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. Actually, this is the first special episode about this special tense.
Before we begin, let me just take a moment to thank my mum and dad. Without their support this podcast wouldn’t exist. So, many thanks, mum and dad.
All right, let’s crack on.
This is an episode all about grammar, specifically the present perfect tense. It’s a difficult bit of grammar to understand and use correctly.
Today 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 future episodes I’m going to compare the present perfect simple to the past simple and the present perfect continuous.
By the way, I highly recommend using the transcript on my website, in order to get the most 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 with your English when using my podcast.
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 simple is used for many other things. 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 simple 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?
Form of present perfect simple
In order to create the present perfect simple, you need to combine have/has + past participle
Now what is the 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. The third column is the past participle.
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 feel completely disconnected. (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.
Now I’m going to show you various different ways how the present perfect simple can describe the present. In today’s episode I’m giving you 3 different examples. In tomorrow’s episode I’ll give you another 4 examples.
Let me just 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 understandable, I’m confident you’ll do better if you listen a second time to this episode while reading the transcript.
So, first example:
1. You describe 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. You describe a life experience
You’re 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.
I’ve been to many places in Prague, but this one is my favourite.
I’ve never eaten svíčková as good as this before. (I’ve eaten this dish many times because I love it, but this particular one is the best of all)
You see how I use examples about my own life? You should do the same when you’re going to practice this fine piece of English grammar. 🙂
3. You describe “How many times?” you’ve done something
You can also talk about how many times you’ve done something with expressions like, 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.
So, that’s it for today. Now you can start practicing the present perfect simple in at least three different ways.
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 future episodes.
Also, you can listen to this episode again while reading the transcript on my website.
Anyway, for now, this is 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 speak to you on the podcast soon, but for now it’s time to say bye bye!
You’ve been listening to Cambridge Exam Coach. For more information, visit cambridgeexamcoach.com.