Present perfect

Nivel A1 / A2 Principiante y Pre-intermedio

Present Perfect v. Past Simple.

The Past Simple refers to a specific time.

The Present Perfect focuses more on the action or experience.

We often use the Present Perfect to start a conversation.We often change to the Past Simple when we talk about the details - When? Where? Why? Who with? etc.

Example 1

-Have you ever been to Edinburgh?

(Present Perfect – focus on experience, start conversation)

-Yes, I have.

-When did you go?

(Past Simple – ask for details)

-I went last summer.

(Past Simple – answer with details)

Example 2

-Ive passed my exam!

(Present Perfect – focus on action, start conversation)

   -But you told me it was a disaster!

(Past Simple – remember details)

-Yes, I was really nervous and Section C was horrible!

(Past Simple – more details)

-Have you told your Jill?

(Present Perfect – focus on action, new direction in conversation)

-I rang her, but she wasn’t in

     (Past Simple – answer with details)

Present Perfect: Unfinished Actions

To describe an Unfinished Action (an action that started in the Past and that continues Now), we use the Present Perfect (NOT the Present Simple!) together with for or since.

We use for to express the DURATION of the action (6 years, 10 minutes, etc.), NOT “during”.

We use since to indicate the STARTING POINT of the action (8 o'clock,1999, etc.)

I've been on this computer for 10 minutes.

I've been on this computer since 8 o'clock.

She’s had that watch for 7 years.

She’s had that watch since 1999.

We ask How long…? + Present Perfect (NOT the Present Simple!) to ask about the duration of an Unfinished Action:

How long have you been on this computer?  How long are you…?

How long has she had that watch? How long does she have…?

Look at these typical mistakes:

Example 1

I'm on this computer since 10 minutes.

I've been on this computer for 10 minutes.

Unfinished Action (Im still on this computer) -> Present Perfect

Duration (10 minutes) -> for

Example 2

She has that watch for 1999.

She’s had that watch since 1999.

Unfinished Action (She still has that watch) -> Present Perfect

Starting Point (1999) -> since

Present Perfect - Have you ever…?

We use Have you ever…? + past participle (the Present Perfect) to ask about past experiences:

Have you ever been to Paris?

Have you ever met my brother?

We can give a short reply:

Yes, I have.

Yes, several times.

No. Have you?

If we reply positively, we use the Past Simple because we are talking about a specific time in the past:

Have you ever been to Paris?

Yes, we were there last summer.

 Have you ever eaten caviar?

Yes, when I was in Greece.

We say been to (+ place)?, not been in. It means visited:

Have you ever been to Rome? (Have you ever visited Rome?)

We use go +…ing to describe activities:

go skiing, go shopping, go jogging, go swimming, etc.

Have you ever gone skiing?

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