of the statement. Let us take a few more examples to understand the idea:

  • The board has concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I have reached the dormitory now.
  • The guests have arrived at the apartment.
  • Have you come here today?

In each of the examples, we note how the verb shows the state of action or being of the noun or pronoun as completely executed at the same time as the statement. Thus all of the verbs in these examples are in the Present Perfect Tense.

Subject Verb Agreement (Noun-Verb agreement)

In the Present Perfect Tense, Subject-Verb agreement is where we learn the general form of the verb for different nouns and pronouns. Since we have three persons (first, second and third) and two numbers (singular and plural) we study the different forms of the verb for all the six combinations:

First Person

  • I have come to your place. (First person singular)
  • I have taken the readings now. (First person singular)
  • We have presented our arguments. (First person plural)
  • We have anticipated a big contest here. (First person plural)

In each of the examples above, we see that the present perfect tense of verbs usually take the past participle form of the verb, with the same form for both singular and plural first person pronouns, apart from the auxiliary.

First Person Singular form:

Pronoun + plural present form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

First Person Plural form:

Pronoun + plural present form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Second Person

  • You have been a pessimist.
  • You have taken the lead.
  • Have you completed the targets today?

In each of the examples above, we see that the present perfect tense of verbs usually take the past participle form of the verb, with the same form for both singular and plural second person pronouns, along with the plural form of the auxiliary.

Second Person Singular form:

Pronoun + plural present form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Second Person Plural form:

Pronoun + plural present form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Third Person

Nouns are generally in the third person, while pronouns can be of all persons. So nouns take the same form of the verb as third person pronouns. Examples include:

  • He has emerged as a spin bowler for the national side. (Third person singular pronoun)
  • It has grown all over the place. (Third person singular pronoun)
  • They have brought the party home tonight. (Third person plural pronoun)
  • The Dalai Lama currently has resided in India. (Singular noun)
  • These machines presently have processed 35 bottles per minute. (Plural noun)

In each of the examples above, we see that the present perfect tense of verbs usually take the past participle form of the verb, with the same form for both singular and plural third person pronouns and nouns, apart from the auxiliary.

Third Person Singular form:

Noun/Pronoun + singular present form of auxiliary (has) + Past Participle form of Verb

Noun/Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Third Person Plural form:

Noun/Pronoun + plural present form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Noun/Pronoun + modal + root form of auxiliary (have) + Past Participle form of Verb

Auxiliaries and Modals in Present Perfect Tense

Auxiliaries and modals have the same function in a sentence: assist the verb. While auxiliaries change with the tense of the verb, modals do not.

Auxiliaries

Different forms of the auxiliary have [1] are used with the past participle verb across all forms of nouns and pronouns. We have already understood these forms in the previous section. Let us study these forms in particular now.

  • I have taken the readings now. (First person singular taking plural present form have)
  • We have anticipated a big contest. (First person plural taking plural present form have)
  • You have been a pessimist. (Second person taking plural present form have)
  • It has grown all over the place. (Third person singular taking singular present form has)
  • They have brought the party home tonight. (Third person plural taking plural present form have)
  • The manager has left the company. (Singular noun taking singular present form has)
  • The board members have proposed a merger. (Plural noun taking plural present form have)

Modals

Modals however can be used to enhance the meaning of the verb. Upon using a modal with the verb in the Present Perfect form, the auxiliary verb is reduced to its root form have.

Let us take a few examples:

  • The board has concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I have reached the dormitory now.
  • The guests have arrived at the apartment.

Now, observe the effect of addition of a modal:

  • The board might have concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I could have reached the dormitory by now.
  • The guests may have arrived at the apartment.

Each of these modals effectively reduces the auxiliary to the root form have. Hence we have different rules for present perfect tense with the inclusion of modals.

Present Perfect Tense in Passive Voice

A sentence or a verb is in active voice when the subject is the executioner of the verb, while passive voice is when the subject is the recipient of the verb. With a change in voice, all pronouns and nouns take different forms of the verb. We explore that in this section.

From every type of person and number, we pick one example each from the previous sections.

First Person

  • Active: I have taken the readings now. (First person singular)
  • Passive: The readings have been taken (by me)
  • Active: We have anticipated a big contest here. (First person plural)
  • Passive: A big contest has been anticipated (by us)

Second Person

  • Active: Have you completed the targets today?
  • Passive: Have the targets been completed today?

Third Person

  • Active: These machines presently have processed 35 bottles per minute. (Plural noun)
  • Passive: 35 bottles have been processed presently per minute.
  • Active: They have brought the party home tonight. (Third person plural pronoun)
  • Passive: The party has been brought home tonight.

We make the following observations:

  • The primary verb takes the past participle form in the passive voice.
  • The number of the object/predicate (not the subject) influences the auxiliary verb in passive form.
  • The past participle form been is added to the main verb.
  • The present form of the auxiliary verb have is always added to the verb.

Thus the formation of the passive form of a verb in the present perfect tense would be

For all nouns/pronouns:

Noun/Pronoun + Present form of Auxiliary have + been + Past Participle form of Verb OR

Noun/Pronoun + modal + Root form of Auxiliary have + been + Past Participle form of Verb

Interrogative Sentences in the Present Perfect Tense

Here, we study the rearrangement of words of a sentence with a change in type to interrogative sentences. Let us begin with an example from the previous sections:

  • The union has met
  • She has performed to her potential.
  • I have expected a full house at the multiplex.
  • You have taken the lead.
  • The board might have concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I could have reached the dormitory by now.

The above sentences make a regular statement or what we call assert. Hence these are examples of assertive sentences. Let us now put these into the interrogative form:

  • Has the union met today?
  • Has she performed to her potential?
  • Have I expected a full house at the multiplex?
  • Have you taken the lead?
  • Might the board have concluded that you’re delusional?
  • Could I have reached the dormitory by now?

The Observations:

From the above examples, we make the following inferences:

  • The interrogative form of the sentence begins with the auxiliary verb, if the modal is absent.
  • The interrogative form of the sentence begins with the modal verb, if it is present.

Thus the different interrogative forms of assertive sentences use the following formations:

  • Auxiliary + Subject Noun/Pronoun + Past Participle form of the verb (No modal)
  • Modal + Subject Noun/Pronoun + Root form of Auxiliary + Past Participle form of the verb (Modal Present)

Negative Sentences in the Present Perfect Tense

What happens when we change the form of assertive sentences from positive to negative form?

Let us take the examples above again:

  • The union has met
  • She has performed to her potential.
  • I have expected a full house at the multiplex.
  • You have taken the lead.
  • The board might have concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I could have reached the dormitory by now.

When we convert them into the negative form, we get:

  • The union has not met
  • She has not performed to her potential.
  • I have not expected a full house at the multiplex.
  • You have not taken the lead.
  • The board might not have concluded that you’re delusional.
  • I could not have reached the dormitory by now.

The Observations:

From the above examples, we make the following inferences:

  • The negative not occupies its place between the auxiliary and the main verb, if the modal is absent.
  • The negative not occupies its place between the modal and the root form of auxiliary, if the modal is present.

Thus the different interrogative forms of assertive sentences use the following formations:

  • Subject Noun/Pronoun + auxiliary + not + Past Participle form of verb
  • Subject Noun/Pronoun + modal + not + auxiliary + Past Participle form of verb

Conclusion

This concludes the discussion on the Present Perfect Tense.

Notes

[1] The past participle form of the main verb is used along with the different forms of the auxiliary is in the Simple present tense. We have discussed them in the article on Simple Present Tense. In that case, the resultant sentence is the passive form of a sentence in the simple present tense. For example:

  • The whole house might just be brought down (by him)

This sentence is a passive form of a sentence in the Simple Present Tense. And for example:

  • They have brought the party home tonight.

This sentence is an active form of a sentence in the Present Perfect Tense.

It is very important to examine all the verbs of the sentence to recognise and express the tense. Reader discretion is advised when the general verb expressions are learnt.