Sesión 2

Have you ever been in love? When did you meet your boyfriend or girlfriend? When we talk about our life relationships in English, we use both the present perfect and past simple tenses. What’s the difference between these two verb forms? Work on the activities in this session to find out!

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Actividad 1

"We met in the summer..."

"...and we've been together for years."

When we want to talk about life experiences and events in our life, there are two tenses we often use: the present perfect and the past simple. How do you decide which one to use? In this session we're going to show you when to use present perfect and when to use the past simple.

Our example sentences are mostly about relationships. Take a good look - they will be useful later in this Unit when it's your turn to talk about your own relationships!

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Life experiences

When we talk about a life experience, we can use the present perfect. We don't say when the experience happened - we're more interested in the experience than the time or date.

My wife has seen both Sex and the City movies.

If we want to say when the experience happened in the past, we use the past simple.

She watched the newest Sex and the City movie last week.

We often use the present perfect with the words ever and never.

Have you ever fallen in love? No, sadly I've never been in love.

We can answer these questions with Yes, I have. or No, I haven't.

If we want to say how many times we have done something, we can use the present perfect, or we can add a past simple sentence with an expression of time or place.

'Have you ever fallen in love?' 'Yes. I've actually been in love twice.'
'Have you ever fallen in love?' 'Yes, I have. I fell in love twice with different women when I was in Japan.'

Recent past actions that are important now

We use the present perfect when things that happened in the recent past are important now.

Oh no! I've lost my wedding ring... My wife will kill me!

We use the past simple to say when the action happened.

I lost my wedding ring last night...

Past situations that are still happening now

We use the present perfect for situations that started in the past and are still happening now.

I haven't seen my husband this morning. (It is still this morning.)

We use the past simple for situations that started and finished in the past.

I didn't see my husband this morning. (It is this afternoon or evening now.)

How long, for, since

We sometimes use the present perfect to ask questions with how long.

How long have you lived with your boyfriend?

We talk about how long with the words for (meaning throughout a period of time) and since (meaning from a point of time to now - this can be a date or a past simple phrase).

We have lived together for three years.
We've been in a relationship since 2002.
I've known him since we were children.

For completed events, we ask how long questions with the past simple.

'How long did you live with your ex-husband?' 'We lived together for about six years. I moved out when I found out he was cheating!' 

Just, already, yet

We use the present perfect with justalready and yet to talk about recent events. We use just and already mostly in positive sentences. We use yet in negative sentences and questions.

I've just met the most gorgeous man! I wonder if he's single...
'Let's go to the movies tonight, James.' 'We've already been three times this week. I think you're movie mad, Jane!'
He hasn't asked me on a date yet.
Have you decided when to have your wedding yet?

Completed actions in the past

We usually use the past simple to talk about completed past actions. We often include a time reference in these sentences.

I met my wife on 3 July 1990 and we got married in August.
We went on holiday three times together in 1997.
We celebrated our 14th anniversary last August.
Our close friends moved to France three months ago.

To do

Can you tell your present perfect from your past simple? When do we use these forms? Try this grammar quiz to find out!

Present perfect or past simple?

5 Questions

Do you know your verb forms? In each question you'll see a sentence in either the present perfect or the past simple. Can you work out the reasons for the choice of tenses?

Felicitaciones. Has completado el quiz.
Excellent! ¡Muy bien! Bad luck! Tu puntaje :
x / y


Now that you have an idea of when and why we use the present perfect and the past simple, it's time to take a closer look at their forms. Go to the next activity to find out about it!

Sesión de gramática

  • We use the present perfect and the past simple to talk about events and things in our lives.

    We usually use the past simple for completed events or actions. We often include a time reference.

    They met in the summer of '68. They went on their first date a month later. They married in '69.

    The positive form is made with the ending -ed (for regular verbs - irregular verbs have their own forms), the negative is made with did not + verb and the question is made with did + subject + verb.

    We played around at first, then we settled down.
    We didn't think it was a serious relationship.
    Did we expect to get married so soon?

    We can use the present perfect in several ways:

    Recent events in the past

    I've lost my wedding ring!

    Past situations that are still happening now

    She hasn't seen her husband this morning. (It's still this morning.)

    To answer 'How long...' questions (usually with 'for' or 'since')

    How long have you known each other? We've been friends for years.
    How long have you lived together? We've lived together since 2002.