Notes on the Present Perfect video

watch the Present Perfect video

  • We didn't cover much of the form in the video (focusing rather on usage), so here's what you should know:

    • we use 'have' or 'has' before the main verb: 'have' if the subject is plural, and 'has' if the subject is singular (the exception is that the pronouns I and you both use 'have')

    • many adverbs can come before 'have'/'has', between 'have'/'has' and the main verb, or after the main verb.

    • For questions, 'have'/'has' comes before the subject

    • For negative sentences, 'not' comes immediately after 'have'/'has'.  This is often expressed through the contractions 'haven't' and 'hasn't'.

    • 'Have' and 'has' often come as the back half of contractions ('ve and 's, respectively) with the nouns/pronouns that precede them.

  • We breezed though the common adverbs, so here's a closer look at some of them:

    • The difference between since and for is that since marks the time the action began, while for denotes the duration.  You can change a for expression into a since expression by adding 'ago' at the end.

    • Already is the positive counterpart to yet (which is used in interrogative and negative usage); in other words, they mean the same thing, so which you use depends on whether the sentence is positive, negative, or interrogative.

    • Never is the negative counterpart to ever, which is used in questions.  They don't have a positive counterpart.

  • With the unfinished usage, we often include time expressions involving the current moment, whether they are of short durations or long ones ('this afternoon', 'today', 'this month', 'this century', etc.)

  • Most ESOL resources go by British standards.  Here are some ways that Americans typically use these adverbs differently:

    • Just is acceptable in Past Simple.

    • Already is acceptable in Past Simple.

    • Still is more commonly used as positive and with Present Simple.  It's negative counterpart is anymore.

  • With experiences (answers to "have you ever...?"), we still use Present Perfect even if the subject has only done it once and doesn't plan on doing it again.  We only change to Past Simple once we start talking more specifically about that instance.

  • We use Past Simple for more specifics than just when.  It can be used to ask and answer questions like "how was it?", "who did you go with?", "why did you do it?".  Another way to think about it is that you'd use Present Perfect at the introduction of this topic within a conversation, but any details that you go into after the introduction should probably be Past Simple.

  • The principles in this video are more-or-less the same for Past Perfect and Future Perfect; it's just a shift of perspective, or of timeline.


Notes on Progressive/Continuous Tenses Video

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  • The be -ing form has multiple uses; the video only covers the first two (which are probably the most commonly used):

    • a current unfinished action (one that started earlier but hasn't finished yet) - PROGRESSIVE

    • an ongoing (unfinished) circumstance - CONTINUOUS

    • a definite future plan (usually involving other people)

    • a change (including some normally-stative verbs)

    • an excessive habit (possibly annoying or humorous), often that is characteristic of the subject

  • Using continuous/progressive vs using simple often depends on the context. In describing the same course of events, whether a particular action seems longer or shorter, temporary or permanent, is relative to the scope of the context.

  • Beyond being verbs that are occurring in the moment, progressive tenses are often used in more specific ways:

    • past progressive: a longer action to be interrupted by a shorter one

    • past progressive: constructing the scene of a story

    • future progressive: something than happens in the normal course of events (at which point there may be a simultaneous, possibly proposed, action)

  • Contracted Form – usually auxiliary verb with preceding subject

    • Alternately, aux verb with following ‘not’

    • For positive short answers, don’t use contractions

  • Spelling:

    • drop final -e before adding -ing

    • for most single-syllable words beginning and ending with a consonant, double the last consonant before adding -ing

    • change the -ie at the end of words to -y before adding -ing

  • Stative Verbs are words that are never used with the Progressive/Continuous tenses. By Stative Verbs, we mean certain definitions of these words, as one word might have some definitions that are stative and others that are not. For example, 'dream' pertaining to life-long hope and ultimate goal would be stative ("She dreams of becoming a world-class ballerina."), but dream pertaining to visions during the night is not stative ("He keeps tossing and turning; he must be dreaming about something strange.")

  • In general, verbs that are dynamic do not qualify as stative verbs, at least for that context. For example, 'think' is stative when it pertains to an opinion or viewpoint ("I think tigers are beautiful creatures.") but not when it means 'consider', as it might be growing or changing ("I'm thinking about attending that concert tonight.")

  • All intransitive verbs can be progressive/continuous (all stative verbs are transitive) *we think; let us know if you find examples to the contrary.

  • We often use a continuous verb and a simple verb together in the same sentence, in which the continuous is the longer of the two actions and the simple is the quicker. We tend to use either a conjunction like 'while' or 'as' before the continuous verb or a conjunction like 'when', 'until' before the simple verb.

  • Performative verbs are not used for progressive/continuous tenses. Performative verbs are verbs that don't merely describe the action, but actually perform it as they are said or read. For example, in saying "I apologize for my earlier actions", you accomplish the apology itself. You would not say "I am apologizing for my earlier actions."

  • Since the progressive/continuous usage is dependent upon the context, the context is often stated in the sentence (or in a nearby sentence). This is often done through prepositional phrases of limited time periods (“during the hurricane”). However, placing a preposition before the verb string ('while you were fixing the sink') can turn it into an adverbial clause (think of it as a ‘prepositional clause’) that sets the context for another verb.

  • Progressive/Continuous forms and usage remain even when combined with the Perfect aspect (here, to be takes the form 'been') or the Passive voice (here, to be takes the form 'being', and the main verb in V3).


Notes on the Past Perfect video

watch the Past Perfect video

  • The 'super-past' idea works not only for the Past Perfect Simple tense, but for the Past Perfect Continuous tense as well.  We'll discuss the differences between the two in another video.

  • We talk about flashbacks, but those don't have to be an entire sequence of events; just a single verb counts (and is more likely in most scenarios).

  • Once you jump backward, if you don't return to your base time period immediately (eg. 3-4-1-1-2-4), you may or may not stick with past perfect until you return to the base time.

    • If staying in the super-past will last a while, you could probably use the past tenses instead of the past perfect tenses after the first verb of the super-past sequence.

    • The rules at this point are unclear.  You can decide for yourself by balancing how much clarity the past perfect tenses may provide with how much easier it is to just use the past tenses.

  • On occasion, the first verb of a sentence or passage should be past perfect.  Unfortunately, the way our numbering trick works, it's in the right place sequentially, so those are harder to catch.  Instead, you need to pay attention to key time expressions that go along with that verb - expressions like 'already' and 'never'.

  • If two verbs in a sequence happen very close together and are linked with words lie 'before' and 'after' that very obviously tell us which happened first, you don't need to use Past Perfect (just Past will do).

  • Clauses that serve as time expressions are usually just in the Past Simple form (not the Past Perfect form, even if it happened earlier).  Such clauses often begin with phrases like "by the time", "as soon as", "before", "when", "until", etc. (although the verb phrase that comes next could very well be Past Perfect).  Compare these to instances in which we express the future with the Present Simple form.

  • For more on the form:

    • had is often shortened to the contracted 'd

    • negative verb phrases include not after had (or combined as hadn't)

    • interrogative sentences place the subject immediately after had (and before the main verb)

    • certain adverbs - such as already, never, and just - can be or should be placed between had and the main verb


Related Printouts

Irregular Verbs by Group (letter) (A4)

Present Perfect

  • Present Perfect Timelines (letter) (A4)

  • Present Perfect Time Expressions (letter) (A4)


  • a grouped list of Stative Verbs (letter) (A4)

Past Perfect

  • Time Expressions for Sequencing (letter) (A4)


Next in the Series

Future Forms

We can use present simple, present continuous, will, and be going to to express a future simple meaning. What’s the difference between each of those? It matters whether it’s for plans or predictions

Present Perfect Continuous

The Present Perfect Continuous tense is, as its name suggests, is a merger between the Present Perfect tense and the Past Continuous tense, in terms of both form and usage.  The better we understand the perfect and continuous aspects, the better we understand the Present Perfect Continuous Tense.

tensesErik Arndt