Present Perfect vs Past Perfect

Present perfect vs Past perfect
What is the difference between past perfect and present perfect?

Present perfect vs past perfect  is difficult to understand at times. The most common question that I get is, “What is the difference?”

Check out this post and this one if you need some review of the past perfect and present perfect.

Look at past perfect

Past perfect focuses on events that finished in the past. These events do not continue until now.

  • e.g. I had watched my favourite movie ten times before the DVD stopped working.

In the example above, both of the events started and finished  in the past. The person watched the DVD ten times. After that, the DVD stopped working.  Remember that when you use the past perfect you are trying to relate two events together in the past. Past perfect indicates which event happened first in time. In a timeline you would see past perfect then past.

Let’s look at the present perfect

Present perfect normally has some connection or relevance to the present.

  • e.g. I have watched my favourite movie many times, and my DVD is still working.
In the example above, we know that the person watched the movie many times and will continue to do so until the DVD stops working. The reason the person is using the present perfect in this example is because it is relevant to the conversation.

Present perfect vs past perfect Summary

Here is a present perfect vs past perfect chart that will help summarize the information.

Present perfect Past perfect
Used to talk about something that started in the past and continues until now.e.g. I have worked for Ford for ten years.

  • I still work there now.

Used to talk about events that finished in the past but have relevance now.

e.g. I have seen Avatar.

  • I saw Avatar at some unspecified time in the past. It is relevant to the conversation that is happening.
Used to talk about something that started and finished in the past. There is no connection with right now.e.g. I had seen the first Star Wars movie three times before the second movie came out.

  • Both of these events started and finished in the past. They do not continue until now.

If you are looking for some practice in either of these tenses, check out englishpage.com.

Do you have any confusing examples that you would like clarified? Leave a comment below with your example.

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Iain Robson

A teacher, a learner, and all round nice guy. I love talking to people through social media, and in real life. Feel free to connect with me on twitter