1. The simple past is used to talk about completed actions in the past
2. The simple past is often used with expressions that refer to points
of time in the past
|at||4 o'clock/2.12/the end of year/Christmas|
|on||Tuesday/19th March/the 21st/New Year's Day|
|no prepositions||yesterday/yesterday morning/last Monday/next April/a few days ago/ the day before yesterday/when I was young|
Present perfect simple
3. Present perfect is used to talk about a present situation which is
a result of something that happened at an unspecified time in the past.
Therefore we do not use specific time expression such as yesterday, last week, etc.
I have given your article about networking to professor.4. The present perfect is often used with the word just to talk about actions that have taken place very recently. The exact time is not mentioned.
(I gave him your article and he has it now.)
You cannot meet Mrs Jones. She has just left.Notice. The difference between have been and have gone
I am afraid Mrs. Jones as not here at the moment. She has gone to the meeting in Brussels.5. The present prefect is often used with the words ever and never to talk about general life experience.
(She is still at the meeting.)
Anita has been to the travel agent. She has her tickets for USA.
(She went to the travel agent and has returned.)
Have you ever worked abroad.The present perfect with ever is often followed by the simple past. We use the simple past to give more information about completed action, when referring to a specific time or context.
(i.e., In all your life up to now?)
I have never been to China.
(i.e., Not in all your life up to now.)
Have you ever been in Malaysia?6. The present perfect is often used with already and yet.
Yes, I have. I was in Kuala Lumpur at INET'97 when I worked in KPI.
Already is used in positive sentences. It often indicates that something has taken place slightly earlier that expected.
She has already printed this page.Yet is used in negatives and questions. It shows that we expect an action will take place if it has not happened up to now.
(Note. NOT: She has printed already...)
Have you talked to Peter yet?7. The present perfect is often used with prepositions or prepositional phrases indicating periods of time that have not finished yet.
(Note. NOT: Have you talked yet to Peter?)
I have not talked to him yet.
(Note. NOT: I have not talked yet to him.)
This week we have received a lot of enquiries about our new web site.If we are speaking about a situation after one of these time periods, we use the simple past because we are referring to a period of time that has finished.
(The week has not finished yet, and there may be more enquiries.)
Have you seen John this morning?8. Stative verbs + for and since
(It is now 10.30 in the morning; and the morning has not finished.)
Did you see John this morning.
(It is now 3.00 in the afternoon; the morning has finished.)
The present perfect simple is often used with for and since and stative verbs to talk about things that began in the past and have continued up to now.
I have known about the plans to spin off this service from the company. (And I know now.)9. We use for to talk about the duration of a period of time and since to talk about when a period started
|for||ten minutes/six days/two months/three years/ a long time/ages/etc.|
|since||9.30/Monday/the 14th/last week/August/1998/I graduated from university/etc.|
I have been with my department for three years.10. How long ...?, for and since
I have been in Internet technologies since 1992.
To ask questions about periods of time, we can use How long ...? + the present perfect
How long have you been in Amsterdam? I have been here since September / for six months.Note. COMMON MISTAKE: We do not use the present simple tense with for and since to talk about something which began in the past and has gone on up to the present.
WRONG: I am here since January.11. Negatives
RIGHT: I have been here since January.
We can use the present perfect negative to talk about the amount of time that has passed between now and last time something happened.
We haven't received any messages from him for several months / since the last working group meeting.12. Completed actions over a period of time
If we talk about a completed action (particularly if we give details about how much, how many, etc.), we can use the present perfect and since (but not for). We can also use other phrases of duration such as to date, recently, over the past two years, etc. The action itself is finished, but the period of time extends up to the present.
The Commission has launched three new programs since December.Present perfect simple vs Present perfect continuous
13. Unfinished activities
Present perfect continuous is used with for, since, and How long ...? and other expressions of duration (e.g., all month), to talk about activities that started happening in the past and are still happening now. The activity may have been going on continuously or repeated several times.
They have been coordinating network development for 5 years.However, we normally use the present perfect simple with the stative verbs, or about a situation we consider permanent.
(They started coordinating 5 years ago . They are still coordinating network developement.)
I have lived in Kiev all my life (NOT: I have been living ...)14. Finished and unfinished activities
We use the present perfect simple if we are talking about a completed action, particularly if we give details of how much or how many. we use the present perfect continuous when something is still going on.
I've written a report for Peter. (It is finished.)15. Negatives: Present perfect simple vs Present perfect continuous
I've been writing a report about international characters usage. (I am still writing it.)
In the negative, the focus on the present perfect simple is on the amount of time that has passed since something happened. The focus of the present perfect continuous is on the verb itself.
I haven't met him for six months. (The last time was six months ago.)16. Recently finished activities
I haven't been feeling well recently. (This has been continuing for days.)
We use present perfect continuous to talk about an activity that was in progress, but has just finished. Normally there is some evidence.
The ground is very wet. It has been raining.
Summary of Usage:
Simple Past vs Present Perfect vs Present Perfect Continuous
|The Simple Past||We normally use the simple past to
talk about actions that took place at a time that is separated from the
It is used with expressions like yesterday, on Monday, last week, in 1998, etc.
|Last month Vodafon launched
a takeover bid for Airtouch.
He did his PhD at Delft Technical University.
|We can use the simple past and for to talk about something that happened during a period that has now finished.||He lived in Amsterdam for five years; then he came back to England.|
|The Present Perfect Simple||The present perfect is used to talk about the present result of past actions and recent events, and often used with words like ever, never, just, already, yet, and phrases of unfinished time such as so far.||A2000 has cut installation
price for Internet over TV cable network by 30%.
Have you ever tried Swiss wine.
|The Present Perfect Simple + for and since||The present perfect can be used with for
and since and stative verbs, or to refer to actions that are seen
as long term or permanent.
We use for to talk about the duration of the period of time and since to talk about the starting point of an action or state.
|I have been with
my department for three years.
I have been in Internet technologies since 1992.
|It is also used in the negatives with for and since to talk about the last time something took place||I haven't met him for six month.
I haven't been feeling well recently.
|It is used with since to talk about completed action.||The Commission has launched three new programs since December.|
|The Present Perfect Continuous||The present perfect continuous can be used with for and since to talk about activities that have gone on repeatedly or continuously for a period of time, and are still going on.||The Commission has been coordinating network development for 5 years.|
|1999. Compiled by Yuri Demchenko.||