In English, the present perfect tense is used for past events that are linked to the present. This stands in contrast to the simple past tense, which refers to actions that were completed in the past:
present perfect They have not arrived yet.
simple past They arrived last week.
The present perfect tense in German
In German, it is not relevant whether a past event refers to the present in some way or if the action was completed in the past. Instead, the main difference in usage is based on the following:
• the present perfect is generally used when speaking about the past, irrespective of how long ago an event occurred; and
• the simple past is mainly used in the written language.
Formation – the main principles
The present perfect is a compound tense, which is constructed with the appropriate form of haben or sein + the past participle of the relevant verb. There are three main patterns:
• Regular verbs usually take haben and form the past participle by adding ge- + t to the stem: Wie hast du das gemacht? How did you do that?
• Irregular verbs also usually use haben. The past participles tend to end in -en rather than -t and often undergo a vowel change:Er hat Kaffee getrunken. He drank coffee.
• Verbs referring to movement or a change of state take sein:
Sie ist mit KLM geflogen. She flew with KLM.