Overview of All English Tenses - Present Tenses Overview - Present Perfect

 

The present perfect always relates the past to the present. This can be through the unfinished past, where we're expressing duration, such as 'I have played football for 10 years,' the indefinite past expressing experience in your life, such as 'I have been to Italy and Spain,' and also to show the present results of a past action 'I have broken my leg.' I broke it in the past and it remains broken in the present. Our final present tense is the present perfect continuous tense. Our example sentence here 'I have been playing football for 10 years' has the structure subject plus auxiliary verb 'have' or 'has' and then a second auxiliary verb here 'being' plus 'verb-ing'; 'I have been playing.' Very much like the present perfect tense, the present perfect continuous relates the past to the present but more focused on the continuity or the duration of the action. It can also be used to express the unfinished past, such as the example here 'I have been playing football for 10 years,' an action that began in the past and still continues in the present.


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Although according to technical linguistic criteria English only has two tenses (present and past), for the purposes of TEFL English has twelve. In comparison to, for example, the Romance languages, English has relatively few tenses, but it has a great deal more than in many other languages (e.g. languages of Southeast Asia and the Slavic languages of Eastern Europe), so English's tense system may be very difficult for some students to understand. Essentially, there are three 'times' (present, past, and future) combined with one of several aspects (simple, continuous/progressive, perfect, and perfect continuous). The simple present tense of English is formed from the infinitive by dropping the 'to' and adding -(e)s to the third person singular form: e.g. to walk, I walk, she walks. It is negated using the negative particle 'not' in combination with the conjugated auxiliary verb 'do' in the present tense: e.g. I do not walk, he does not walk. The question is formed by means of the same conjugated form of 'do' along with subject-auxiliary inversion: I [do] walk --> do I walk?, she [does] walk --> does she walk?. The present tense is used for a variety of meanings, including general facts, habits, and some non-action verbs (e.g. love, believe, want). The present continuous/progressive is used for describing actions or states that are in the process of taking place or developing, or in certain cases of narration, and is formed by using the conjugated form of the auxiliary verb 'be' plus the present participle of the main lexical verb (the form ending in -ing): e.g. I am walking, you are walking, it is walking. The negative uses only the negative particle 'not' as there is already an auxiliary verb, while the future differs only in its inversion of subject and the auxiliary: e.g. I am not walking, he is not walking, is he walking?, am I walking?. The present perfect tense essentially describes actions or states that have been at least begun and possibly also completed in the past, and that have results that continue to the present. It is formed with the conjugated form of the auxiliary verb 'have' plus the past participle of the verb (formed with -ed, but many common verbs are irregular): e.g. I have walked, she has walked, they have walked. Similarly to the present continuous, the negative and question forms only add 'not' and inversion, respectively: e.g. I have not walked, have I walked?. Finally, the present perfect continuous tense expresses an action or state that began in the past and may also continue through to the present, and perhaps on into the future. It is formed with the conjugated form of the conjugated present perfect form of the auxiliary verb 'be' ('have been') plus the present participle of the lexical verb: e.g. I have been walking, he has been walking. The negative and question forms are similarly formed with the addition of 'not' or the subject-auxiliary inversion, respectively: I have not been walking, has he been walking?. The use of each tense involves a deep understanding of several subtleties of meaning that may escape students in the early stages of learning.

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