Present Perfect Tense

The more words you learn, the more you'll want to connect them in sentences. The verb "to be" conjugates very differently from other verbs, but using it can link words together or help other verbs be more clear for a reader. "To be", and other verbs like it, are called auxiliary and linking verbs. "To be" is also used to write about the past when something may have happened many times or the time it happened isn't known. Read this article for more information on auxiliary and linking verbs, then complete the exercise.

Brief Overview: "To Be" Verbs

When learning English, the first phrases most students learn include "I am…", "My name is…", and "How are you?". Conjugations of the verb "to be" are in these three examples. Unlike most verbs, you can't conjugate "to be" by adding a suffix like -s, -ed, -d, etc. It has many different forms.

Basic Forms to be, be, am, are, is, was, were, been
Variations to be, not to be, be, not be, am, am not, are, are not, aren't, is, is not, isn't, was, was not, wasn't, were, were not, weren't, have been, have not been, haven't been, has been, has not been, hasn't been, had been, had not been, hadn't been, will be, will not be, won't be, would be, would not be, wouldn't be, will have been, will not have been, won't have been and MANY MORE!
Present "to be" Past "to be"

I am

We are

You are

He/She/It is

They are

I was

We were

You were

He/She/It was

They were


Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs are sometimes called the helping verbs because they work with the main verb in a sentence and "help it out". Together, the auxiliary verb and the main verb form a unit. Here are some examples of sentences containing auxiliary verbs:

  • Steven is leaving and taking his football with him. How are we going to play now?
  • Her favorite team has finished at the top of the conference, so she is going to buy a team jersey. I hope she buys me one, too.


Common Auxiliary Verbs: to be, be, am, are, is, was, were, been am, are, be, can, could did, do. does, had, have is, was, were, will, would


Linking Verbs

Linking verbs join or "link" the subject of a sentence with the rest of the sentence. They make a statement by linking things, as opposed to showing any kind of action.

Common linking verbs are any of the to be verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, been, and being. However, become and seem are also common, and other verbs have the potential to be linking verbs. It really depends upon the sentence. Here is an example of a common linking verb used in a sentence:

  • My environmental biology class is interesting because our teacher thinks Bigfoot might exist.

Here are some examples of how other verbs can become linking verbs:

  • That house looks haunted.
  • Those old shoes smell funny.

Because linking verbs and auxiliary verbs are often the same words, you may wonder how you can tell the difference between a linking verb and an auxiliary verb. The key is that linking verbs join the subject and the predicate of a sentence, and in some ways, allow the predicate to rename the subject; auxiliary verbs will be used with other verbs.


Forming Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect is generally used in two situations: 

1. Past events that occurred at unknown or unimportant times (in contrast with simple past tense which generally describes events occurring at known past time frames)


  • She has already eaten her breakfast. (action completed before the present moment, used with "already", no specific time known) 
  • They have gone to the market. (unknown time, but action completed before the present moment)

2. Past events that have occurred on multiple occasions. "To be" verbs are used to create present perfect tense.


  • We have been to Paris three times. 
  • I have read five books in the past year.


Exercise: Select the correct "to be" conjugation to form the correct the past perfect tense for the following five sentences. The next question will appear after an answer is selected. 

Source: Wikiversity,
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Source: Excelsior Online Writing Lab,,
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Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2020, 4:01 PM