Talking About Unfinished Actions in the Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Tense - Lesson #5

In the previous few lessons, we studied using the present perfect verb tense to talk about experiences.

The other common way that we use the present perfect tense is to talk about actions or things that started in the past and are not finished.

So, things that started in the past, but are still happening. Here is one example,
  • I have played the piano for 15 years.
I started playing the piano 15 years ago and I still play the piano. (This sentence doesn't mean I have only played the piano. Obviously, I have done other things like shower, eat, sleep, etc.)

Compare it to this sentence.
  • I played the piano for 15 years.
This sentence is in the past tense. This means that I played the piano for 15 years, but now I do not play. For example, I played the piano from 2000-2015, but now I no longer play.

Remember that we use the past participle verb form when using the present perfect.

Base FormPast SimplePast Participle

Here is the sentence pattern that we use. It is the same as when we talk about experiences.

Subject + have/has + past participle…

Remember to use "been +adjective/noun/prepositional phrase".
  • I have been tired all day.
  • She has worked here all year.
  • They have been married for a long time.
  • The food has been cold for hours.
It is very common to use the words "for" and "since" in these sentences.

Use "since" to show when the action or thing started.

Subject + have/has + past participle…since + (starting time)
  • I have worked here since 2004.
    (=I started working here in 2004.)

  • They have been married since 2013.
  • The baby has cried since 2 pm.
  • She has been a professional dancer since last year.
  • This book series has been popular since 2005.
We can also put a sentence or clause after since to show a starting time.
  • I have loved you since the first time that I saw you.
  • She has been a figure skater since she was 12 years old.
  • They have been friends since they started school together 5 years ago.
Use "for" to describe a period of time. We use it to tell the total time.

Subject + have/has + past participle…for + (total time)
  • She has worked here for 5 years.
  • I have studied English for 10 years.
  • They have lived in this neighborhood for only 3 months.
  • I have known her for 4 days.
  • This TV show has been on TV for 2 years.
You can also use non-specific times.
  • She has been a manager for a long time.
  • They have worked on this project for many years.
We can use either "since" or "for" when we make these sentences.
  • I have worked here since 2010.
    (=I have worked here for 7 years.)
If this year is 2017, then these sentences are the same.

Now, let's see how to make negative sentences. We can make negative sentences by putting "not" after the verb "have/has"

Subject + have/has not + past participle…
  • I have not worked here since 2014. I started in 2013.
  • She has not been here for a few hours.
  • They have not been married for 4 years. They have been married for 5 years.
  • We have not done our homework today.
Last, remember that we can use contractions with pronouns and "have". And we can make contractions with "have/has" and "not".
  • I've been here for a long time.
  • She's worked her since 2016.
  • I haven't been here for a long time.
  • She hasn't talked to him since the party.
These are very useful sentences and we need to use them often, so spend enough time studying and practicing.

Read the sentences below aloud. This will help you remember and improve your English speaking.

Example Sentences
  • I have known her for many years.
  • I have worked at this company for 19 years.
  • I have studied English since I was in elementary school.
  • I've been interested in politics for the past 3 years.

  • You have worked very hard for the past few years.
  • You haven't come to English class for a few weeks.
  • You have known me for a long time.
  • You have not come to our meeting for a whole week.

  • We haven't seen each other since Christmas.
  • We have worked together for many years.
  • Nick and I have been friends since we were babies.
  • We've been at the library since 3 o'clock.

  • Jon has played the guitar for 3 years.
  • He's been married for 10 years.
  • He hasn't lived here for a long time.
  • He has not called me for a while.

  • Mary has studied computers for a couple months.
  • She's talked about moving to a new city since last year.
  • She has not come here for a couple days.
  • She hasn't talked to me in a while.

  • This restaurant has been open since 2015.
  • This building has been under construction for 2 years.
  • It has been good for a long time.
  • It has been windy since Monday.

  • Tina and Gina have been friends since they were in middle school.
  • The bicycles have been broken for weeks.
  • They have studied art history at this university for 3 years.
  • They haven't come here for months.
English Conversation 1

A) Where have you been lately?
B) I have been busy for the past few weeks.
A) Why are you busy? You do not have a job.
B) I have prepared for my next job interview.
A) That is great. Do you need any help?
B) Actually, the interview is in 2 hours, so it is a little late.
A) Okay. Good luck with your interview.

English Conversation 2

A) Your English is so good. How long have you studied?
B) I've studied English since I was in elementary school.
A) I wish I was as good as you.
B) Your English is really good too. How long have you learned English?
A) For about 3 years.
B) Wow! That is amazing. If you keep practicing, then you will be fluent soon.

Practice speaking fluent English by finishing the sentences below and then try making your own sentences. It is a great yet simple way to learn English.

Tip: Say the sentences aloud. This will help you practice speaking English and improve your pronunciation and fluency.

I have _______________ for _______________.
I've _______________ since _______________.
We have _______________ for _______________.
We have _______________ since _______________.
He's _______________ for _______________.
She hasn't _______________ since _______________.
They haven't _______________ for _______________.
I haven't _______________ for _______________ because _______________.
He hasn't _______________ since _______________ because _______________.