Saturday, April 7, 2007

Functions of the Present Perfect

Yesterday, I wrote about teaching verb tenses and verb conjugation. The usual order of teaching tenses is Simple Present, Present Progressive, and Simple Past. ESL students are generally OK through these basic tenses. Then comes the Present Perfect… (can you hear the Jaws shark music in the background?).

Here are the three functions of the Present Perfect.

1. Unspecified time
2. Repetition
3. Started in the past and continues until the present, may or may not continue into the future (there just isn’t a short way to describe this function)

Function 1: Unspecified time

The Present Perfect can be used to describe something in the past when we don’t know when it happened or when it happened is not important. For example, “I’ve traveled to Brazil.”

Compare the Present Perfect usage to the Simple Past. “I traveled to Brazil in 2004.” The Simple Past is used when a time is specified. The specified time could be "this morning," "yesterday," "at 6pm," "when I was a child," etc.

The "unspecified time" function of the Present Perfect tense is often confused with the Simple Past tense.

Function 2: Repetition

The Present Perfect is used to describe something that has happened many (or a couple of) times in the past. For example, “I’ve traveled to Brazil many times,” "I've eaten at that restaurant twice," "John Grisham has written a few books."

Function 3: Started in the past, continues until now, and may or may not continue into the future

For example, “I’ve watched All My Children since 1970.” This tense can often be replaced with the Present Perfect Progressive when emphasizing duration. “I’ve been watching soap operas since 1970.”

Note: This is a general overview of the three functions of the Present Perfect. Use a good grammar textbook, such as Azar’s, Understanding and Using English Grammar,to fully prepare your Present Perfect tense lesson plan.

You can also visit my ESL Verb Tenses page for more info about all English verb tenses.


Unknown said...

Dear Debra,

Thank you for the tips about the present perfect. They have helped me.
Silvia C.S.

Unknown said...

Hello Debra,
your practical description of this
tense helped me a lot, specially
now since I'm starting giving
classes...Isa Cepeda from Monterrey,
Mexico. Have a wow-day!

Anonymous said...

LoL... I loved the "Jaws shark music" thing.
By the way, nice tips.

Colombia - South America

Unknown said...

Thank you for giving me an information. That's sk important and very useful for me :)