Present Perfect Tenses

Present Perfect Simple & Present Perfect Continuous

Both tenses above are PRESENT TENSES. Also, they are connection tenses as they generally connect the past and the present either because they describe actions that have an influence on the present (or are presented as linked to it in some ways) or they describe actions that started in the past and continue up to the present moment.

We use the Present Perfect Simple mainly to express that an action is completed or to emphasise the result.
We use the Present Perfect Continuous to emphasise the duration or continuous course of an action.

Generally speaking, use the present perfect simple with just, already, yet, not yet, ever/never, with superlatives, with it’s the first / second time…,  and when you are talking about experiences or achievements (cose che sei riuscito a fare, spesso espresse con numeri non in termini di tempo, ma in termini di cose fatte o meno).

Use the present perfect continuous with how long?, for/since and with actions repeated over a period of time or actions naturally lasting a long time.

The present perfect tenses can be contrasted to the simple past tense / narrative tenses and the Italian presente indicativo.

Present perfect tenses vs Narrative tenses
Narrative tenses are the past simple, past continuous and past perfect tenses. They are used whenever you tell a story (Cappuccetto rosso, I promessi sposi…, or an anecdote about your own life) These stories have no connection to the present, and if you find a present tense there, it’s normally in a DIRECT SPEECH part.

The present perfect simple and continuous are tenses of the PRESENT and have a connection to the present.

2 Present perfect tenses vs Present simple & Present Continuous Tenses
The present perfect tenses are tenses of the present. They can generate some confusion because of their translation into Italian.

Look at this sentence:
I’ve been living in Modena for 30 years. (I’ve lived in Modena for 30 years)
Normalmente questa frase si traduce “vivo a Modena da trenta anni” e significa che ci vivi ancora. Ergo il present perfect, simple o continuous che sia, si traduce con l’indicativo presente ( anche perchè se traducessimo “Ho vissuto a Modena per trenta anni” significherebbe in italiano che non ci vivo più.
Il tempo inglese è molto più specifico dell’italiano: indica un’azione iniziata 30 anni fa e non ancora conclusa, una condizione che perdura anche nel presente. Se usassimo il present simple parleremmo di una azione di routine e non di un passato connesso al presente; se usassimo il present continuous, parleremmo di una azione che sta accadendo ora, in questo momento, magari temporaneamente.

Il seguente diagramma rappresenta i rapporti fra tutti questi tempi e vi può chiarire le idee:

diagram narrative tenses

You can find some more visual explanations in the document below:

More exercises and explanations on this site:


  1. Esercizi con  contrasto present perfect simple past:

2. esercizi in cui dovete scegliere fra present perfect simple e present perfect continuous

3 Esercizi su tutti i tempi del presente (simple continuous perfect e perfect continuous:
guardate i primi 3 esercizi soltanto

4. Esercizi con i tempi del presente e  passato:


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