Site Search:

The Present Perfect Tense (#3), by Dennis Oliver


The Present Perfect Tense #3:
More on "Continuing Verbs"
and "One-Time Verbs"


We know that one common use for the present perfect
tense is in showing actions or situations that began in the
past and continued until now. Sometimes, however, this
use is confusing--because some verbs are not normally
used to show a continuing action. If a verb shows an
action or situation that happens only once, you cannot
usually use it for present perfect sentences with since
or for.

Here are some common examples:

"One-Time Verb"   "Continuing Verb"
get married / engaged   be married / engaged
get a divorce / divorce   be divorced
meet   know
move   live
buy / get   have / own
receive / get   have
arrive / come   be / stay
begin / start to verb   have / has verb
(past participle)
stop / quit + verb + -ing   not have / has verb
(past participle)
leave / go   not be / stay / live
put on   have on
catch cold   have a cold
get / come down with
(an illness)
  have (an illness)
become / get   be
borrow / lend   have

For all of the verbs shown above (and there are others),
the "one time" verbs cannot usually be used with since
or for to show a past action or situation continuing until
now. Instead, the "continuing" verb is normally used.


They got married / engaged two years ago. /
They have been married / engaged for two years /
since 1997.

They got a divorce / divorced two years ago. /
They have been divorced for two years / since 1997.

I met Dave about five years ago.
I have known Dave for about five years /
since 1996.

They moved to Chicago several months ago. /
They have lived in Chicago for several months.

She bought / got / purchased her new car last month. /
She has had / has owned her new car for about a month.

We received / got your letter two days ago. /
We have had your letter for two days /
since the day before yesterday.




The following sentences are not logical. To understand
why, see the Special Note below.

*They have gotten married / engaged for two years.

*They have divorced / gotten divorced since 1997.

*I have met Dave since 1996.

*They have moved to Chicago for several months.

*She has bought her new car for several weeks.

*We have received your letter since the day
before yesterday.

*He has arrived here for three days.

*She has gotten a headache for three hours.


Special Note:

Some of the "one time" verbs can be used with present
perfect tense and for, but the meaning is special:

They have moved to Chicago for several months =
They have moved to Chicago, but after several months,
they will leave.

They have borrowed my car for a month =
They have borrowed my car but will return it
after a month.

He has arrived here for three days =
He has arrived here and will stay for
three days and then leave.


Next: another use of the present perfect tense (#2)
Dave's ESL Cafe is maintained by the one and only Dave Sperling.
Banner Advertising | Bookstore / Alta Books | FAQs | Articles | Interview with Dave
Copyright 1995-2007 Dave's ESL Cafe | All Rights Reserved | Contact Dave's ESL Cafe | Site Map