The Present Perfect Tense + ever, never, already, yet
The Present Perfect is a very important tense in English, as you’ve probably already seen. It’s used in a variety of ways, which means it can take some time for English students to become familiar with it. A great way to help you learn and remember the different uses of the present perfect is to learn the words ever, never, already, and yet that are often combined it. What do these words mean and how can you use them with the present perfect? Read on to find out.
The Present Perfect – a brief review
The present perfect is a tense that describes:
- a finished action in an unfinished time
- a finished action at an undefined time
- an unfinished action
In every case, the present perfect is used because it connects something in the past to the present. For example,
- I haven’t eaten today.
- Have you been to Budapest?
- We’ve been here for ten minutes.
In the third situation we use for and since. In the first two situations we can add words to give extra meaning. For example,
I haven’t eaten today yet.
Have you ever been to Budapest?
Let’s take a closer look at these and similar words and how to use them with the present perfect.
Using already, yet and just with the Present Perfect
We use the adverbs already and yet to refer to a time until or before now. We use already in affirmative sentences and yet in negatives and questions. For example,
Have you finished yet? (now)
You’ve already finished. (before now)
You haven’t finished yet. (now)
As you can see, the word yet goes at the end of a sentence, while already goes between the auxiliary ‘have’ and the main verb. However, as is often the case in English, there is an exception. We can use already in questions when we know the answer will probably be affirmative and we’re surprised. For example,
Have you already finished?? You only started ten minutes ago!
As an alternative to already we can also use just. Just refers to a very recent moment. Compare the following sentences:
Michael has already left. – It’s possible he left a long time ago.
Michael has just left. – This means he left just a short time ago.
Here are some other examples of the present perfect with already and yet.
Have they filled in the landing cards yet?
We haven’t done it yet.
I’ve already had dinner so I’m not hungry.
Jacques has just come home so he’ll eat now.
Has the post arrived yet?
Yes, I’ve already opened it.
They haven’t loaded the truck yet.
It hasn’t snowed this winter yet.
Using ever and never with the Present Perfect
The second important use of the present perfect is to talk about life experiences, and to do this we use the words ever and never. Ever means ‘at any time’, and never means ‘at no time’. For example,
Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?
I’ve never seen a dolphin.
By using the present perfect with these words we focus attention on the action and knowing if the subject has had this particular experience. The time of the event is not important.
As you can see from the above examples, in questions we use ever, and in negatives we use never combined with an affirmative verb. However, we can also use ever with a negative verb to create a negative sentence, and the meaning is the same. For example,
He has never travelled outside his country.
He hasn’t ever travelled outside his country.
Here are some more examples of the present perfect with ever and never:
Has she ever worked for a multinational company?
We’ve played in several tournaments but we’ve never won the final.
I’ve never seen a horror film and I wouldn’t want to.
Have you ever been to the opera?
They haven’t ever wanted to move away from their hometown.
It’s never snowed in Miami. The climate is much too hot.
You’ve never gone on a cruise, have you?
When we want to talk about life experiences in the affirmative form we can use time expressions like once (one time), twice (two times) or three times, etc. For example,
We’ve visited Cairo twice.
She’s flown in a helicopter several times.
I’ve been to the football stadium once.
Now that you’ve seen how we use these words with the present perfect, you’re ready to put them into practice! Try the short quiz on this post to help confirm what you’ve understood.