Oxford Modern English Grammar underscores the relevance of the action/state in the present perfect to the present point of reference (the moment when you speak of it), which I take as that that action/state is still relevant/important and/or still has effects / impacts / desired/expected (be it implicit or explicit) results on the very current situation.


  • I have finished the work that I had to do. (I can now take on new work.)
  • I have been unwell for the past 6 weeks. (I haven't been productive as an aftereffect.)

Compare the past simple in which the action/state has no relevance to the present moment (over and done with).


  • I was unwell last week. (I'm totally okay now.)

The book lists such uses of the present perfect as continuative (leading up from the past to the present - thus still somewhat relevant), of the recent past (recent - thus relevant), of result (having identifiable results now - thus relevant). The last use is experiential.


  • I have toured the Voronezh.
  • Well, these damn plants have shot up in price so much over the last year or two.
  • Have you seen it before , Caroline?
  • Have you ever seen ‘Married with Children’?

The latter three examples can be categorized as continuative as they denote the fact that the "shooting up" and the "seeing" are arguably considered from a present reference point and still relevant at the moment of speaking. But the first example confuses me. In what way would the "touring" be relevant to the present moment? I've also heard similar experiential examples such as "I've been to Canada", "I've been there twice". Shouldn't such experiences be over and done with as they don't really have conceivable effects on the present and may not be recent at all, and therefore be in the past simple?

All examples noted here are from the book.

  • 2
    I have been to the US many times. Thanks to those past experiences, I can explain better and more about the US and New York than those who have never been there. If you have toured the Voronezh, you have an experience of it and you can tell people like me what and how it is. That's why the present perfect is used. Categorizing present perfect usages as "continuative" and "experiential" is just to help beginners to understand how it works. The second example in the last four doesn't seem to be "experiential" while other three seem so.
    – user140086
    Nov 19, 2016 at 16:14
  • When someone says I have toured the Voronezh (rather than just I toured the Voronezh), the "relevance to time of utterance" aspect of the Present Perfect implies that in asserting what they did in the past, they're also saying something about themselves now. Perhaps as a way of reminding you that the person speaking to you right now is a "man of the world", who has traveled and seen many things. Or perhaps something else. It all depends on the exact full context. The relevance can be quite general - it's not limited to "close in time". Nov 19, 2016 at 16:17
  • @Rathony Oh, so a past experience does indeed leave something relevant behind: knowledge, awareness, or a sense of experience. It's starting to make sense now. Nov 19, 2016 at 16:31
  • 3
    Possible duplicate of Present perfect for past action with present effect
    – user140086
    Nov 19, 2016 at 16:34
  • I think the linked question will help you better understand how it works. Closely related: Which is correct: “has died” or “died”?
    – user140086
    Nov 19, 2016 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


The notion of "present relevance" is useful for getting a first grip on the uses of the present perfect construction, but it's hardly definitive. (Presumably everything we say using any verb form or construction is "presently relevant", or we wouldn't say it.)

So let's try to pin this down a little more precisely:

The present perfect mentions a past eventuality as the source, in some sense, of a present state

Each of the three uses you name (they have other names as well) represents a different sort of relationship between the past eventuality and the present state:

  • The continuative perfect (or universal perfect or perfect of persistent situation) designates a past state which persists into the present.

    John has lived in Paris since 2009, and he still lives there.

  • The resultative perfect (or stative perfect or perfect of result) designates a past event which resulted in a state which persists into the present

    John has lived in Paris since 2009, so his French is pretty good.

  • The existential perfect (or experiential perfect) designates a past state or event whose factuality persists as a present state.

    John has lived in Paris on three different occasions since 2009.

What makes this difficult to get a handle on is the fact that when you're confronted with

John has lived in Paris, or
I've toured the Voronezh,

you have no way of knowing what sort of a perfect state the speaker intends. The bare present perfect predicate doesn't express any of these meanings; it asserts merely that there is a perfect state and leaves it to you to infer from the discourse context what that state is. ... In ordinary discourse this doesn't matter, because we don't encounter utterances outside of a context anywhere—except of course, in grammar books.

I've treated this at greater length What is the perfect, and how should I use it?, especially in §3.2 Pragmatic meaning, on ELU; or if you've a taste for technical linguistics you can go to the horses' mouths, Michaelis, "Stative by construction", Linguistics 49–6 (2011), and Nishiyama and Koenig, “What is a perfect state?”, Language 86, 3 (2010).


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