Using the present perfect tense
To talk about things that we have experienced in life, we use the present perfect tense. Note that this usage is possible only when there is no definite time reference. For example, we cannot use the present perfect tense to say that something happened to us on a particular day.
Form: Subject + has / have + past participle form of the verb
I have been to all the continents in the world.
I have never seen a ghost.
I have seen that movie.
I have experienced despair.
I have faced many setbacks in life.
I have read all novels written by Mark Twain.
I have written a novel.
I have seen her before.
I have played cricket at the national level.
I have attended a few workshops on acting.
If we say when something happened, we use the simple past tense.
I wrote a novel last year. (NOT I have written a novel last year.)
I faced many setbacks in 2012. (NOT I have faced many setbacks in 2012.)
I saw that movie yesterday. (NOT I have seen that movie yesterday.)
Now think about a life experience that started in the past and has continued up to the present. For example, consider this situation. You got married to the man you love some ten years ago and you are still married to him. How do you express this idea in English? Well, you can use a sentence like this.
I have been married to Shyam for ten years.
How long have you been married to Maya?
Now consider another situation. You were ten when your parents moved to Mumbai. Now you are twenty-five and your family still lives in Mumbai. You can express this idea in the following ways.
I have lived in Mumbai for fifteen years. OR I have lived in Mumbai since I was ten. OR
I have lived in Mumbai since 1998.
Questions in the present perfect usually begin with ‘How long…?’ or ‘Have you ever…?’
How long have you lived in Chennai?
I have lived in Chennai for ten years.
How long have you worked for Wipro?
I have worked for Wipro for twenty years.
How long have you been married to him?
I have been married to him for twenty-five years.
Questions about life experiences usually begin ‘Have you ever…?’
Have you ever been to Australia?
No, I have never been to Australia.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
No, I have never seen a ghost.
Have you ever tried parasailing?
Yes, I have tried it a couple of times.