Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don’t make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!
It’s that time again! Another episode of your favourite grammar-based quiz show! Who will our two new contestants be? Whoever they are, they’ll have to face that trickiest of all grammar differences: The present perfect and past simple tenses! When do you use which and why are they so confusing? Who are these two ladies dressed in white? Why do they make the hair on Leslie’s neck stand up? Why does Will feel so uncomfortable? Is it the grammar? Find out all in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow!
Present Perfect vs Past Simple
The present perfect simple is formed using have / has + a past participle verb. The difference between the present perfect simple and past simple is not always easy to understand. Much of it relies on context and what the speaker thinks is important or relevant. The bottom line is, the present perfect is used when past actions or states are important or connected to the present in some way. This could be past actions with present consequences, announcing new information, or the continuation of something from the past to the present.
Past actions with present consequences:
Tim has gone to France, so you won’t see him today
You’ve worked in Spain. Can you translate this email for me?
Announcing New information:
I’ve just passed my driving test! Would you like a lift?
A British sprinter has become the fastest man in the world. This is BBC News.
Continuation of something from past to present:
He’s lived in London since 1993.
They’ve worked as accountants for six years.
After using the present perfect to introduce a context, we often use the past simple to talk about that context in more detail, such as using follow up questions.
A: Has anyone ever been to France?
B: I have.
A: Amazing! When did you go?
B: I went about 8 years ago.
A: Did you have a good time?
A: She’s worked here since she was 18.
B: When was that?
A: It was about 10 years ago.
The present perfect is associated with a number of adverbs, many of which mean ‘at some or any time up to now’. A useful way of remembering some of them is to use JEANY: Just, ever, already or always, never, yet! That said, there are other adverbs, such as for, since, lately and recently. These are the most common, but not all of them.
He’s just finished taking his exams.
Have you ever flown an aeroplane?
I’ve already eaten, thank you.
He’s always been keen on football.
She’s never ridden a bicycle?
I haven’t arrived yet, but I won’t be long.
They’ve worked here for 32 years.
They’ve worked here since 1983.
I haven’t been to the gym lately.
He hasn’t attended school recently.
Time: No time
The present perfect is often used without a time word or where no specific time is mentioned. In these cases, the speaker is generally thinking of a time period meaning up to the present.
I’ve eaten, thanks. (I ate recently and I am not hungry now)
Has he ever been snowboarding? (In his life up to now)
Time: Unfinished and finished time
The present perfect cannot be used with a time word which represents finished time. If the time is finished, we must use the past simple – except in very exceptional circumstances. If the time period is currently unfinished, we can use the present perfect simple. In some cases, whether the time is finished or not is a matter of personal judgement and either the present perfect or past simple could be used.
I went to the cinema yesterday.
I went to the cinema this morning. (Said in the afternoon)
I’ve been to the cinema this morning. (Said at 11am)
I’ve had a nice day so far today. (Said at 5pm)
I’ve had a nice day today. (Said at 9pm – is the day finished?)
I had a nice day today. (Said at 9pm – is the day finished?)
For more information, a quiz and other episodes, visit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/course/tgg/unit-1/session-30