English Corner – Present Perfect Tense

While not the most widely used or well-known grammar tense in the English language, the ‘perfect’ tense does come up every now and then in either your writing, speaking, or listening skills so it’s important to understand both the usage of the ‘perfect tense’ as well as the forming of this grammar tense. We’ll begin this series of the ‘perfect tense’ with its’ usage and formation in the present. In the next two posts, we’ll then dive in to the past and future forms and uses of the ‘perfect tense.’ When you get the basic grammar tenses down as I have gone over in past ‘English Corner’ posts, you can move on to more challenging and specifically used tenses such as the ‘perfect tense.’

It may be surprising to teach this right off the bat but the present perfect tense helps to create a link between the past and the present. In a present perfect sentence, you are going to be describing an action or an event that has happened before but it isn’t certain whether that action or event is ongoing. When you use the present perfect tense, you are going to want to focus on the result or conclusion of an action rather than if it’s still continuing or not.

There are five main circumstances in which you can use the present perfect tense. You can do so when discussing an action or situation, which began in the past and has continued into the present. You can talk about an action that was undertaken during a period of time and that has not yet been finished. You could also discuss a repeated action or event that occurred over an unspecified amount of time between the past up until now.

You can also insert the word ‘just’ into your sentence to indicate that an action or event was completed very recently in the past to emphasize how close it was to the present. Lastly, you can describe an action or event that simply took place and was completed without mentioning the time or date at all. If you want to be more detailed about asking why, when, where, what, how, who, etc., you’re going to want to focus on using the simple past tense instead so as to not to confuse these two distinct tenses. In order to get a better idea of these five different uses for the present perfect tense, here are some examples to remember.

Actions Started In The Past that Continue Into The Present

Examples:

  • We haven’t lived in our house for years.
  • He has worked in the high school for decades.
  • Have you played the guitar since you were a teenager?

The Time Period Hasn’t Been Completed Yet

Examples:

  • I have traveled very far this week.
  • They have danced a lot tonight.
  • It has snowed a little bit this winter.

Repeated Actions Between The Past and Now (Unknown Period)

Examples:

  • We have seen The Terminator three times.
  • I have been on that roller coaster ride multiple times.
  • She has visited her parents occasionally.

Completed Actions In The Very Recent Past – ‘Just’

Examples:

  • Have you just eaten dinner?
  • I have just finished my thesis.
  • Has he just left the ballpark?

The Timing of the Action is Not Known or Not Important

Examples:

  • Have you been to Washington DC?
  • Somebody has eaten my lunch.
  • You have studied many foreign languages.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that additional words like ‘just’, ‘since’, ‘for’, and ‘still’ may pop up every now and then in your present perfect tense sentences depending upon which of the five uses you are utilizing this specific grammar tense for.

When it comes to forming the present perfect tense, there is an actual formula towards creating the right form that each English learner should be aware of. There are two elements to the present perfect tense. The first is the right form of the auxiliary verb represented by the verb to have in the present tense. The second element is represented by using the past participle of the main verb with the base verb + ed. For some examples, the past participle of these regular verbs could be danced, finished, worked, etc. The two elements will also go together when the base verb is irregular regardless of the circumstances.

Positive Form – Example

  1. He has traveled to Japan.

(Subject + verb ‘to have’ + past participle)

Negative Form – Example

  1. She has not traveled to Brazil.

(Subject + verb ‘to have + not’ + past participle)

Question Form – Example

  1. Have they traveled to Colombia?

(Verb ‘to have’ + subject + past participle)

Negative Question Form – Example

  1. Hasn’t he traveled to Japan?

(Verb ‘to have + not’ + subject + past participle)

To finish off this entry on the ‘present perfect’ tense, I’d like to leave my readers with an additional example of how to use a simple verb and express that word in the positive, negative, and question forms by using the present perfect tense. You can use these examples to help yourself when it comes time for you as the student to use this particular grammar tense in your everyday speaking and writing activities as an English language student.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about my ‘English Corner’ posts, please do let me know. Next time, I’ll be covering the ‘past perfect’ grammar tense, which is quite similar to the ‘present perfect’ tense but with a few differences to highlight. In the meantime, keep studying hard and do check out my previous ‘English Corner’ posts on my website.

To Run – Present Perfect Tense

Positive Form

  1. I have ran
  2. You have ran
  3. He, She, It has ran
  4. We have ran
  5. You have ran
  6. They have ran

Negative Form

  1. I haven’t ran
  2. You haven’t ran
  3. He, She, It hasn’t ran
  4. We haven’t ran
  5. You haven’t ran
  6. They haven’t ran

Question Form

  1. Have I run?
  2. Have you run?
  3. Has he, she, it ran?
  4. Have we run?
  5. Have you run?
  6. Have they run?

Note: It’s important to remember that the verb ‘to run’ goes from ran to run when it comes to the question form of the ‘present perfect’ tense. Otherwise, in the positive and negative forms of this grammar tense, you will use ‘ran’ instead to describe this particular verb in the ‘present perfect.’ This is a helpful tip to remember for readers if you happen to be confused by this change.

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English Corner – Past Progressive Tense

Now that we have covered both the Simple Past Tense and the Present Progressive tense in the past few months, we will be able to move forward with our summary and analysis of this month’s ‘English Corner’ focusing on the underrated yet important ‘Past Progressive Tense.’ If you want to express your sentiments or observations in English regarding something that was happening in the past as a continuous action or movement with no clear end date, you’re going to want to utilize the past progressive tense in order to make the grammar of your sentence work properly.

While not as popular as the simple past tense, it’s an important concept to grasp in order to fully understand the past tense as a whole. Both the simple and progressive forms of the past tense tend to overlap quite a bit, sometimes in the same sentence or paragraph, making it necessary to know when and where to use both or either grammar tense to talk about actions and happenings in the past. Compared to most grammar tenses that you will learn in the course of your English studies, the past progressive tense tends to be one of the simplest and easiest to grasp.

To form the ‘past progressive’ tense is quite simple and is very similar to the present progressive tense in how the structure works. In order to make this grammar tense function, you need to put the ‘to be’ verb in the past tense. There are two different ways for accomplishing this method. If it is a singular action that was occurring, you’re going to use the word ‘was’ before the main verb if you’re referring to one person or thing. However, if it is a plural action being described, you’re going to use the word ‘were’ before the main verb if you’re referring to more than one person or thing.

The actual main verb is going to be in its’ present progressive form with –ing being added to the end of each verb after ‘was’ or ‘were’ that will make it a past progressive tense sentence. It is very important that you follow this structure, otherwise, your sentence won’t make much grammatical sense and you’ll need to re-order the structure in order for your sentence to be understood by the reader. Don’t stress about it if you don’t get the concept at first.

Here are some examples with the basic form of the past progressive tense using ‘was’ or ‘were’:

  • I was riding on the train when lightning struck the tracks nearby.
  • We were going to go to the movies on Saturday night but you canceled on me.
  • They were talking about us at the lunch table today as we walked by.
  • He was not doing the job like his boss wanted him to do it.

If you are thinking of making the past progressive tense negative, all you need to do is to put the word ‘not’ between the ‘to be’ verb in the past form and the actual action that was taking place at the time. If you’re struggling with forming a sentence by using the past progressive tense, you should look to these examples in order to help you in the future as an English student.

When it comes to the past progressive tense, you are often describing an action or an occurrence that is happening within a limited time frame while something else in the past was going on at the same time. When you write a sentence in the past progressive tense, you should be aware that most sentences with this grammar tense would be describing two actions in the past and not just one action. Here are some examples of past progressive sentences where two actions are being described simultaneously:

1) John lost his wallet while he was dancing salsa at the club.

2) Jane found her keys while she was watching her favorite television show.

3) We ate a lot of tapas dishes while the bands were playing Spanish music at the restaurant.

As you can see, it is quite easy to form the past progressive tense in a sentence if you are able to describe two actions occurring within the same timeframe. The major difference between the simple past tense and the past progressive tense that any student of English grammar should be aware is the fact that the simple past tense describes a completed action from the past while the past progressive tense describes an incomplete action from the past that is still playing out. If you’re still confused, here are some examples that highlight the difference between the simple past tense and the past progressive tense:

  • I slept throughout the night while the rain was coming down heavily. (Simple past tense and Past progressive tense)
  • I drank too much juice yesterday, which made me sick. (Simple past tense)
  • He was dancing all night long to the wonderful music of Michael Jackson. (Past progressive tense)

As highlighted in the examples above, the simple past tense and the past progressive tenses can be used together in the same sentence without any problems. However, it is possible to use them in separate sentences as well, which will make the sentence a lot simple to create. Be aware that the word ‘while’ is a way to connect a sentence together that uses the two forms of the past tense together in a seamless manner.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the subjects ‘I, He, She, It’ should be used with the singular word ‘was’, which is the past form of ‘to be’ before describing the past action that was happening. For the subjects of the past progressive tense which are ‘You, We, They’ should be used in conjunction with the plural word ‘were’, which is the past form of ‘to be’ before describing the past actions that were happening. Here are a few examples to clarify the difference between ‘was’ and ‘were’ in the past progressive tense:

Singular: I was playing, He was playing, She was playing, It was playing.

Plural: You were playing, They were playing, We were playing.

Overall, the past progressive tense is a lot simpler and straightforward when compared to other grammar tenses such as the simple past tense. As long as you remember the rules, study the examples, and practice writing sentences using this verb form on your own, you should be just fine. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment for me and I would be happy to answer them for you. Good luck and look out for next month’s English corner!