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 – Simple Past Tense

For this edition of ‘English Corner’, we’re going into the past to figure out and understand the ‘Simple Past Tense.’ In order to successfully master the English language, you need to be able to use the simple past tense correctly. Whether it’s talking about what you did yesterday or last week or even five years ago, the structure and formation of the simple past tense should not be overlooked. As we discussed previously with the simple present tense and the present progressive tense, having a good grasp of these basic grammar forms will help you to get better in English really quickly.

In this blog post, I’ll go over when and how we should use the simple past tense and you will be able to see a few examples of how to put this grammar tense into action. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them for me below the article, as I am happy to help anyone out who needs additional assistance with the simple past tense. After going through this grammar tense for this post, be on the lookout for the next edition of ‘English Corner’ when we go over the past progressive tense.

If you have heard about the ‘preterite tense’ but don’t know about the ‘simple past tense’, then you can be at ease knowing that they are one in the same. While there are different forms of the past tense, the ‘simple past tense’ has become the most commonly used form and is quite easy to master if you are able to understand and apply the structures and the different ways you can use the grammar tense in a sentence.

When it comes to creating the simple past tense, the structure is quite simple. There are three types of sentences that you can form with the simple past tense: positive, negative, and questions. For positive sentences, you’ll put the ‘subject’ first and then add the ‘main verb’, which will be in the simple past tense. For negative sentences, you put the subject first and then an auxiliary verb with the verb ‘to do’, put into the past tense, which becomes ‘did’ followed by the word ‘not’ afterwards to indicate the negation in the sentence. The last part of the ‘negative’ sentence with simple past is the ‘main verb’ so the structure should be ‘subject’ + ‘auxiliary verb and ‘not’ + ‘main verb’ to complete the sentence fully. The question form of the ‘simple past tense’ is very similar to the negative form but there’s one exception that makes them different from each other.

The ‘auxiliary verb’ comes first before the ‘subject’ and then after the subject comes the ‘main verb’ and the ‘object’, which completes the sentence’s overall purpose. Positive sentences for the simple past tense do not have any auxiliary verbs as the negative and question sentences do reply upon. The verb ‘to do’ is the most important one when it comes to forming the simple past sentence regardless if its’ a positive, negative, or question form of the grammar tense. Lastly, the negative sentences you create must have the ‘not’ word after the auxiliary verb and before the main verb in order for it to make grammatical sense.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

I did go to the mall last weekend. (to go)

         I did play with my friends at the park yesterday. (to play)

Negative Sentences:

I did not think you were polite at the lecture on Monday. (to think)

I did not believe you when you said the stock market crashed. (to believe)

Question Sentences:

Did you do your homework last night? (to do)

Did you tell her you were late for class? (to tell)

When it comes to the verb ‘to be’, there is a different structure for the simple past tense that the average ESL student should be made aware of. In order to put ‘to be’ in the past tense form, it’s either going to become ‘was’ or ‘were’ depending upon what subject is being used at the beginning of the sentence. For the positive form of the was/were usage of ‘to be’ in the past tense, you start with I/He/She/It (subjects) and then the verb, which in this case for singular subjects would be was, followed by the object of the sentence.

For sentences with subject plurals like We/They/You, you are going to change ‘to be’ from was to were to reflect the change followed by the action / object again. For the negative form, you’re just going to add ‘not’ between the main verb and the object at the end of the sentence. ‘Was or were’ are going to be placed at the beginning of a question sentence followed by the subject and the actions that are involved in the sentence.

Examples

Positive Sentences:

He was here yesterday evening at the dinner table. (to be)

         You were in Istanbul last weekend for a friend’s birthday. (to be)

Negative Sentences:

I was not at the park last night because I had work to do. (to be)

They were not at the party because they were not invited. (to be)

Question Sentences:

Was she nice to her date last Thursday night? (to be)

Were you happy with how you did on the Spanish exam? (to be)

Compared to the verb ‘to do’ in the simple past tense, ‘to be’ has no auxiliary verbs at all even for the question and negative forms of the verb tense. However, it is the same in that ‘not’ always comes after the main verb for a negative sentence. The subject also becomes the past tense form of the verb ‘to be’ while the main verb moves to the middle of the sentence and is actually the subject words such as he / she / they, etc.

If you simply would like to use the past simple tense with most of the verbs you’ll be using in your sentences, you will add the letter ‘d’ or ‘-ed’ to the end of the verb in order for it to make sense grammatically. There are a couple of examples we should take a look at it when it comes to forming the simple past tense of the verb with ‘d’ or ‘ed.’

Examples

  1. After school, he walked home in the rain.
  2. He danced really well with his date at the senior prom.
  3. She planned to go to Europe this summer but she couldn’t save up enough money.
  4. Because his mother was sick, he baked a chocolate cake.
  5. We went to the movies after we ate at a Mexican restaurant.

It’s important to note that there may be some irregular verbs that are formed differently when it comes to the simple past tense. For example, ‘go’ in the simple present tense will become ‘went’ when it comes to being grammatically correct in the simple past tense. Another verb like ‘eat’ will become ‘ate’ and ‘drink’ will also change slightly to become ‘drank.’ While most of the verbs only need a ‘d’ or an ‘ed’ to be properly simple past, there are a few irregular verbs that should be memorized for the fact that they are exceptions to the rule when it comes to going from present to past in terms of how the word is written and pronounced.

Now that we know how to use the structure of the simple past tense, you’ll also want to be aware of what kinds of uses do we have for this particular grammar tense. The main purpose of the simple past tense is to talk about the past meaning that we want to shed light about a thing, an action, or a situation that happened in the past. These events can be as recent in the past as in they happened last night or they can be events that occurred long ago such as discussing a sports championship that happened over a decade ago.

Examples

  1. I played my violin last night for my parents and brother. (short time ago)
  2. I had a great time living in Istanbul, Turkey back in 2015. (long time ago)

When we use the simple past tense, you cannot refer to events or actions that are happening currently in the present or are slated to happen anytime in the future. The simple past tense only focuses on those events and actions that were completed sometime in the past. It simply doesn’t matter if the event was finished ten years ago or ten seconds ago. The fact is that it’s still in the past and the sentence structure should reflect the grammatical tense that fits the place and time.

Lastly, it should be noted that the books you’ve read or the movies you seen who occur in the past are mainly going to use the simple past tense. The present perfect and simple present tense may be used in stories or movies as well but you’re going to want to pay attention and listen to the sentences with the simple past tense because they are going to be the most common.

If you want to practice your simple past tense after reading this article, I recommend listening to songs, reading books, watching movies that take place in the past. Besides speaking or writing about the past, participating in the active listening and / or reading about events or moments in the past will help to take your English language skills to the next level. I hope you enjoyed this ‘English Corner’ post and please leave a comment if you have any questions, queries, or comments.