I understand that present perfect can be used with "today" if "today" isn't finished. So if I say: "I've seen him today" it is still today and the fact that I've seen him is still relevant at the time I'm saying it.

Sometimes people say you can only use present perfect with "today" if there is a possibility the action, in this case seeing him again, can be repeated the same day. That is what I don't understand, why is it important if I see him again that day? If I have seen the person once that day and it is relevant at 10 p.m. can I still say: "I've seen him today"? The day is still unfinished at 10 p.m , whether I see him again or not.

2 Answers 2


The sentence

I've seen him today

is proper whether or not it is likely that the act of seeing him will occur again that same day. However when the episode is clearly closed, many people prefer to use the simple past:

I saw him today.

To take an extreme example, suppose thar he has been found dead and the speaker is a witness being interrogated by the police. In such a case the use of 'saw" seems far more natural, and is more likely, as the speaker is not going to see him (alive) ever again. "I have seen him" is the present perfect, which is often used for actions starting in the past and not yet completed. It is also used for actions occurring during a period not yet completed (such as "today"). Therefore it is valid in this case whether the action is completed or not. (The present perfect is also used in cases where the exact time is not stated or not important.)

The page "Present perfect" from ef.edu lists these and other uses of the present perfect, and then says:

When we want to give or ask details about when, where, who, we use the simple past.

That is one reason why people may prefer the simple past where the likelihood of the action happening again today is small or zero.

  • So I can still use the present perfect even if I'm not going to see him again that day?
    – anouk
    Jan 17, 2022 at 18:11
  • @anouk Yes, you can. But you might want to consider the simple past in that case. It is shorter and emphasizes that the incident is over with. It also lends itself to added precision, as in "I saw him today, around 2pm." which the present perfect does not. Jan 17, 2022 at 18:22
  • Yes, but I want to emphasize that seeing him is still relevant, hence the present perfect.
    – anouk
    Jan 17, 2022 at 18:25

The only thing that counts in this usage of the present perfect is whether the period of time is finished or not.

  • I've seen him once today. [the day is not over].

Obviously, if the period of time is not finished, there is always the possibility of seeing him again. But the possibility of an action does not trigger the present perfect.

Here's a typical speech flow:

  • John: Well, I've seen the damn fool once today at least.
  • Martin: Yeah? You have? When did you actually see him?
  • John: The first time must have been around 11 o'clock this morning.
  • In your example John has seen him multiple times today.
    – anouk
    Apr 17, 2022 at 13:39
  • @anouk today is still in effect. "today" is not over. For periods of time which are not over, you can use the PP: I have said that to you three times this morning already. [It is still morning.] The whole point is the contrast between the two. Don't you see that??
    – Lambie
    Apr 17, 2022 at 14:33

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