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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Friday idiom: the ball is in your court

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You’ve done the research, you’ve given your opinion, now you need to say to your partner/competitor, etc, « the ball is in your court ». Basically: it’s time for you to make a decision.

If you’re waiting for someone else to make a decision after discussing the issue and giving your opinion, you can also say of that person: the ball is in his/her court. Meaning that you’ve given them all the tools to decide and/or you’ve given your opinion, now it’s their turn to make a choice.

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Word of the day: nap

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Oh naps, how I love them! A good old afternoon nap can really be quite wonderful! However, too long a nap will make you (read: me) groggy or cranky (make you sleepy or put you in a bad mood).

So here are some ways that people take naps:

  • Pretty much all small children take naps in the afternoon, and babies take them in the morning too!
  • Some people take power naps that are about 20 minutes long, in order to refresh and restore energy.
  • My grandfather always used to take a nap in the afternoon, my step-father does, and actually, most older men I know, nap in the afternoon. Very few women, though, I wonder why? Something to research!

So, do you take naps?

I must confess that I enjoy a good nap on the weekend sometimes, but I rarely have time for them.

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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.

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Word of the day: suggest

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Suggest is often mistaken for propose in English, particularly by French speakers.

Je te propose d’aller au cinéma ce soir. Is not: I propose you to go to the cinema tonight.

Instead, in English, we’d say: I suggest (that) we go to the cinema tonight.

Use the word suggest in different ways:

  • I’d like to suggest (that) we go out in the evening instead of the afternoon, it’s too hot during the day.
    • Here, use the word suggest + subject + infinitive. « That » is optional, you can choose to use it when you feel like it will make your sentence more clear.
  • Suggest something: Mary suggested pizza for dinner.
  • Suggest something to somebody: Erin suggested taking the week off to her assistant, who looked like he really needed it.

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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.

Friday idiom: to be stumped

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Don’t know the answer to something? Maybe you’re stumped!

If you’re stumped, it means you’re stuck for words; you don’t know what to do or say about a particular situation.

When I was a kid (and even today, sometimes) math problems often left me stumped. I couldn’t understand how to find the answer or why I needed to know at what exact time two trains would pass each other at a particular station. I didn’t get why they were going at different speeds, and I thought it was ridiculous that we needed to spend so much time on those types of problems.

Okay, let’s have another story.

One day, I was left stumped when, at the local town hall, an official asked me if Canada was in the European Union. Actually, that one still has me stumped. What on earth are you supposed to say to that? My instinct was to laugh and cry at the same time, but I didn’t, because I needed her to stamp some papers for me.

So, what’s got you stumped, or has done in the past? Maybe something about English grammar? Let us know, we’ll be happy to help!

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Word of the day: fresh

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I chose to write about this word today because it is often confused with the French word frais.

Now, frais also means fresh in the same way as the above definition describes, however, be careful not to use it to mean cold.

Il fait frais dehors = It’s cold outside. In English, we cannot say it’s fresh outside. Instead, you can say it’s cold outside.

Here are some examples of how to use the word fresh in English:

  • The fresh bread from the bakery smells delicious. (The bread is new.)
  • I came out to the mountains to get some fresh air. (The air is clean and full of vigor.)
  • Is this lasagne fresh? Yes, it was made this morning. (How old is the lasagne?)
  • I need to get a fresh start, that’s why I want to move to another city. (A new start.)
  • She’s so fresh faced, I hope she can handle the pressure of working here. (She looks young and innocent.)

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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.

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Word of the day: kind

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Kind is a very versatile word, here are two of its main meanings:

  • to be of a sympathetic or helpful nature (adjective)
  • a group united by common traits or interests (noun)

These two definitions are the most common. Let’s have some examples of each.

Kind (adjective)
  • In my experience, it’s always best to be kind. If anything, it’ll make you feel better as well.
  • My grandparents were always very kind to me growing up.
  • Lucy always has a kind word for everyone.
  • I think another important quality for a teacher is to be kind.
  • It’s very important to me that my son grows up to be a kind man.
Kind (noun)
  • There are many kinds of books here, you really do have a lot of choice.
  • What kind of yogurt would you like me to buy?
  • What kind of car are they looking for?
  • She came to my house with two different kinds of cake and asked me to choose my favourite.
  • There’s a kind of funny smell in here isn’t there?
Kind of

Last but not least, there’s also and expression we use a lot in English to mean somewhat, or, to a certain degree. For example:

  • A: Do you like the dish? B: Kind of, I’m not sure about the sauce, though.
  • I feel kind of nauseous, can we stop the car?
  • I kind of understand the problem, but you’ll have to explain it again, I think.
  • I can kind of see it, but it’s really blurry.
  • A: Do you understand? B: Kind of, but show me again, just in case!

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