I have been struggling with understanding perfect tense since I started learning English. This is what I have learned so far:

It is generally said that if an action happened in the past but it has made a present impact (This action caused the present state to be the way it is) then this verb can be used in a perfect sentence. For an action verb, perfect shows a final state in the reference time. For example if we started to move to a B point from A point, at the very first instant that we have reached point B we cannot use the sentence "I came to point B" or "I reached the point B". Because past simple denotes a limited time span in the past so all the duration of an action or a state must be located in this finite time span and in order for past tense to be used,the action or the state must locate in the past or it should be prior to the reference time that is being relied on. In this situation my activity of coming, reaching to point B has caused a present state of me being in point B. This is the resultative perfect and the result (The state that my activity of moving to point B has begotten) is that I am now in the point B.

All action verbs have a final point that before reaching that final point we cannot say that this action is completed. This final point is being broken(I am not talking about passive.I mean this thing is now in a broken state) for the verb "to break" and this final point is an instant that contains the final state of the object of the sentence. So for past tense this final point should be located in the past too because it is an element of the process and duration of that action. If I started to moving to point B in the past from my past location (point A) and if the final point (instant) that contains my final state (me being in the point B) is my reference time (my present moment or instant) then this is not a past action because it is terminated in the present instant of time. And I cannot use this action in a past sentence because this action is not located in the past. It containts some duration which is located in the past but it also contains the present moment. So in order for an action or state to be perfect or complete (because perfect indicates that this action is completed) it doesn't always need to be a past action which has present impacts.


When it comes to a stative verb.We only use them in perfect clauses if we want to denote a duration as in "I have been here (this here may be our old friend point B) for 2 hours" or in passive voice as in "This car is owned by me" but what really is perfect for a stative verb? When do we say that a state is perfect or complete(I am not mentioning about leaving that state in the past by saying "complete")

I have an answer for that question but I am not a linguist and english is not my native language.I think that if we are currently in that state then this state is perfective no matter what our state was in the past.So perfect is realizing that state for a stative verb. İf an action doesn't need to be located in the past or doesn't need to be prior to our present moment in order to be perfect (linguistically) or complete as I mentioned above a state also doesn't need to contain some past duration of time as in "I have been here for 2 hours" or "I have never been to USA before"(which is actually related to past)

İf now (my reference point) is the instant of time that I have reached the point B and I am now at the final point of the action of reaching to point B which contains my present state of being at point B then the state of being in B is completed and can be used in perfect tense.So if I can say that "I am at point B" I should be able to say that "I have been at point B" even if being at point B is not a past state,even if I have never been at point B before and there was never ever a point(instant) that contains my being at point B and even if such an instant never existed before.

This graph shows what I have been trying to say:


İn this graph if my reference point (my present time) is T2 instant then before that point (T2) I have never been to point B but I can still say that "I have been point B now (now is T2 instant)" which means I am now in a state of being at point B.

Also one of the reasons why I think so is that we use past participles of verbs to make passive sentences as in "if I own this car then this car is owned by me" in this sentence owned is perfect and denotes a completed state so my state of owning this car is completed even if I have never owned this car in the past and there was never an instant of time in the past that contains my state of owning this car.İf I own this car in the present moment then I should be able to say that "I have owned this car" and in this situation owning the car is not a past action which has created a present state.

The origin of perfect was subject + auxiliary have + object + past participle of the verb.

"I have broken the glass " comes from "I have this glass broken"

which means that I currently have the glass before my eyes in a broken state and ı caused it to get broken.

İf I say that "This car is owned" this means that this car is currently in an owned state and I am the owner(the cause of that state). So if the car is before my eyes in an owned state I should be able to say that "I have owned this car" even if my owning of this car never existed before(in the past)

Action verbs need to obtain a final state to achieve perfect.Whenever we have acquired that state we can use that action verb in perfect clauses.They need a duration of time to happen but a stative verb is already a state and final state of a stative verb is still that state and a stative verb does not need a duration of time to occur or to be realized.They are true in an instant of time and continue to be valid for some duration of time until they change.I tried to explain this with a graph:


so at the T2 instant both the state of being at point B and the state of having been at point B holds true

Finally my question is am I right in saying that perfect for a stative verb is just being in that state in other words realizing that state,even if this state never happened (we were never in that state) before the present(reference) moment?

  • I note this question has already been asked elsewhere. For Stack Exchange, we prefer questions which are simply put, even if it's just 'X should be expressed as "Y" because "Z", right?' Apr 14 at 8:43
  • 2
    "if I own this car then this car is owned by me" in this sentence owned is perfect... Not true: owned is the past participle which is used in English to form both the perfect tense and the present passive. This doesn't mean the (active) perfect and passive present are related or mean the same thing.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 14 at 9:13
  • 1
    Not all senses of to be are stative. In I have never been to the USA, to be means simply to come or go: definition 2e here (this meaning is normally used when talking about the past, as "has never been to the circus", "has already been and gone"). It is exactly the same as I have never gone/come to the USA.
    – Stuart F
    Apr 14 at 9:21
  • @StuartF That's true. But the comment about been is only relevant if that been is really a form of be as opposed to a form of go! Some evidence of the latter is that it takes the same motional PP complements as go. Apr 14 at 12:06
  • Less philosophy and more concrete examples would help. It is very hard to suss out exactly what the problem for you is here. As mentioned by Stuart, you are confusing passive uses with the prefect tense. Also: "Action verbs need to obtain a final state to achieve perfect". What does that even mean?? achieve perfect??
    – Lambie
    Apr 14 at 17:34

2 Answers 2


There are two main functions for the present perfect with stative verbs: To describe states that continue until the present, and to describe states that finished in the past, but with consequences in the present.

The first type is usually used with "since" or "for":

I've lived in Japan since 2008.

I've owned a Ferrari for five years.

In these cases the state (of living, or owning) continues to the present and we would infer that the person still lives in Japan, and still owns a Ferrari.

The second use is when one wants to make some kind of connection between the past state and the present:

I've lived in Japan, so I speak some Japanese.

I've owned a Ferrari, so I know about sports cars.

This form is also common in questions when the "when" isn't important. It is often used with "ever":

Have you ever lived in Japan?

And likewise with negations:

I've never lived in Japan.

A couple of things to be careful about: Don't deduce anything from the etymology of the construction. Yes, this did evolve from the use of a particple form, but it should not now by understood to mean "possess (a passive participle clause)". Also don't think too much about the name "perfect". It is rather different from the Latin "Perfective", and very different from the French passé composé.

  • 1
    There is zero difference between present perfect with stative and active verbs.
    – Lambie
    Apr 14 at 19:10

"İn this graph if my reference point (my present time) is [the] T2 instant then before that point (T2) I have never been to point B but I can still say that "I have been [to] point B now (now is T2 instant)" which means I am now in a state of being at point B."

    1. Being at a place or at a point in time is not described as: in a state of being at a point. You either are or are not at a point in time or at a place.
    1. "I have come to point B". Implication: I am still at point B and I have not revealed when I came here. This is one of the major sticking points with leaners. Why use the present perfect in this case?

Answer: Because the speaker is saying that his or her coming to the place occurred in the past in relation to the present but the speaker choses not to say when as it is not relevant to whatever else they are saying him or her.

  • The speaker could have said: I came to point B [yesterday] and plan to stay here.

  • The explanation above works for stative or active verbs:

  • I've been here since yesterday. [I am still here when I speak.]

  • I have cooked dinner this week. [The week is not over and I do not want to say which nights I cooked dinner because my point is not about WHEN but the fact of cooking.]


  • I was here [yesterday] but then left. [The coming to the place is finished.]
  • I cooked dinner last night but I won't [cook dinner] tonight.
  • I know in which situations present(or whatever) perfect is used and in which situations it is generally chosen.My problem is the logic behind it.Let me explain what I have been asking.Having reached to somewhere(let's say point B) is a state.İn order to achieve(maybe using to achieve is not appropriate here but you must understand what I am refering to) that state you must be at point B and only than you can say you have reached point B.Then this two states must prove each other.in other words they are same state.if you are at point B at the present time than you have reached at point B
    – Help Me911
    Apr 16 at 5:54
  • İn this situation having reached to point B is not a past activity which has a present impact because of it's end point(present instant).İf you own something in the present time we can say that this thing is owned by you(I know this is just a method to make passive sentences in English but I think perfect and passive must have been invented based on the same logic because both use past participles) in this situation even if no time has passed since your owning of that thing we can still say that this thing is owned.
    – Help Me911
    Apr 16 at 6:05
  • İf something is owned we can say that its owner has owned that thing.This tells us that for a stative verb perfect construction means that this state is currently(if I use present perfect) the case(This state holds true at present time).İt has been being said that perfect construction is used for past actions which have present results since I started learning english.I think this does not explain the perfect well.There is no need for an action or state to be located in the past for perfect.İt just denotes a current(if present perfect is being used) state.
    – Help Me911
    Apr 16 at 6:15
  • İn the first part i should have said that in my example,reaching point B exactly terminates at the present time and before the present moment there was never an instant in which we be at point B.İn this situation i don't think simple past tense can be used.For past simple, the final point which contains the resultant state must be located in the past too.Even if resultant state still holds there must have been a past instant that we be at point B
    – Help Me911
    Apr 16 at 10:53
  • Because past simple denotes a limited time span in the past so all the duration of an action or a state must be located in this finite time span
    – Help Me911
    Apr 16 at 11:01

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