Simple Past and Present Perfect -- part one

One of the first tasks of an English learner is to understand how to form the simple past and present perfect tenses. There is some work involved here but, after a few grammar lessons, the elementary user of English knows the difference between regular and irregular verbs, how to use the HAVE auxiliary and has memorised a host of present form, past form and past participle verb forms, like; swim, swam, swum; write, wrote, written.

That's great, but then they come to describe an action in the past and it's not always clear which tense to use. There are a few things to consider. This blog will examine one of the more concrete ideas, namely the idea of past and present time frames.

Let's say I want to communicate, "I write a letter" in the past and I want to tell the reader/listener when I did the action. In this case, you must ask the question, "Did the action occur in the chosen time frame?"

If your time frame is yesterday, last week, last month or last year, then the answer is no, and you need to use the Simple Past tense. This is because the past action and now are in separate time frames, so there is no link between the action and the present time.

If your time frame is today, this week, this month, or this year, then the answer is yes, and you need to use the Present Perfect tense. This is because the past action and now are in the same time frame. The present perfect tense is used to demonstrate a link between the past action and the present time. One possible link between the two is that they exist in the same time frame.

Please see the graphic below for an illustration of how your choice of time frame may affect the tense.


One thing worth noting is that both of these sentences could describe the same event. This is because an action that happened 24 hours ago could be described as happening yesterday or this week. It depends on which time frame you want to use.

Once you've chosen your time frame, you should ask yourself the question, "Did the action occur in the time frame I chose?" Now that you've read this explanation, you should then be able to choose the correct tense.

If you would like to know more about this, I would be happy to discuss it with you in your next Verbling class. Please check my profile to see if my availability is compatible with your study time. If not, please send me a message so we can find a good time to work together.

October 30, 2019
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Hello, I'm a teacher from Scotland, and I've been living in Ecuador since January 2014, when I started working as an English teacher. I now have plenty of experience in physical classrooms and online and also work as a Cambridge English speaking examiner. Regarding qualifications, I have a first class bachelor's degree in creative writing, and a CELTA. As a teacher, I prefer to get as close as possible to the language my student actually wants to learn and stimulate the conversation that lets them practice and develop that language. So, whether you want to give an English language interview, communicate with English speakers from, or in, another country or pass an exam, let's do what's relevant to you in our classroom. Happily, a number of my students have come back to me many times, so I've had the pleasure of seeing that constantly practicing really does help you to move forwards with your expressive ability and increase your confidence. It is often with satisfaction, if a little sadness, that I say goodbye to a student who has successfully achieved the level they always hoped (or didn't dare to hope) they would reach. I wish you all the best, whether I have the chance to work with you or not.
Flag
English
globe
United Kingdom
time
18
Speaks:
English
Native
,
Spanish
B1
Hello, I'm a teacher from Scotland, and I've been living in Ecuador since January 2014, when I started working as an English teacher. I now have plenty of experience in physical classrooms and online and also work as a Cambridge English speaking examiner. Regarding qualifications, I have a first class bachelor's degree in creative writing, and a CELTA. As a teacher, I prefer to get as close as possible to the language my student actually wants to learn and stimulate the conversation that lets them practice and develop that language. So, whether you want to give an English language interview, communicate with English speakers from, or in, another country or pass an exam, let's do what's relevant to you in our classroom. Happily, a number of my students have come back to me many times, so I've had the pleasure of seeing that constantly practicing really does help you to move forwards with your expressive ability and increase your confidence. It is often with satisfaction, if a little sadness, that I say goodbye to a student who has successfully achieved the level they always hoped (or didn't dare to hope) they would reach. I wish you all the best, whether I have the chance to work with you or not.