Present Perfect tense seems to be a difficult point for many students. Yes, there are some complexities, but I think the name itself is a big problem. Present Perfect without time connected to it is all in the past. Example – “I have lived in Los Angeles.” This says that, sometime before now, I lived in Los Angeles, but I do not live there now. In this way, it is functionally no different from “I lived in Los Angeles.” Connecting time to these sentences complicates things, so lets just stay with the basic idea – this is past.
So, why is it called “Present Perfect?” In my first year as an ESL teacher in a grammar-centered school, I taught the tense correctly, but I just couldn’t figure out why it was Present Perfect when it was clearly about the past. And then, one day, I looked at it differently, and saw a pattern –
Present Perfect – I have lived in Los Angeles.
Past Perfect – I had lived in Los Angeles.
Future Perfect – I will have lived in Los Angeles.
Do you see it? The name comes from the tense of the have. It may connect to the time of the tense (as in Future Perfect and Past Perfect), but Present Perfect is “present” only because the “have” is present. So don’t get confused. (At least not by this – there’s lots to get confused about.)
Next time, Present Perfect versus Past Perfect (and why you usually don’t need to use Past Perfect).