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Most people find the present perfect difficult to understand, and that’s understandable! For French speakers anyway, it’s a tense that’s foreign because it doesn’t exist in their language, and, of course, it’s hard to wrap your head around a completely new idea.

That’s why I think the best way forward is through exposure and practice.

Let’s look at just one of the reasons we use the present perfect today. We tend to use it to talk about something that happened in the past, but has a result in the present. For example, imagine that your shoes are dirty, so you decide to clean them. Then you clean them, when they are clean you can say: I’ve cleaned my shoes. Your shoes are now clean. You do not specify when you cleaned them, this is obvious thanks to the tense you have used. The present perfect tells us that your shoes are clean because you cleaned them recently.

Let’s have another example. Imagine that you stop by your friend’s house around 1pm to drop off a dress you borrowed. Since your friend is about to have lunch, she invites you to dine with her. You had an early lunch, so you say to her: no thank you, I’ve eaten! We use the present perfect because your past action (eating) has a result in the present (you’re not hungry). Does that make sense?

So let’s have some more example sentences:

  • My son has received his acceptance letter to Harvard! I’m so proud of him.
  • A: Have you seen this man? B: No, I’m sorry, I haven’t.
  • At a restaurant, you arrive late, your friend says to you: I’ve ordered you a glass of wine.
  • On the train, you see a newspaper beside another passenger, you ask: Excuse me, have you finished with this paper?
  • I’ve lost my passport, I need to call the embassy right now!

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments or send me a message!

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