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Past simple or present perfect

Posted by Edyta Kadula on 10-Sep-2017 09:00:00

Tenses in English can be confusing. There are different ways to talk about the past and today we will look at the difference between the simple past and present perfect tense.

Simple Past

We use the past simple to describe an action or fact that started and ended in the past at a specific point in time.

  • I studied English at Celtic English Academy last week.
  • I lived in London 5 years ago.
  • I watched TV yesterday.

Present perfect

The present perfect tense describes an action or fact that is relevant to the past and now. The perfect tense is a bridge between these two periods in time.

Experiences: When we want to ask about someone’s experiences we usually use the present perfect. Because, we are interested in the answer now, but the action was in the past.

  • Have you ever studied English abroad?
  • Yes, I have. I went to summer school 2 years ago.

Notice: when you say the exact time, you switch back to the past simple.

  • I have lived in Spain, Italy and Portugal. Now, I am living in Cardiff.

Notice: the action of living abroad was in the past, but I am thinking about where to live now. Importantly, I do not say when I lived in those countries.

Actions that are not finished: When an action started in the past, but continues to now, we use the present perfect.

I have lived in Cardiff for 3 months. I enjoy living in this great city.

I have studied English since 2010. Now I am in the upper intermediate class.

Notice: The actions started in the past, but they have not finished. They continue to the present time.

Test your knowledge. Put the verb in the present perfect or past.

  1. I____________(not /go ) on holidays last year.
  2. She __________(be) to London many times.
  3. What time _______ (wake up) yesterday?
  4. I_______ ( not/ visit) Cardiff yet.

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Topics: Study English

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