1. Review: what is the present perfect tense?

The present perfect tense is for something that has happened between a time in the past and now.

Usually, the action has finished. The time has not finished.

The present perfect uses the structure:

  • have/has + perfect participle + unfinished time

*Perfect participles include been, gone, seen, eaten, etc..

Unfinished timeFinished action
(present perfect)
Example sentence
todayhave eatenToday I have eaten breakfast and gone to school.
this weekhas attendedAliyah has not been to class at all this week.
this eventhas beenThis game has been so exciting: I can’t wait until the second half.
the last 5 dayshave beenThe train staff have been on strike for the last 5 days.
during my workhave seenHave you seen my pencil?
my lifehave travelledI have travelled to Cairo three times in my life.

*Note: The unfinished time can be dropped if everyone knows what time is being discussed.

2. Present perfect + since/for

Usually the present perfect means the action is finished.

However, if you use ‘since’ or ‘for’, the action is still happening.

‘Since’ is used to say when the unfinished action started.
‘For’ is used to say when how long the unfinished action has been happening.

ActionFinishedWhen action startedHow long action has been happeningExample sentence
have English classnoMay last yearI have had English class since May last year.
live in this villageno2015I have lived in this village since 2015.
be in this traffic jamno10amI have been in this traffic jam since 10am.
go to this schoolno3 monthsI have gone to this school for 3 months.
manage this companyno15 yearsI have managed this company for 15 years.
know Dannohalf my lifeI have known Dan for half my life.

3. How to make present perfect + since/for

To make the present perfect + since/for:

  • have/has + perfect participle + since (when unfinished action started)
  • have/has + perfect participle + for (how long unfinished action has happened)

4. ‘All’ is an exception

‘For’ is usually used to say how long an unfinished action has happened.

However, if the action has happened ‘all’ of a time, ‘for’ can be dropped.

5. Examples of present perfect + since/for

I have worked in this company for 3 weeks.Innes has lived in Shanghai for 5 years.
Lewis has been in Somaliland since Tuesday.The pair of swans have lived in this pond since the start of the year.
Alaska has been part of the United States since 1959.Alice and Dermot have studied English together for 27 years.
The government has refused to consider this issue for as long as I remember.Herb has liked ice cream all his life.

6. Exercises

1. Which ones have finished, and which ones are still happening?

(i) I have been President.
I have been President for 25 years.
(ii) I have taken the bus to work.
I have taken the bus to work since 1942.
(iii) I have been married.
I have been married for too long.

2. Using ‘for’ or ‘since’, say how long you have been doing something (example: I have studied English for 2 years).