Grammar Time: present perfect vs past simple

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The present perfect always has a bearing on the present. It must be relevant now. If it’s not relevant now, then you should use another tense.

For example. If you’re talking about life experiences, you often use the present perfect because you’re talking about experiences that you’ve had in your life until now. So, you’ve travelled to many different countries in your lifetime. You’ve seen lots of wonderful things. You’ve read books, you’ve been to the theatre and you’ve attended music festivals. But you’ve never been skydiving, and that’s something that you’d really like to do.

When you talk about experiences, as in the above example, you talk about things that you’ve experienced until now. You don’t mention a specific time frame. We don’t know when any of these things happened, we just know that at some point until now, they occured.

If you want to pinpoint an experience to a particular time, use the past simple. For example: I went to the theatre last week. Or, I visited Mexico during my last vacation.

Top Tip: if you talk about a specific time, use the past simple. You may use words and phrases such as: yesterday, last week, last year, in 1999, on my birthday, etc.

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Grammar Time: present perfect (4)

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Although I know the present perfect can be tricky, there are some ways to simplify your life and to remember when to use it.

For example: use the present perfect with for and since when you talk about a length of time, or how long.

For is used to talk about a period of time.

  • I have been in France for 13 years.
  • Mary has been working for hours on her project.
  • Ida and Jack have been together for a month.

Since is used to talk about the start of a period of time, a point in time from which something began.

  • They’ve been in France since 2008.
  • We’ve been married since May.
  • Alice has been studying for her test since last Friday.

Sometimes, you want to say how long ago something happened, in this case, you must always use the past simple: I moved to France 13 years ago.

You cannot use the present perfect with ago.

Here are some more examples:

  • My grandmother died 11 years ago.
  • Ali and Gem opened their business a year ago.
  • We ordered our food 20 minutes ago.

Do you have any questions? Be sure to leave us a comment or send us an email. We’ll be happy to get back to you ASAP!

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Grammar Mondays: present perfect 3

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Let’s keep talking about the present perfect.

Today we’ll look at using it to express how long— or length of time.

So, you want to know how long someone has been in a particular job, you ask:

How long have you worked at Groupetude?

The person may answer:

I have worked at Groupetude for 6 months.

OR

I have worked there since March.

He or she may also give a short answer:

6 months OR since March.

FOr

We use for when we talk about a length of time. For example: for 6 years; for 2 months; for 3 hours; for 10 minutes; for 4 days.

  • I have been awake for 3 hours.
  • She’s lived in Frankfurt for 2 years.
  • Marty has loved June for 20 years.
  • They have worked there for 6 months.
  • We’ve been here for 10 minutes.
since

We use since when we want to pinpoint when something started. It gives us a sense of how long but from a specific starting point: since May, since 2 o’clock, since 1999, since Christmas.

  • I’ve been awake since 8 o’clock.
  • She’s lived in Frankfurt since 2019.
  • Marty has loved June since 2001.
  • They have worked there since March.
  • We’ve been here since 11 AM.
remember

You never use the present perfect with the word ago. You must use the past simple.

For example, you can say:

I moved to France 13 years go.

But you can’t say:

I have moved to France 13 years ago.

Grammar Time

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Even though it can be tricky to remember when to use the present perfect, there are a few tricks you can use to help you.

For example, we often use the present perfect with these words:

  • ever
  • never
  • yet
  • just
  • already
ever

We generally use ever when we ask questions about experiences up until now. For example:

  • Have you ever been to Spain?
  • Has she ever met him before?
  • Have they ever called us first?

Or when we want to use a double negative, which is impossible in English, so instead we use ever:

  • I don’t think she’s has ever called me by my real name.
  • She’s not sure she’s ever been here before.
  • They’re not ever going to let us go to that concert.
Never

Use never when you want to talk about something that has not happened:

  • We’ve never eaten in a Caribbean restaurant.
  • They’ve never invited us over for drinks.
  • She’s never said hello to me, even though we see each other every day in class!
  • My mom has never been to Rio.
  • I’ve never liked oysters.
yet

Use yet when you want to talk about something that you plan on doing but not done, or to ask a question about something that needs to be done. Generally, we use this in the negative form, or in questions. For example:

  • Have you called the vet yet?
  • I haven’t finished my math homework yet.
  • He hasn’t called yet, but I’m sure he’s just been very busy.
  • Has she helped you with your taxes yet? I asked her to call you last night.
  • My dad hasn’t fixed his car yet so you’ll have to ask yours to drive us to the airport.
just

Use just to talk about something that has happened very recently. Here are some examples:

  • The doctor has just called, Kevin is going to be fine!
  • I’ve just cleaned the floor, don’t walk on it.
  • We’ve just bought a new car so I’m really excited to go for a ride.
  • He’s just gone out, he’ll be back in 5 minutes.
  • They’ve just heard the news and they’re so happy!
Already

Use already to talk about something that was done.

  • I’ve already had pasta today, I don’t want to eat it again for dinner.
  • Mom: go do your homework. Kid: I’ve already done it.
  • We’ve already been to Amsterdam, maybe we could go to Berlin instead?
  • The director has already called me back!
  • You’ve already played that song.

Of course, these aren’t foolproof tricks, these words can also be used in other contexts, but they should help you figure out if you want to use the past simple or the present perfect.

If you have any questions, be sure to let us know, we’ll be happy to help!

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Grammar Mondays: present perfect

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Most people find the present perfect difficult to understand, and that’s understandable! For French speakers anyway, it’s a tense that’s foreign because it doesn’t exist in their language, and, of course, it’s hard to wrap your head around a completely new idea.

That’s why I think the best way forward is through exposure and practice.

Let’s look at just one of the reasons we use the present perfect today. We tend to use it to talk about something that happened in the past, but has a result in the present. For example, imagine that your shoes are dirty, so you decide to clean them. Then you clean them, when they are clean you can say: I’ve cleaned my shoes. Your shoes are now clean. You do not specify when you cleaned them, this is obvious thanks to the tense you have used. The present perfect tells us that your shoes are clean because you cleaned them recently.

Let’s have another example. Imagine that you stop by your friend’s house around 1pm to drop off a dress you borrowed. Since your friend is about to have lunch, she invites you to dine with her. You had an early lunch, so you say to her: no thank you, I’ve eaten! We use the present perfect because your past action (eating) has a result in the present (you’re not hungry). Does that make sense?

So let’s have some more example sentences:

  • My son has received his acceptance letter to Harvard! I’m so proud of him.
  • A: Have you seen this man? B: No, I’m sorry, I haven’t.
  • At a restaurant, you arrive late, your friend says to you: I’ve ordered you a glass of wine.
  • On the train, you see a newspaper beside another passenger, you ask: Excuse me, have you finished with this paper?
  • I’ve lost my passport, I need to call the embassy right now!

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments or send me a message!

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Grammar Monday: questions 6

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I think perhaps that by now, you’ve gotten the hang of how to ask questions in English. The basic idea is to invert the subject and verb, or the subject and auxiliary, or modal, as needed. That’s all there is to it!

So here are some examples of all different types of questions, with affirmative statements underneath, to help you compare:

  • Have you been to any concerts lately?
  • I have just been to a great concert!
  • When did you go to the concert?
  • I went to the concert last year.
  • Will you help me with this?
  • I will help you with this.
  • Is she going with you?
  • She is going with me.
  • Can Tony drive?
  • Tony can drive.

Do you have any questions? Let me know! And don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for more articles, tips and tricks to help you learn or perfect your English!

Grammar Mondays: questions 5

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Once you’ve understood how questions work in English, the rules won’t change.

Basically, whenever you use an auxiliary (or a modal), that auxiliary (or modal) will go in front of the subject if you’re asking a question. So, that means:

Do: Do you like ice cream?

Will: Will you help me?

Can: Can you take this back to the kitchen?

Could: Could you show me how to do it?

Would: Would he come if I asked him?

May: May I have a piece?

The verb be is special. Whenever you use the verb be you know that it’s not going to act like the other verbs. We use it as an auxiliary to construct tenses like the present continuous, and it acts as its own auxiliary in questions. So if you want to ask a question using the continuous tense or the future « going to », then you know you invert the verb be with its subject:

  • Are you going to finish that?
  • Is he going to be there all day?
  • Am I going to meet her over there?
  • Are we going to leave anytime soon?
  • Are they going to win the cup?

The idea is that when asking a question in English, an auxiliary, modal or the verb be always go in front of the subject.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Grammar Time: questions 4

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Asking questions about the future doesn’t have to be difficult. There is a simple recipe!

Simply invert « will » and your subject.

Here are some examples:

  • Will we meet again?
  • Will the weather be nice next week?
  • How will you get there?
  • How much time will we have during the test?
  • When will you call your mother?
  • What kind of cake will you bring to her party?

How’s that? Do you have any questions? Let me know!

Grammar Mondays: questions 3

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If you want to ask a question about the past, simply put the auxiliary in the past!

Instead of saying in the present: Do you like bananas? Say in the past: Did you like bananas? And hey presto! You’ve asked a question about the past.

Here are some more examples:

  • Did you take out the trash?
  • Did Samantha finish her homework?
  • Did they send the papers on time?
  • Did we have a meeting this morning?

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments or by email!

Grammar Mondays: questions 2

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People often stumble (have trouble) over questions in English, but the rule is quite simple: you need to use an auxiliary in the first instance, (do/does) followed by the subject of the question, (you, she, they, etc.) and then the verb you want to use in its infinitive (unconjugated) form. You don’t need to conjugate the verb because the auxiliary (do/does) is already conjugated.

Do this anytime you want to ask a question in English, except when using certain modal verbs (can, could, may, might, must, will, would) and be. This means that we use an auxiliary for most questions asked in English!

Are you ready for some examples?

  • Do you like hot chocolate in winter?
  • Does your sister train everyday?
  • Do you buy your shoes at the mall?
  • Do these come in my size?
  • Does Fred know we start at 10am?
  • Do we have to wear these stupid hats?
  • Do they know we’re coming?
  • Does Karina have the file with her?

These are the simplest questions you could ask, and they generally require only a one work answer: yes or no.

If you’d like to add a question word or phrase (who, what, when, where, how much, what time, etc.) you put it in front of the auxiliary (do/does). Eg.: Where do you buy your clothes? But more on that next week!

Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments if you do!