I am still a little confused as to what tense I am using when I say

She has had a lot of bad luck lately

Am I using the past simple with the present perfect and had as an auxiliary verb? Could someone give me a link that loosens this point up a little?

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  • has = present; had = perfect; tense = present perfect. – anongoodnurse Apr 11 '14 at 6:03
  • Perfect tense - 'had' is the past participle of the verb 'to have'. So it is a normal present perfect, no differently constructed to 'she has walked'. If you wanted the pluperfect it would be 'she had had', as in 'she had had enough of his arguments'. – WS2 Apr 11 '14 at 7:24

You would usually conclude that "has" is an auxiliary, but that "had" isn't, in this sentence.

An auxiliary verb is generally considered to be one that doesn't have its own arguments (or takes on the arguments of the main verb).

Or to put things less technically: the "main" verb that you choose in the sentence is generally "compatible" with certain subjects/objects. For example, I can change "had" to "experienced" in your sentence, but if I change "had" to "eaten", then the sentence sounds odd. This is because "had" and "experienced" are both 'compatible' with "bad luck", but "eaten" isn't.

But auxiliary verbs don't affect which subjects/objects are compatible. With any combination of compatible subject-verb-object, it wouldn't matter if I change "has" to "had" in your sentence-- for basically any subject/(main) verb/object, the sentence would still sound OK. This property leads us to conclude that "has" in your sentence is an auxiliary.


She has had a lot of bad luck lately.

Today's standard English has only two primary tenses: present tense and past tense.

Your sentence is in present tense due to "has", and is in the form of a present perfect construction (due to "has had"). Your verb "has" is considered to be the auxiliary verb in that construction.

Here are some links to the first two chapters of the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, (CGEL):

They can get you started on learning a modern grammar on today's standard English.


Its in the present perfect form to denote an action just completed.

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to the site. This answer can definitely use some fleshing out! :-) Please have a look at some up-voted answers to see what the site expects in answers. Thanks. – anongoodnurse May 3 '15 at 17:15

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