September 30

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EP15: Present Perfect Simple (4)

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 15.

Today we continue with the present perfect simple. This is already part 4. If you haven’t listened to part 1, 2 and 3, I’d suggest you do that first. Also, let me just remind you that you can find the transcript of this episode on my website.

As always, I recommend that you listen to this podcast twice: the first time without the transcript, and the second time you can listen to the episode while reading along. I make these transcripts to help you become a successful learner of English, so why not use them?

OK, let’s crack on.

Today we’ll talk about the difference between the present perfect simple and the past simple. You’ll get many examples that you can use to start practicing.

Present perfect simple is about the present. Check episodes 12, 13 and 14 for detailed information about this tense.

Past simple is all about things that happened in the past, are finished and are not connected to now. We use the past simple to describe actions that take place purely in the past. It is as if we’re telling stories of things that only existed in the past.

Here’s an example in which I talk about my life:

Yesterday I prepared this podcast episode. It took me one hour to finish the transcript. Then I went outside for a walk, because I wanted to get away from the computer screen. Etc.

That was all past simple.

Now, I’m not one of those teachers who think that grammar isn’t important when learning English, but I don’t like to talk for ages about all the rules. With my students I usually point out the most important rule (or two), and then I’ll give loads of examples they can use to start practicing on their own. And that’s what I will do in this episode, too.

Here’s an important past simple rule that you should remember:

We always use the past simple with “finished time periods”

If the time period is finished, you can’t use present perfect. This is one of the most common errors with this verb form. People say things like “I’ve done my homework at the weekend”, which should be “I did my homework at the weekend”.

Finished time periods include things like, yesterday, at 10AM, when I was a child, at the weekend, last year, in 2019 etc.

Here’s another real-life example in which I use the past simple:

This morning I woke up and went outside for a run. When I came back, I took a shower and put my clothes on. Then I went to the supermarket to get some food.  Back home I had breakfast and then I started to prepare my English lesson.

All right, that’s all pretty straight forward. Now let’s compare the present perfect simple and the past simple. Here’s another example:

I’ve finished my homework, so now I can play computer games, check my instagram or read a good book

I finished my homework on Saturday, so on Sunday I could relax the whole day.

Now, in real life it’s not so easy. Because sometimes we switch from present perfect to past simple when we are speaking. Usually this happens when you first introduce an action with present perfect, without saying when it happened. For example, “Have you ever been to London? Yeah, I’ve been to London.”

After introducing it like that, as an experience, you switch to the past simple in order to talk about or ask questions about the action in more detail. “Oh, where did you go?” or “Oh, when did you go there? What did you do? How long did you stay?” etc.

And here’s another real-life example in which I mix up the past simple and the present perfect simple. Listen carefully.

Question: “Hey Kristian, how is it going?”

Answer: “Well, it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and I’m really tired. Why? Well, this morning I got up at 4am and I didn’t have time to take a nap. I had to teach 3 students in a row and then I started to work on another podcast episode. I haven’t finished it yet. Up until now I’ve only written the notes and bullet points. I think I need to take a break. How has your day been so far?”

Did you hear how I mixed up the tenses? Did you notice any finished and unfinished time expressions? If not, check out the transcript and play the example again.

Remember, if you want to improve your English, pay close attention to the language that is being used when you’re reading and listening, and use it to create your own examples.

All right, now it’s time for you to start practicing. You can use my sentences as a starting point.

Remember, we don’t just listen to podcasts here, we take action. Only if you take action you’ll become a successful learner of English, and you can achieve your life goals and fulfil your dreams.

OK, that’s it. Let me know your thoughts on this episode in the comments or via email.

Take care of yourself, and each other, and I’ll catch you in the next episode!


About the author 

Kristian

Kristian is a Dutch guy who teaches English online. He relaxes with audiobooks, music and podcasts. Kristian still has a lot to learn, but he's happy to share what he has learnt along the way.

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