English Lesson: Past Vs. Present Perfect

Michael Uncategorized 7 Comments

Yesterday I went to my favorite museum, the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art). I’ve been there many times before, but I still love to go there. I haven’t been there since January, and I am glad I went there this week. There was a special exhibition of guitars. I’ve played guitar since I was a kid, and I spent my childhood surrounded by music.  It was great! If you have never been to the MET, I really recommend it.

Today we will look at the simple past tense vs the present perfect tense. Both of these forms of grammar talk about the past, but they are used differently. Do you know how to use them? Take a look at the paragraph above and then check out today’s lesson:

The simple past is used to talk about events and situations in the past. The structure is the past form of the verb. When we use the simple past, we usually to indicate the specific time the events and situations took place:

  • Yesterday I went to my favorite museum. We know when – “yesterday”
  • I went there this week. We know when – “this week”
  • I spent my childhood surrounded by music.  We know when – “my childhood”

Present perfect has two basic uses. The first use is when we talk about our experience; something that happened in a non-specific time in the past. This is different from the simple present:

  • I have been there many times before. We don’t know exactly when – just “many times before”
  • Joe has never been to the MET. “Never” is some time in the past.
  • Tom has seen Pirates of the Caribbean six times.  We don’t know exactly when those six times happened.

Present perfect is also used to when we talk about something that started in the past and continues to the present. When we use present perfect this way, we use for and since:

  • I have played guitar since I was a kid. I started when I was a kid and still play the guitar.
  • Aki has been in New York for nine months. He arrived nine months ago and he is still here.
  • I have worked at Happy English since October. I started in October and I am still here!

This is the basic idea between these two forms of the past in English. Did I explain that clearly? Have you ever studied this before? I hope you found my lesson helpful! Thanks for reading.

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