Hello hello, fellow learners of English, how are you doing out there? This is Kristian here, nice to be with you again, and welcome to the Learners of English Podcast, episode number 10.
I’m super excited about this episode, because I’m gonna do something I haven’t done before on the podcast. So far, all episodes were about motivation. I talked about things like, creating mindset, habits, complaining, how to start and of course, the 4 Ps.
Do you remember the 4 Ps? Of course you do. Priorities, practice, patience and progress. Set your priorities, practice as much as you can, have patience and you will make long-lasting progress.
But today we’re gonna do something different. I’m not gonna motivate you. Instead, I’m going to teach you some English.
Before we begin, let me just remind you that you can get in touch with me via email, email@example.com. You can also get in touch with me via Twitter, or via Facebook. You can find all this information on my website learnersofenglish.com and in the description of the podcast.
OK, that’s enough housekeeping, let’s crack on.
Originally I wanted to create an episode about vocabulary, but then I got the inspiration to transform a lesson I did earlier this week into an audio recording. So, this is an episode all about grammar, specifically the present perfect tense. It’s a difficult bit of grammar to understand and use correctly.
I highly recommend using the transcript on my website, in order to get the best value for money. Of course this podcast is free, so there’s no money involved, but you get the idea. Listen to this the first time without transcript, and then listen to it again while reading along. It’s really the best way to make progress when using podcasts.
In part 1 of this 3-part series I’m looking only at the present perfect simple. I’m describing the format and usage, and I’m giving plenty of examples in context. In part 2 I’m going to compare the present perfect simple to the past simple and in part 3 I’m going to compare the present perfect simple to the present perfect continuous.
Now, what can we say about the present perfect, this very important but often misunderstood English verb tense.
First of all, why is it difficult for many learners of English?
- It’s different in other languages. For example, in the Czech language there’s no present perfect. There is no equivalent. There’s only the present simple, the past simple and the future simple. So you can understand that my students in Prague find it difficult to use the present perfect tense correctly. And I know there are many other languages that don’t have a present perfect tense.
- There’s a broad variety of different uses, as you’ll find out in this episode. I’m sure many of you know that famous phrase “it’s something that started in the past and continues now”, but the present perfect is so much more than that.
The main thing is that present perfect describes the present in some way, usually with reference to past actions and events. But it always describes the present.
So it is not only “an action which started in the past and continues now”. That is true, for example in this sentence: “I’ve lived in Prague for 2 years”.
But present perfect is used for many other things. There are way more uses to it than just that. So what are all those different uses? And what are the keys to understanding it?
Firstly, I’m going to talk about the form of this tense, and secondly, I’m going to give details about how it is used. I’ll give many examples which you can relate to, because this is really important. It helps you to create your own examples.
Because, dear listeners, that’s my ultimate goal with this episode. I hope that at least one person starts to practice the present perfect after listening to my examples. That would make me very happy.
Anyway, let’s talk about form first. How do we create the present perfect?
Have/has + past participle
Do you remember the 3 columns you had to learn at school? Present simple; past simple; past participle. To walk, walked, walked; to run, ran, run. etc.
So here are some examples:
Have you walked in this park before?
Yes, I have walked in this park before. (I’ve)
No, I haven’t walked in this park before.
You look different. Have you been to the hairdresser?
Yes I have been to the hairdresser. (I’ve)
No I haven’t been to the hairdresser.
I could give many more examples, but I think you got this. You all have a basic knowledge of English, so you know this stuff. It’s not complicated. The real challenge is to use the present perfect tense correctly.
Use of present perfect simple
So this is where it gets interesting. This is where we look at how the present perfect simple is actually used.
Let’s start with a simple example.
I’ve lost my phone and now I I feel completely disconnected with the world. (present perfect simple)
I lost my phone so I had to buy a new one. (past simple)
The present perfect simple describes now. The past simple describes the past.
That doesn’t mean that all actions take place in the present – in fact with the present perfect most of the actions take place in the past, but they have an effect on the present – they describe the present in some way.
And now I’m going to show you 7 (!) different ways how the present perfect simple can describe the present. Yes, that’s right. Seven!
This might be a good time to remind you that there’s a transcript available on my website. If you can’t absorb all the information the first time, which is perfectly normal, I’m confident you’ll do better if you listen a second time to this episode while reading the transcript.
1. Describing a past action with present effect
I’ve lost my key (and now I cannot get into my apartment)
My chocolate bar has melted (and now it’s a mess in my bag, there is chocolate everywhere)
2. Describing a life experience
Accomplishments and experiences – describing yourself as a person now but with reference to past actions.
I’ve worked in the Czech Republic as an English teacher and have taught classes at all levels.
Have you ever seen the sitcom Friends?
I’ve been to many places in Prague, but this one is my favourite.
I’ve never eaten svíčková as good as this before.
You see how I use examples from my own life? You should do the same when you’re gonna practice this fine piece of English grammar. 🙂
3. Describing “How many times”?
You can also talk about how many times you’ve done something:
loads of times, couple of times, etc.
I’ve watched Kobe Bryant videos on youtube loads of times. (= a lot of times)
I’ve only been a couple of times to the library in Prague.
Have you ever seen Seinfeld? Yes I’ve seen it many times. It’s my all-time favourite sitcom.
4. Describing past actions which are still happening now
I’ve lived in Prague for 2 years.
I’ve worked at this language school for 3 years. (You can also use the present perfect continuous here, but I’m going to talk about this in part 3 of this Present perfect tense series)
5. Describing very recent actions
I’ve just seen your father in the supermarket
She’s not in school yet, I have just checked. (Imagine the teacher is late)
6. Describing “Unfinished time periods”
Your whole life, this morning, today, this year, so far
I haven’t done anything today. (It’s still today) and now I have to stay longer in the office
I’ve drunk 2 red bulls this morning (and it’s still morning) and now I’m hyper
I’ve seen no rain at all this month (and it’s still this month) and now the plants and trees are in trouble
I’ve produced 10 podcast episodes this month (and it’s still this year) and now I’m starting to work on number 11.
7. Using other time expressions
There are also other time expressions: just, already, yet, ever, never, still, the first time, always, for, since. These are often used with the present perfect simple, but not always. For example: I lived in London for 2 years.
Now, in the transcript I’ve put many examples for these time expressions, but I don’t want to read them all for you in the podcast, because it would be very boring. However, you should check out the transcript and use my examples to create your own examples with these time expressions. OK?
Now I’m going to give you a summary of what I’ve taught you so far. (You see what I did there?). With the present perfect simple, we’re talking about past actions that have an effect on the present. That’s all you need to remember about the theory. The rest is just practice practice practice practice practice practice practice. Use the examples I mentioned in this episode to create your own examples.
Last but not least: here’s a simple trick I use:
If I can put the words “and now” after the sentence, I can use the present perfect.
I’ve lost my wallet (and now I can’t pay for drinks in the pub)
I’ve lost my keys (and now I can’t get into my flat)
I’ve seen Seinfeld many times (and now I can repeat many famous one-liners instantly, For example: “My son is treating his body like it’s an amusement park”.)
So, that’s it. You now have an overview of just the present perfect simple. It’s all about past actions and their connection to the present.
I can understand if this is a bit complex. It might help if we compare this tense to the other tenses, so that’s what we’re gonna do in the next episode.
OK, that’s it. Let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments or via email.
All right. Take care of yourself, and each other, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!
Wait, there’s one more thing. I would like to thank my Czech teacher Eliška for inspiring me to make this episode. I admire the way how she explains difficult concepts in the Czech language in a simple way, and I hope that I can reach that same level one day. Thank you Eliška, you’re a great teacher! Her YouTube channel is called Because Czech is Cool. Check it out if you’re interested in learning Czech. You can find the link in the transcript.