March 28

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How to Use the Present Perfect Simple Correctly Part 3 & 4 (with Personal Example Sentences)- Podcast

Hi everyone, you’re listening to Cambridge Exam Coach, a podcast for people who want to improve their English. I’m Kristian, your host, and in this episode we’re talking about the Present Perfect Simple.

This is part 3 and part 4 about this very special tense. Yes, part 3 and 4. I didn’t want you to wait any longer for part 4, because you’ve been waiting long enough.

Before we begin, let me just remind you that you can read the transcript on my website. And even more important, if you haven’t listened to the first part of this series about present perfect simple yet, I highly recommend that you pause this podcast and start listening to the first part. Because part 2 continues where we ended part 1. Sounds logical, right? 

OK, that’s enough housekeeping, let’s crack on.

In part 1 and 2 we talked about how to use the present perfect simple in seven different situations. Here’s a short summary:

  1. You describe a past action with present effect (losing your key)
  2. You describe a life experience (working experience)
  3. You describe “How many times?” (kobe bryant)
  4. You describe past actions which are still happening now (living in Prague)
  5. You describe very recent actions with the PPS (father supermarket)
  6. You describe “Unfinished time periods” (nothing today)
  7. You use the present perfect simple with other time expressions

And that, dear listeners, is the first topic of today. I want to give you many examples with the following time expressions: just, already, yet, ever, never, still, the first time, always, for and since.

Are you ready? Here we go! 

Just

We use just for recent actions.

I’ve just realised that I made a mistake in this podcast episode. Now I have to correct it.   

We don’t normally use ‘just’ in negative sentences.

Position: before the main verb

Already

We use already to emphasise that something happened sooner than expected.

We’ve already done 26 C2 exam preparation classes on Clubhouse in only 8 weeks. (I didn’t expect this) 

We don’t use it in negatives. Instead we’d use ‘yet’.

Position: before the main verb

Yet

We use yet in questions and negatives as a way of expressing that you think this thing is going to happen. It hasn’t happened but it is going to happen at some point.

I haven’t found the love of my life yet. Or maybe I have. Who’s knows, right?

Position: At the end of the sentence. 

Ever

This emphasises the time period as ‘your entire life’. It’s usually used in questions and the form superlative + I + have + ever + past participle

This is the best svíčková I’ve ever tasted. You remember svíčková from the last episode, right? It’s my favourite Czech dish.  

Position: Before the main verb

Never

Never is, obviously, the opposite of ever but it’s only used in positive statements (to make them negative). For example, when you are somewhere for the first time in your life, you can say 

I’ve never been here before.

Position: Before the main verb

Still

Still emphasises that something hasn’t happened, especially when you expected it to happen earlier.

The bus still hasn’t come. Sounds familiar, right? 

Position: Before the auxiliary verb

The first time

This expression is pretty clear, but it’s used with present perfect simple to emphasise that you are doing something that you have never done before. 

This is the first time I’ve organised a book club on Clubhouse.

Position: Before a sentence using present perfect simple.

Always

This expression emphasises that something has been true throughout your whole life.

I’ve always wanted to live in a beautiful city like Prague.

Position: before the main verb

So far

This doesn’t mean “a very long distance”. It means “this far” or “up to now” or “since we started”.

How many episodes of the podcast have you listened to so far? So far I’ve listened to 4 episodes.

It doesn’t work with negative sentences.

Position: At the beginning or end of the sentence, usually at the end.

For

We use for to say “how long” for a present action that started in the past. It goes with a period of time.

I’ve lived in Prague for 30 months.

Position: At the end of the sentence, before a period of time

Since

We also use this to say “how long”, but it goes with a point in time. A starting point.

I’ve lived in Prague since 2018.

I’ve been interested in the Irish rock band U2 since I was ten years old.

Position: At the end of the sentence, before a point in time (the starting point)

OK, that’s the first part of this double episode. You can now take a break and give your brain some rest. Or, you can start writing down your own examples. Or, you can continue listening to the second part of this double episode. 

It’s up to you.  

Alright, so now I’m going to be talking about the difference between the present perfect simple and the past simple. You’ll get many examples that you can use to create your own examples.

Present perfect simple is about the present. 

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 rules, 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 2020, and so on and so on.

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.

All right, now it’s time for you to start practicing. You can listen to this episode again and pause the podcast to write down your own examples.

And if you didn’t catch everything, just go through the transcript on my website and listen to this again while reading at the same time.

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, that’s it.

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

You’ve been listening to Cambridge Exam Coach. For more information, visit cambridgeexamcoach.com.

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About the author 

Kristian

Kristian is from The Netherlands, but he lives in Prague, Czechia. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam with grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, podcasts or an audiobook.


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