Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Present Perfect Tense - Simplified

In this blog post I have created an infographic to simplify the Present Perfect tense, my objective is to make this tense less intimidating for students. 

Students arrive with a built in aversion to the Present Perfect tense and generally speaking they find it illogical and confusing. I have experimented with a number of different ways of teaching the Present Perfect tense: I've tried combining it with the Present Perfect Continuous, contrasting it with the Past Simple and teaching just one use of the tense at a time. I have found that the most successful method is to start by focusing on four common uses of the Present Perfect tense.  I provide my students with lots of practical examples and situations, focusing on the use rather than the meaning of the tense.  Once they have become more confident, I then move on to comparing and contrasting with other tenses. 

In addition to the infographic, I have given some examples of ways to practise the four uses in class and a list of web exercises with answers that could be given to students for self study.

The Present Perfect tense uses the Past Participle of the verb (V3). Here is a list of some common irregular verbs that I recommend working on before you teach the Present Perfect tense: 

Activities to practise each of the four uses:

1. To talk about life experiences: EVER, NEVER, YET

You can focus on one topic or ask generally about life experiences. If for example you have been working on the topic of travel with your students, you could then ask about travel experiences.  If you've been working on the topic of shopping, ask about shopping experiences etc.  

  • Have you ever been to Spain? Yes I have/No I haven't/No, not yet.
  • Have you ever eaten snails? Yes I have/No I haven't/No, not yet.
  • Have you ever been shopping in London? Yes I have/No I haven't/No, not yet.
  • Have you ever bought a new car? Yes I have/No I haven't/No, not yet.
  • Have you ever eaten in a Mexican restaurant? Yes I have/No I haven't/No, not yet.
* 'No, not yet', gives the impression that they haven't done it yet, but would like to one day. At this stage I would just focus on yes/no/not yet answers. Once the students are more confident with this tense, then it is possible to go back to this exercise and explain that when giving more information about a 'yes' answer they will need to use the Past Simple tense.
2. To talk about recent past events using: ALREADY, RECENTLY, JUST, YET
The Dubois family are on holiday in England. Here is their schedule:
  •  Monday morning: Arrive in London, visit Madam Tussaud's museum.
  •  Monday evening: Visit the London Eye.
  •  Tuesday morning: Travel to Brighton.
  •  Tuesday evening: Visit an art exhibition.
  •  Wednesday afternoon: Take the train to Twickenham.
  •  Thursday afternoon: Go to a rugby match.
  •  Friday morning: Fly home to Paris.

It’s Thursday morning. Are these sentences true or false?
  1. The family have already visited Madam Tussaud's. 
  2. The family have recently arrived in Twickenam.
  3. The family haven't yet been to Brighton.
  4. The family have just been to a Rugby match.      

It's Wednesday morning.  Answer these questions:
  1. Have the family travelled to Twickenham yet?
  2. Have the family just arrived in Brighton?
  3. What have the family done recently?
  4. Have they already been to London?

* Ask students to create their own schedules and make true/false sentences or ask each other questions.

3. To talk about a state that started in the past and continues up to now: FOR AND SINCE

You can draw a time line to practise this use:

  • July 2000- Sarah started working for Microsoft.
  • June 2001 - Sarah met James for the first time.
  • January 2003 - Sarah and James got married.
  • February 2003 - They bought their house.
  • April 2004 - They had their first child, Dylan.
  • September 2009 - Dylan started school.
  • December 2012 - James started working for Google.

Example: How long has Sarah known James?
  • For: She has known James for 13 years.
  • Since: She has known James since June 2001.

1. How long has Sarah worked for Microsoft?
  • For........... 
  • Since........
2. How long have Sarah and James been married?
  • For...........
  • Since..........
3. How long have they lived in their house?
  • For.........
  • Since.............
4. How long have they been parents?
  • For.........
  • Since.........
5. How long has Dylan been at school?
  • For..........
  • Since.........
6. How long has James worked at Google?
  • For.........
  • Since.........

4. To talk about an action that has been done several times (repetition) up until now: UP TO NOW, UP UNTIL NOW, SO FAR

We often use time expressions like: today/this morning/this afternoon/this week/this month/this year with this use. Remember the year/day/morning that we're talking about, is not over at the time of speaking and that is why we use the Present Perfect tense:


Q: How many cups of coffee have you drunk this morning (It's 10.00am)?  A: I have drunk 3 cups of coffee so far this morning. 

*(The morning isn't over, I may drink another cup of coffee soon, but from the beginning of the morning up until now, I have drunk 3 cups).

  1. How many reports have they completed today (It's 3.oo pm)? Up to now they_______  ________ 5 reports.
  2. How many times have you been to France this year? So far this year I _____  ______ to France 3 times.
  3. How many cigarettes has he smoked today (It's 6.00pm)? He _________  _________ 10 cigarettes so far today.
  4. How many English lessons have you had this month (It's the 15th of March)? I ______ ________ 3 lessons so far this month.
  5. How many times has she played tennis this week (It's Thursday)? She _____ ______ tennis twice this week.
* Ask your students to ask questions about 'how many times' you/there partner have/has completed an action from the past up until now.

Websites for further practice:

A quick quiz to practise 'forming' the Present Perfect tense:

A quiz to practise the Present Perfect tense for 'life experiences':

A Present Perfect quiz, to practise talking about 'an action that started in the Past and continues until now with for and since':

Present Perfect quizzes to practise talking about an action that 'occurred in the recent past':

Some short quizzes to practise the general use of the Present Perfect:

How do you teach the Present Perfect Tense?

I greatly appreciate any comments and feedback.  If you are a Google+ member please comment below.  If you're on Facebook please message me there and of course you can always send me an email:

Thanks and I hope you found this post helpful :-)

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