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Present Perfect Tense
Hello I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! A couple of weeks ago, I created a lesson about the present perfect tense. What it looks like, how to use it and all of that good stuff! I talked about when to use the present perfect simple tense and when to use the past simple tense. Now if you missed it, you can check it out right here. But after watching that lesson, many of you asked me “So when do we use the present perfect simple tense and when do we use the present perfect continuous tense?”
A lot of you also asked, “So when do you use these words ‘since’ and ‘for’?” Now, both of these questions are really important questions when you’re using the present perfect tense in English. So, in this video I’m going to answer both of those questions. This channel is all about speaking and communicating confidently in English and I know that fixing some of these common grammar errors is an important part of helping you to feel confident when you’re using English so that when you do speak, you can express yourself clearly and automatically.
So let’s start by talking about the present perfect simple tense and the present perfect continuous tense. They have eaten the pizza. So this is the present perfect simple tense. We have the auxiliary verb, have, with our main verb in past participle form. They have been eating the pizza. Now this is the present perfect continuous tense. We still have the auxiliary verb, have, but now we have the word, been, and our main verb in a continuous or progressive form.
So when you compare these two sentences, the main difference is that the first one tells us that the action finished in the past, there is no more pizza, now in the present. The second sentence - the present perfect continuous tense - suggests that there is still pizza left now. They haven’t eaten all of the pizza yet. We can use either of these tenses to talk about events that happened in the past but they’re somehow connected to the present. She has borrowed our car. So this is an action that happened in the past but it’s important to the present because we don’t have a car right now.
We’re focused on the result when we’re using the present perfect simple. She’s been borrowing our car every Thursday. Now, this sentence suggests that the action is still happening. So next Thursday, she’ll probably borrow the car again. So here, our focus is on the action. The action is unfinished. Now the present perfect continuous is your best choice when the focus is on an activity that is unfinished. So let’s compare another example. I’ve searched the internet for more information .
Now this sentence suggests that you’re not searching anymore. The action finished in the past but it’s important to the present because right now, in this moment, we don’t have the information. I’ve been searching the internet for more information. This sentence suggests that you’re still doing it, you haven’t given up yet and you’re still looking for the information now. Let’s try another example. We’ve written an essay about climate change. The action here is finished.
It’s in the past, we’ve already completed it. So you can also say we wrote an essay about climate change using the past simple but to connect it to the present and make it important to the present you need to use the present perfect tense. Think about if you were with a group of scientists and you wanted to demonstrate to them or show them that you were knowledgeable about the topic of climate change. You can connect your past experience to the present using the present perfect tense. Writing the essay is part of your life experience now.
We’ve been writing an essay about climate change suggests that you’re still doing it. The essay is not finished yet, you’re still working on it at the moment, in the present. I have been studying Spanish. This is an unfinished action - I’m still doing it. The continuous form makes it clear that the action is still happening. I’m still studying in this moment. I have studied French. By using the present perfect tense here, it suggests that the action happened regularly in the past, but that it doesn’t happen in the moment. But by using this tense - not the past simple tense - I’m suggesting that somehow it’s meaningful or relevant to the present.
Like, I know a little French. I’m not studying it at the moment but I know a little. Okay this last example is a little more difficult to explain and understand. There are a few verbs in English like the verb, live and work, where the difference between the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous is less clear. But I’m going to try and explain it for you now. I’ve lived here for five years. I’m from Melbourne originally, but I’ve been living here for five years.
So both of these sentences use the adverb, for, to give us more information about how long the action has been happening for, the duration of time. But to understand the difference, we need to think about these examples in slightly different ways. The present perfect simple, I have lived suggests that the action is a permanent thing. The present perfect continuous often tells us that the action is a more temporary thing. It’s not as permanent. It suggests that I might live somewhere else, in the future.
Okay, how do you feel about the present perfect simple and the present perfect continuous tenses now? Hopefully a little clearer! Now, we’re going to focus on those two adverbs that you can use with these tenses. Now there’s quite a few adverbs that you can use with the present perfect tenses like already, yet, before just ever never But in this lesson, we’re going to focus on for and since. Both of these words are used with the present perfect tenses and the past perfect tenses.
And both of these words explain how long something has been happening for, it’s a duration of time. So when you’re using the present perfect tense and you want to give more information about the amount of time that the action’s been happening for, you can use the words “for” and “since”. Now it’s important to remember that the word “since” can only be used with the perfect tenses but the word “for”, can be used in other tenses as well when you want to give more information about the time it took to do something.
So these two important words can be easily confused, in the present perfect. Using the wrong one is a very common mistake for English learners. We use the word “for” with a period of time, Okay so like, three days, this is a period of time. So I want to show you on a timeline how this works. This is today. This is Sunday. And this point in our timeline is Thursday. This is when the action happened or it started happening. So the focus is on this period of time, here.
For periods of time, we need to use “for”. For three days. For three months. For an hour. For two and a half years. For a long time. Even though we’re not talking about a specific amount of time, this reference refers to a period of time, a long period of time. So we still need to use “for”. Now let’s add this to some of the examples in the present perfect structure. We have lived in London for six years. He has borrowed my car for three days. They’ve been waiting for an hour.
Now, you need to use “since” with a specific moment in the past - with a specific point in time. So let’s go back to our timeline to talk about it. So today’s Sunday, here we are on Sunday and this is the point when the action happened or it started happening. This point is Thursday so we can say that we’ve been doing the action since Thursday. So the focus is on the point in time when the action happened or it began. So, since I lived in Brazil. Or since 3 o’clock. Since 1992. Since last week. So let’s add “since” to the present perfect structure. I have lived here since I was a child.
I’ve been working here since April. They’ve been waiting since 9:00 a.m. I’ve had these pens since I was at school! I’ve been expecting the parcel since last Tuesday! These structures with “for” and since are really useful when answering questions that start with “how long” How long have you been travelling? I’ve been travelling since June. I’ve been travelling for 3 months. So make sure that you’re always listening for the clues in a question, like this, how long, if someone’s asking how long, then you can use these words “for” and “since” to give your answers in the present perfect.
Well that’s it for this lesson! Even though the present perfect tenses can be frustrating at times, be patient while you’re perfecting it. Don’t just use the past simple tense because it’s easier. I want you to really take the time to practice the present perfect, because it allows you to be so much more expressive with your English. And the more often that you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.
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