Does the Present Perfect Exist in French?

Well,  that is the question…

The native French speakers do not usually understand the English present perfect because they often confuse it with the French past tense passé composé that looks like  the present perfect construction: have + past participle.

She has lived in London does not mean “elle a vécu à Londres” that would suggest she does not live in London anymore in French

We should say instead: elle vit à Londres depuis… (since or for)

When you see passé composé, imparfait, passé simple or passé antérieur in French, you should use the past in English : simple past, past continuous or plu-perfect.

The present perfect is quite different and particular in English. You can see the past in the past participle and the present in the Have auxiliary. There is no equivalent in French which uses a verb in the present tense with a time expression to express the past:


Nous vivons ici depuis des années/ Cela fait des années que nous vivons ici

The differences between the French and the English tenses show the different visions in both languages:

The French speakers do not understand at once that “we have lived here and we are still living in the same place », they must finish reading the sentence.
On the contrary, the English speaker understands the meaning while he is reading since the present perfect gives him the key to understand.

One of the main differences between both languages is a concrete vision of the world for the English and a more abstract vision for the French.

Therefore, no good translation can be the translation of each word but only the translation of the equivalent in order to respect both visions.

Example:

I’ve trained very hard in fitness activities and have developed a perfect
body. I’ve learned to run very fast. I’ve taken part in national competitions and have won a lot of gold medals. Today, I am the best French athlete.”

The present perfect is used to express one’s experience and show one’s ability in sport. Therefore, training in the past and the present has been necessary to win the competition. This example clearly shows that the past and the present cannot be separated since training in sport is the key to success.

The French sportive people are also aware of the important role played by training in the past and in the present.
Yet, a French will use the past to talk about his training before the competition and then connect it to his success with a linking word or a particular expression.

“Je me suis beaucoup entraîné en gymnastique et j’ai développé un corps parfait. J’ai appris à courir vite. J’ai participé à des compétitions nationales et j’ai gagné de nombreuses médailles d’or. C’est pour cela qu’aujourd’hui je suis le meilleur athlète français. »

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