Talking about life events using the present perfect tense

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English speaking

We use the present perfect tense to talk about things that we have experienced in our life. Note that we cannot use the present perfect tense with a definite time expression. For example, we cannot use the present perfect tense to say that something happened to us on a particular day.

Form: Subject + has / have + past participle form of the verb

I have been to nearly all countries in the world.
I have read all the plays of Shakespeare.
I have seen that movie.
I have experienced despair.
I have faced many challenges in life.
I have written a novel.
I have met him before.
I have played badminton at the national level.

To say when something happened, we use the simple past tense.

I went to Africa last year. (NOT I have gone to Africa last year.)met him yesterday. (NOT I have met him yesterday.)
I faced many problems in 2014.
(NOT I have faced many problems in 2014.)
I watched a movie yesterday. (NOT I have watched a movie yesterday.)

Now think about a life experience that started in the past and has continued up to the present. For example, consider this situation. You got married to your best friend some ten years ago and you are still married to her. How can you express this idea in English? Well, you can use a sentence like this.

I have been married to Aditi for ten years.

To ask someone this question, you may use the following:

How long have you been married to Aditi?

Now consider another situation. You were a young boy when your family moved to New York. Now you are a young man and your family still lives in New York. You can express this idea in several different ways.

I have lived in New York for fifteen years.
OR I have lived in New York since I was a boy.
OR I have lived in New York since 2001.
OR I have been living in New York since I was a boy.

We make questions in the present perfect tense with How long ---? or Have you ever ---?

How long have you known him?
How long have you lived in Mumbai?
How long have you been married to Priya?

Questions about life experiences often begin Have you ever ---?

Have you ever watched a live concert?
Have you ever been to the US?
Have you ever given a presentation in front of a live audience?

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