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Present Perfect


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The present perfect - what it is, why it's difficult for learners (and teachers) and some ideas on how to teach it. A unit from the 'Grammar for language teachers' course at

The present perfect - what it is, why it's difficult for learners (and teachers) and some ideas on how to teach it. A unit from the 'Grammar for language teachers' course at

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  • 1. The Present PerfectYouTube video available at
  • 2. ContentsThemeaning(s)What is thepresent perfect?AssociatedadverbsThe formIdeas forteaching it
  • 3. Remember it is formed with…havePastparticiple(in present tense-have, has)
  • 4. Present perfectsimple
  • 5. Have you seen mykeys?
  • 6. Present perfectcontinuous
  • 7. I haven’t been living here long.have + been + -ing
  • 8. Problems with the form?Irregular past participlesseenflewgonethoughtcut
  • 9. Problems with the pronunciation?ContractionsHave you beenthere? =/həvjəbɪn/I have=I’veWeak auxiliaries
  • 10. But the main problem is …………
  • 11. The Monster Tense!
  • 12. Why is this so difficult?
  • 13. Many languages simply don’t look at timein this way…..
  • 14. English – She went….She has gone
  • 15. Chinese – She go yesterday….
  • 16. Some languagesuse the sameform, but themeaning isdifferent…..
  • 17. Ich haben ihn gesehen(I) (have) (him) (p.p. of ‘see’)means…‘I saw him’
  • 18. Some languages have the same meaning butuse different forms to express it
  • 19. English – He’s lived there for two years
  • 20. Spanish – He lives there for two years
  • 21. MeaningWhat is the time reference?• I’ve been to China• He’s lived there for two years.• I’ve had a cup of coffee, thanks.• I’ve written three letters thismorning.
  • 22. I’ve been to ChinaExperience in the non-specified pastNow? ? ? ? ? ?
  • 23. He’s lived there for two years.Unfinished action continuing to the present
  • 24. He’s lived here for two years.Unfinished action continuing to the presentNow2 yearsago
  • 25. I’ve had a cup of coffee, thanks.Finished action in the recent pastNow
  • 26. How recent is ‘recent’?
  • 27. ‘You’ve changedyour hair style!’When?
  • 28. Often used in the news…The next leader of Britain’s top public schoolshas warned parents to stop hothousing children
  • 29. I’ve written three letters this morning.Finished action in unfinished timeNowSpecified time
  • 30. Meaning – continuous formWhat is the time reference?• She’s been playing the recorder for awhile now.• She’s been running- she’s tired.
  • 31. She’s been playing the recorder for a while now.Unfinished action continuingto the presentNowContinuous or regular action
  • 32. She’s been running- she’s tired.Recently finished actionWith a current resultNow
  • 33. So we have…..Present Perfect Simple• Experience (at a non-specified past time)• Action started in the past continuing to now• Recent action (news)• Action in an unfinished timePresent Perfect Continuous• Action started in the past continuing to now• Longer actions that have recently ended (with a present result)Task: Think of an example for each (not the same as mine!)
  • 34. Michael Swan‘Basically speaking, the present perfect deals withfinished events that are connected to the present.’Practical English Usage. Swan; 2005
  • 35. But…..….learners find this ‘connection withthe present’ idea very difficult.
  • 36. Simple pastORPresent perfect simple?
  • 37. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I saw him this morning.I have seen him this morning.(What time is it?)
  • 38. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I cooked the meat for three hours.I’ve cooked the meat for threehours.(When did I start cooking?)
  • 39. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’Granny baked many cakes over theyears.Granny has baked many cakes overthe years.(Is Granny alive)
  • 40. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I bought a new Ferrari.I’ve bought a new Ferrari!(When did I buy it? How do I feel?)
  • 41. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’Have you eaten sushi?Did you eat sushi?(Which refers to a specific time?)
  • 42. Present perfect simpleORPresent perfect continuous?
  • 43. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I’ve been living here for a month.I’ve lived here for a month.
  • 44. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I’ve been doing the washing up.I’ve done the washing up.
  • 45. ‘Teacher, what’s the difference between..’I’ve been reading ‘War and Peace’I’ve read ‘War and Peace’.
  • 46. Adverbs can help
  • 47. Adverbs commonly associated…With the present perfectYet, already, this (morning/ year/ decade), since,for, ever, never, before, recently.With the simple pastYesterday, ago, last ___, then, in 2007 (any specifictime reference)
  • 48. Which do we teach first?Obviously there’s no set-in-stone order, butgenerally……….
  • 49. Present perfect with unfinished timeLate elementaryHow many e-mails have you received thisweek?What other personalised questions could you ask themusing the same form and meaning?
  • 50. What have you done this year?
  • 51. Present perfect for experience: Pre-IntI’ve ridden a camel.vsI was very sore afterwards!!
  • 52. (ride) a horse (eat) snake (see) the Pyramids(go) to London (oversleep) (fall) in love(learn) anotherforeign language(swim) in the seaat night(play) chessHave you ever……
  • 53. Present perfect simple and continuous with‘for’, ‘since’ and other time expressions.I’ve lived here since 2001I’ve been playing in a band since January.How long have you …….?Now
  • 54. What have you been doing?!Now
  • 55. He has already cut the grass.He hasn’t mended the garage door yet.C.Granger and J.Plumb 1995 Heinemann
  • 56. IntermediatePresent perfect cf simple pastRead this brief biography of Barack Obama. Which is the correct tense?Barack Obama ____ (have) an interesting life. He _____ (be born) onAugust 4th 1961 in Honalulu. His father _____ (be) from Kenya, butBarack __________ (never live) there. He _____ (go) to Harvard LawSchool) and he _______ (be) a university lecturer as well as a lawyer.He ______ (be involved) in many elections since 1996, and he ______(be elected) as the 44th President of the USA in January 2009.Do this exercise – which tense and why?
  • 57. What’s the pattern?Three climbers, missing for thirty hours, have been found safe and well by rescueteams in Scotland. The three, two men and a woman, who are all from Glasgow, hadbeen climbing in the Highlands, when they were forced to take shelter, by the badweather. They were found early this morning.IntermediateNews: Present perfect cf simple past
  • 58. Upper levelsReview/ contrast of all uses and differencesbetween simple and continuous forms;Guided discovery approach works well
  • 59. I’ve lost some money/ I’ve been losing money.She’s studied/ been studying a lot lately.She’s forgotten/ been forgetting so muchrecently._____ is used to talk about things that happened more thanonce.____is used to emphasise the process.____is used to emphasise the finished action.