Glossary: perfect


The perfect construction is composed of a form of have followed by an past participle, e.g. has cooked, have walked, had eaten.

The perfect form of a verb generally calls attention to the consequences of a prior event; for example, he has gone to lunch implies that he is still away, in contrast with he went to lunch. ‘Had gone to lunch’ takes a past time point (i.e. when we arrived) as its reference point and is another way of establishing time relations in a text. The perfect tense is formed by:

  • turning the verb into its past participle inflection
  • adding a form of the verb have before it.
  • She has downloaded some songs. [present perfect; now she has some songs]
  • I had eaten lunch when you came. [past perfect; I wasn’t hungry when you came]

It can also be combined with the progressive (e.g. he has been going).

Many grammars refer to the perfect construction as a type of aspect.


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