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Present Perfect

We all know that Turkish learners struggle with the present perfect tense. The key to success in teaching this tense from my experience is to emphasize that this tense deals with the RELATIONSHIP between the past and the present moment. For example, if I cut my hand (past tense), it’s no big deal. I took care of the cut by stopping the bleeding and put a bandage on it, etc. However, if I’ve cut my hand, then it’s probably still bleeding. I need to deal with the situation. I still need to stop the bleeding and put a bandage on if necessary. This is one example among many that can be used.

Another example I like to use is to ask my students if they can read and write Turkish. The answer is yes (hopefully) and then I follow up with asking why. Why is it that you can read and write in Turkish? The students might respond by saying they went to primary school. In fact, they may need a little help with that. However, it is more appropriate to respond by saying, “I’ve been to primary school,” because we are talking about how a past situation affects the present moment, the ability to read and write in Turkish.

One thing to note is that some students will struggle with the past participle, or V3. It’s hard for students already to remember all the irregular verbs. At this point I refer the students to the verb list at the back of Less is More for reference and memorization. For practice, I find the book, Fundamentals of English by Betty Azar to be useful because there are a few exercises that focus on the past participle. Here is an example:

Betty Azar: Fundamentals of English Grammar ®2003 Pearson Publishing

There are many other exercises available that focus on practicing the past participle. Feel free to leave links to these in the comments.

Another thing to note about the present perfect is the use of adverbs. I teach my students about JEANYFSLR, Just; Ever; Already; Never; Yet; For; Since; Lately and Recently. I’ve found that A2 students will with some effort understand these adverbs and how they work with the present perfect. I go through them one by one, and usually do something like this on the board:

JUST: It happened very soon.

EVER: Usually a question, like have you ever …?

ALREADY: It’s finished, but it’s still relevant to the present moment.

NEVER: Haven’t done it ever. Usually used as an answer to a Have you ever question.

YET: In the question form, communicates urgency. In the statement, it’s usually negative and refers to something that you will do.

FOR: Length of time.

SINCE: Start of time, given as a specific point of time in the past.

LATELY and RECENTLY are very similar – they talk about the past that happened no long ago, but here I emphasize how that can be relative to the situation.

A video about this tense is usually helpful, I have found. One video in particular that is useful is from BBC Learning English. It’s freely available on YouTube:

The video has some cheesy humor but it’s effective in showing the students the difference between the present perfect and past simple. It’s also handy in introducing the JEANYFSLR array of adverbs. I usually show this video first, then go over the adverbs with the students.

I hope you found this post helpful. Please leave comments with links to additional materials of feel free to create other blog posts about this topic. Most of my experience has been in teaching this tense to A2 level students, so some of you may have valuable experience teaching this to other levels.