Present Perfect Simple

Teaching 9-15 years old students I usually use this presentation:

Present Perfect Presentation by Jose Salazar

My absolutely favourite tense – probably because we don’t have it in Polish (only present, past and future, easy peasy, hrhrhr). It takes some time for poor students to get it, so I usually tell them the things they have to learn by heart:

  1. Present Perfect is a present tense (EFL books comparing it to Past Simple great mystery of teaching?)
  2. This tense is a parasite

It appears that once you paraphrase ‘Pr.Perf. is about past actions with present consequences’ with ‘Pr. Perf. tells us about present consequences of past actions’  it gets easier to remember (importance of emphasis, I guess). To make this fishy tense easier to get I use the following ways:

  • The Pirates of the Carribean

Do you remember the Black Pearl ship? If so, imagine YOU are Black Pearl and suddenly a wild Kraken attacks! Its tentacles crashes you in the deadly embrace and death is near. Now – are you more concerned with those tentacles or maybe you ponder on where did this kraken come from? The pressing issue of tentacles seems more important, right? And this is Present Perfect itself: you are not worried where did an action happened (ie. where did the kraken come from) but what are its consequences (or, in this case, tentacles).

  • Zombie attack! (or Monster Under the Bed version)

You’re home alone, suddenly you hear knocking on the door. Convinced that it’s your family or friends, you open the door… but there’s a real live (or rather undead) zombie which doesn’t waste time but attacks you grabbing your limb and chewing it enthusiastically (scrumptious, don’t know why children love this part). I don’t think you worry about the beginning of zombie apocalypse, but rather focus on your limb (or lack of it if you think really slowly). And that is Present Perfect again, thinking about the consequences of your rather unwise action of opening the door without asking ‘who’s there’. Nice story + a good lesson for children to check before they open the door and be prepared for zombie apocalypse.

Sometimes I change zombie for a Monster Under the Bed, story is the same, it depends on students’ choice (which story do you want?).

I must admit that students’ general comprehension of this tense has improved since I started using those stories. The next important issue is that Present Perfect is a parasite, always relying on another tense, never to exist alone. When are the consequences of Present Perfect visible – at present: I’ve stupidly opened the door and now a zombie eats my limb/ Kraken has attacked me and now I’m crashed in its deadly embrace. Even if you don’t say the consequences explicitly, they are always there.

Now, these are my ideas of presenting this fantastic tense (I really love it and feel its lack in my native language). What are yours? Maybe you use some games or websites?

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7 thoughts on “Present Perfect Simple

  1. Hello,

    thanks for a nice blog. I teach adults, so these techniques are not really appropriate for them, but what I do to use Present Perfect is that I usually make a comparison with Past Simple. I made a PP presentation with pairs of seemingly identical sentences, e.g.

    They went away. They have gone away.
    It was a good holiday. It´s been a good holiday.
    I lived in Bali for 5 years. I´ve lived in Bali for 5 years.
    She lost her key. She´s lost her key.
    Shakespeare wrote many plays. Danielle Steel has written many novels.
    Did you see Ann this morning? Have you seen Ann this morning?

    Speaking from my own teaching experience I can tell that it helps to grasp the meaning of this tense (which doesn t exist in our – Slovak – language) and clearly distinguish it from Past Simple. I hope this also helps other ESL teachers and good luck in everything.

    1. Thanks for nice examples, I also have classes with adults and I’ve started covering Present Perfect with them. The zombie stuff somehow worked but next classes I’ll definitely use your examples, that will be great 🙂 Thank you for sharing 🙂

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