Past as Present Perfect - Image via WikipediaBy Sarah Short
Some of the most common errors in English are made by people using the wrong tense. For example, most people are reasonably happy when using the present simple tense or the past simple tense but don't often use the present perfect or the future tenses correctly.
Using the Present Perfect tense correctly is very important because it is one of the most commonly used tenses.
We use it:
· When we are talking about something that has happened, but are not using a particular time. For example, 'A plane has crashed in Essex.' It is only when we put a time to the event that it moves into the past tense. e.g. 'At eight o'clock this morning, a plane travelling from London to Stockholm crashed in a field on the outskirts of Chelmsford.'
· When we talk about finished actions, but the time is unfinished. For example, 'l have had three cups of tea today.' The action of having a cup of tea has finished but today has not finished and l may have another cup of tea.
· When we talk about experiences in our lives, again we are talking about finished actions, but clearly our lives haven't finished, so we are thinking of unfinished time. 'I have lived in Venezuela.' I don't live there now, but at sometime in my life I have lived there. If I use a past time, then l have to use past tense: 'I lived in Venezuela from 1978 to 1982.'
· When talking about past actions that have a present result. For example, 'l have broken my arm.' The action has clearly finished but the evidence is there for everyone to see - result, broken arm.
· When we are talking about an action which started at some time in the past, but is still continuing: 'I have lived here since 2003.' I started living here in 2003 and l am still living here. In the same way, 'I have lived here for eight-and-a-half years.' I started living here eight-and-a-half years ago and I'm still living here.
The future forms are difficult to use accurately because they are flexible and reflect the intentions of the speaker. Most English language learners use will whenever they talk about their future plans, which is incorrect.
Will should not be used for talking about plans made before the moment of speaking. It can, however, be used if a decision is made at the time of speaking, often in response to a question, e.g. 'Would you like a drink?' 'Yes, I'll have a cup of tea please.' You didn't plan to have the cup of tea before you were invited to, but decided to have one after being asked.
For plans already made, to be going to + infinitive verb, or the present continuous form + a future time reference (if the plan is difficult to change because it involves another person) should be used. e.g. 'I'm going to fly to Italy', this shows a future plan, but is easy to change as you haven't bought your ticket yet. Whereas, 'I'm flying to Italy on 10th May', also shows a future plan, but is difficult to change because you have already bought your ticket and would have to cancel it.
So, don't forget, if you are talking about your own plans, or asking about someone else's, you should use these two forms, going to + infinitive verb or the present continuous + future time.
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