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Present Perfect: Talk about life experiences! B1+

Updated: Jun 3

Does the present perfect confuse you?

Don't worry, you're not alone, it's confusing for many English language learners because it has several different uses.

So in our blog series Present Perfect: Where have you been all my life?, we will break down the different uses of the present perfect so that step by step, you will feel more comfortable when using this versatile tense.

In this post, we'll look specifically at how the present perfect is used to talk about LIFE EXPERIENCES.


First things first, what is the present perfect? Well, in general, this tense is used to talk about events or actions that have happened in the past and have a connection with the present. Something very important to remember is that a specific time of completion for the events/action is not important (not specified) with the present perfect.

You can use it to talk about:

  • life experiences

  • recent events and news

  • repeated actions in the past

  • actions that started in the past and that continue now

  • an action in the past where the result is important

  • unfinished time

You can form the present perfect with have/ has + the past participle (or the "third column" for my Serbian friends:)

So, are you ready? Let's get started with how you can use the present perfect to talk about life experiences.


So, let's look at our example sentence, I've eaten sushi.

I have eaten sushi means that during my lifetime (from the time I was born, until this moment), I ate sushi and I had that experience.

Did I say exactly when I ate sushi? No.

Do we care about the specific time when it happened? No. The specific time is not mentioned, and/or it's not important.

Here are some of my other life experiences:

Now, you might be saying to yourself, but these experiences all happened in the past, so why didn't she use the past simple? It's a good question. The reason I didn't use the past simple is because:

  1. I didn't mention any specific completion time for these events because it isn't important and,

  2. my life experiences are things that have happened sometime between when I was born and now (past and present connection) .... and my life is not over.

What does it look like?


Sometimes, the best way to understand English tenses is to compare them with other tenses. So let's look at how the present perfect compares with the past simple, and how they have different meanings!


Some keywords that are commonly used with the present perfect when talking about life experiences include yet, so far, ever, and never.

Take a look at how you can use them...

Using yet with the present perfect is very common.

It means that even though something didn't happen, you expect it to happen soon. It is always used in the negative or with questions (never in positive sentences), and it usually comes at the end of the sentence or question.

For example:

I haven't been to Ethiopia. = I didn't have the experience of going to Ethiopia.


I haven't traveled to Ethiopia yet . = I didn't have the experience of going to Ethiopia until now, but I am planning to or expect to go there soon!

You see! Just one word conveys so much more information! Amazing!


You can use so far when you want to emphasize the until now point of your story.

For example

I've lived in Serbia for 3 years and so far I haven't been to Montenegro which is a country next door!

= I moved to Serbia three years ago and until now, I didn't visit Montenegro.


I have lived in Serbia for 3 years and I haven't been to Montenegro.

= I moved to Serbia 3 years ago and I didn't visit Montenegro.


Ever means 'at any time' and never means 'at no time' in the past or future. They are both used frequently with the present perfect when asking or talking about past experiences.

TIP: ever is mainly used with questions and sometimes with negative sentences (e.g. not ever)

never can be used with positive sentences only

For example

Q: Have you ever eaten snails?

(at any time in your life, did you have the experience of eating snails?)

A: No, I've never eaten snails.....and I don't think I want to!

(at no point in my life did I try snails)


Perhaps one of the most useful tips I can give you is that the contracted forms (eg. hasn't eaten ) are used a lot more often than the full form (has not eaten) when speaking, so I would recommend that you practice them and get used to using the contractions.

Not so bad right? So now, when you talk about experiences that you have had, or that you haven't had, make sure you use the present perfect and your English will be much more elevated and natural sounding! You can do it!

Stay tuned for our next post about more uses of the present perfect.

Also, follow our Instagram and Facebook pages for regular information and tips on how you can improve your English!


Words in this article

several (adjective) more than two but not many

series (noun) a set or sequence of related shows, articles, or parts that form a whole collection

to break down (phrasal verb) to divide something into parts in order to analyze it or make it easier to do

versatile (adjective) something that is changeable or can have different functions

to convey (verb) to communicate information or a message

to stay tuned (collocation; verb phrase) to continue watching or listening to something. Or to continue waiting for the next installment of something ( a tv show, a radio program, or in this case, an upcoming blog post)

make sure (collocation; verb phrase) to establish that something is certain, or to establish that something is done or happens.

get used to (phrase) become familiar with, or get to know

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