Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody. My name is Alisha. In this lesson, I'm going to talk about some differences between the present perfect and the past perfect. These are two commonly confused grammar points. So, in this lesson, I'm going to compare the uses of these two tenses, and I'm going to give some example sentences that I hope show the different ways that they are applied. So, let's get started.
I want to begin this lesson by talking about present perfect tense. I made a diagram here. This diagram shows primarily two uses I want to talk about in this lesson of present perfect. First though, let's read the explanation here. We use the present perfect tense to express actions that started in the past and continue to the present, so present means now, or the effects of the action continued to the present. So, this explanation shown visually might look something like this, these two lines that continue from the past to the present. So, here is a timeline. This star represents now, this direction is the future, back here is the past. So, we use present perfect tense to describe actions that start, if this is my starting point, that start in the past and continue to the present. We can also use it to describe actions that start in the past and the effects of that action continue to the present. This is the first point.
We can also use this grammar point with the progressive form or the continuous form of a verb. Remember, this is the I-N-G, the -ing form of a verb, for emphasis on the continuing action. So, if you really want to show that something has been continuing and will continue perhaps after your conversation, so this helps show the action will continue into the future, you can use that -ing form of a verb.
We also use the present perfect tense for life experience at an unspecified point in the past. So, unspecified means it's not clear when the action happened, or it's not important when the action happened. We just want to express life experience. On a timeline, this might look something like this. The dotted lines represent sometime in the past. We don't know exactly when, but there was life experience, something happened. We use this for like travel, job experience, and so on. We can also make a negative here to show no life experience in the past at some point or at any point in the past.
So, with these points in mind, let's look at some example sentences that show us how present perfect tense is used. First example sentence, "I have been to France." This is a very basic present perfect tense sentence. This is actually a simple life experience statement. So, I mentioned we use the present perfect tense for life experience. "I have been to France" shows us that at some point in the past, the speaker had the experience of visiting France. So, as I said, this is a very basic sentence that uses present perfect. To refresh, when we make present perfect sentences, we use "have" or "has," depending on the subject, like, "I have" or "she has," "he has," plus the past participle verb form. Here, we're using "I" as our subject, "have," my verb is "be," so the past participle form is "been." "I have been," in this case, "to France." So, this refers to a simple life experience.
Let's take a look at another example. "She has been studying English for three years." Here, we see a verb is used in the progressive form. So, this shows it's an action that is continuing. In this case, we have some more information. So, this action has continued for three years. This means at the point in time at which this conversation happened here, "she," in the situation, this other person, "She has been studying continuously for three years." So, let's imagine this point in time in the past is her start point, her study start point. "She has been studying for three years." So, this time period is three years. That's what this sentence tells us. "She has been studying." Here, you'll also notice that this pattern follows this pattern, I mentioned earlier, "has been." And then the continuing action or the progressive verb here follows this past participle verb form. So, this shows us the continuing action. We can use "for" or we can use "since" in patterns like these.
Okay. Let's move on to another one. Here, "He has been sick for a week." So, here, we're talking about a condition. So, we can't use "sick" as a verb. We can't say "sicking." That doesn't work. "He has been sick." So, "sick" is describing a person's condition, the status of their body. It's not talking about an action. He's not doing something, it's his condition. We want to express that this condition started in the past, in this case for a week. So, this point in the past is a week ago, "he has been sick." So, maybe we could say like, "He was very sick here and then he got a little bit better," but we wouldn't really be so specific in everyday conversation about that. We would probably use something like this, "He has been sick for a week." So, this shows us maybe there were some effects of his sickness perhaps that continued. We can guess, based on our own experiences, maybe what this means. So, "He has been sick for a week" shows us someone began the sick condition here and it continued for this period of time. It may continue, but we just talked about this point in time here. And because it's not an action, just using this simple phrase is perfectly natural.
Okay. Let's move on to one more example sentence that uses present perfect. This one, it's a negative. "I've never written a book." This "I've" is "I have." I'll come back to this in a moment. I mentioned that we use the present perfect tense to talk about life experience and no life experience. This is a situation that describes no life experience. "I have never written a book." So, when we include "never" before a past participle verb in this pattern, it means no life experience at any time in the past. "I've never written a book." This sentence, "I've written a book," means at some point in the past, I had the experience of writing a book. This, however, means no experience.
I mentioned this point right here, this "I've." One pronunciation point for present perfect tense is about this reduction, this shortening of sounds. When we're using "have" as in "I have" or "we have," we make a "ve" sound in fast speech. "I have" becomes "I've." "We have" becomes "we've." When the subject, however, is "he" or "she" or "it," for example, "he has" or "she has" is reduced to "he's," "she's." So, there's this "s" sound that happens here. In this case, I've used "I've." So, please keep this point in mind. We'll see something different with the past perfect tense.
So, this is a refresher on present perfect tense. If you'd like to know more about present perfect tense, there are some other videos on the English Class 101 channel that you can check for some more example sentences and some more detailed explanations.
So, let's compare this to past perfect tense. Again, I have a diagram here of the present, now, the future and the past. One key difference that you can maybe see quickly is that here, all of the situations involved, everything in this situation is in the past. So, we're not talking about the present here. Everything happened in the past. Here, we're talking about the relationship between the past and now. So, keep this in mind. These sentences can be used to talk about things that happened in the past continued and then stopped at a certain point in time.
So, let's look at the explanation. We use past perfect tense to express actions that started in the past and continued to a specific point in the past. So, this is an action, yes, or it can be a condition. So, for example, we talked about a person being sick. That's a condition. That's a good example of a condition or a state. So, started in the past, continued to a specific point in the past. Maybe something happened, something changed it, or we just want to note that this is an important point in the past. I'll show some examples in a moment.
We can use past perfect with the progressive, again the I-N-G form of a verb. We use this, we tend to use this with "when" plus a past tense verb, like a clause that uses a past tense verb. And we do this to show an interrupted action. So, the image here is an action is continuing, continuing, continuing, and we use past perfect to describe that action. Something happens, we use "when" to mark that point. And then we add a past tense verb clause to show the thing that happened. So, again, I'll show an example of this in a moment.
Finally, we can use this for life experience that was true in the past. So, maybe something has changed, but we want to talk about something that was true in the past, or that happened in the past, or a condition in the past that maybe is different or kind of is important to talk about in relationship to experience now. It's a complex point. So, let's look at some examples that use this.
First, "I had been to 10 countries by my 25th birthday." So, let's break down this sentence. Here, I begin the sentence with my past perfect phrase, "I had been." So, here, we see a similar pattern with the present perfect tense. We're using the verb "have," yes, but because it's past tense, past perfect tense, we need to conjugate, we need to change this verb to past tense. So, to make past perfect tense, we use "had" plus the past participle verb form. In this case, "I had been."
Okay. So, "I have been to 10 countries," this is reflecting a past condition, past life experience, "by my 25th birthday." So, "by" can mark a point in time. It's like up until this point in time. So, here, let's look at this in terms of our timeline. We know "by my 25th birthday" is the key point in time in this sentence. And we see past perfect tenses used to explain this condition. "I had been to 10 countries." So, this is my life experience. So, we can imagine this is the speaker's 25th birthday here. Before this time, or rather by this point in time in this person's life experience, he or she visited, "had been to 10 countries." So, we use past perfect to show that. So, this is useful if you want to tell a story or you're talking about gradually gaining life experience. So, the speaker is talking about their 25th birthday. This suggests this is a past point in time. So, this is how we might explain these kinds of life experiences and gradually learning and growing and doing other things.
Let's look at another example. Here, an interrupted action. "We had been working on the project for three weeks when it was suddenly cancelled." So, here, we see one of the big hint words I mentioned, this "when," as I talked about here. "When" comes before a simple past tense statement. In this case, passive. It was suddenly cancelled. So, here is my past tense portion. Here, I'm using "we had been working." Here's my past perfect portion, again with progressive. So, this shows an action that was continuing. "We had been working on the project for three weeks when it was suddenly cancelled." So, "when" marks the point of change in a continuing action. So, this is something, maybe our team was working continuously on. Here, the project was suddenly cancelled. We use "when" to mark that interruption or that stop point.
So, we use this with the progressive tense because there's an actual action happening. We wouldn't use, like, "I had been traveling to 10 countries." That sounds like a person was continuously moving from country to country and it doesn't sound natural at all. We just want to talk about life experience here. This sentence, however, shows us that the action was continuing, like non-stop. "We have been working," this was a continuing theme, but it was interrupted. Our interruption is marked with "when" and a past tense clause.
Okay. Let's go to one more, kind of complex one. Again, this uses a negative. I talked about this negative over here, "I've never written a book." Let's look at how we might use a negative with past perfect. "I'd never eaten sushi before I visited Japan." So, here, another pronunciation point. I mentioned we use "ve" and "s" when we reduce the "I have, he has" patterns in present perfect tense. When we use past perfect tense, we have a similar reduction. But because we only use "had," we just make a "d" sound. "I had" becomes "I'd." "We had" becomes "we'd." There's a small "d" sound.
So, "I'd never eaten sushi before I visited Japan." So, here, we have right here a good hint, past tense situation, a past tense clause. So, "before I visited Japan." So, here's a key point in time. So, the speaker has had the experience of visiting Japan. So, here, "visited Japan." Before that, the speaker did not have the experience of eating sushi. So, we express that with, "I'd never eaten sushi before I visited Japan." You might hear some people say, "I'd never eaten sushi before visiting Japan." That's also okay. But the key point here, we're communicating lack of experience in the past before this more recent experience. So, we use past perfect to do this, to show these relationships between past situations, between past actions, past conditions, and so on.
So, when we want to be very specific about our timeline, we can use past perfect and simple past tense to do that. So, a really good rule is if you're telling a story, a past tense story, something that happened in the past, and you want to show the sequence of events, use simple past for the most recent action, use past perfect for the action further in the past, and try not to put too much information in one sentence. Two items is great. So, if you want to do it like this, it's very clear. But if you have too many actions in one sentence, it can get very confusing. So, again, that hint is use past perfect for actions further in the past, like the furthest action in the past, past perfect. The more recent action, use simple past tense to talk about that.
So, this is a quick introduction to the differences between past perfect and present perfect tense. I hope that you found something you can use, and I hope that it helps you in telling your stories more clearly. Of course, if you have any questions or comments, or if you want to practice making some sentences or stories, feel free to do so in the comment section of this video. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye.

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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Wednesday at 07:09 AM
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Hello Kayo,


Thanks for the comments. ๐Ÿ˜„


The correct way to say those statements are:

- "I have been to 10 countries since my 25th birthday" or "I have been to 10 countries before my 25th birthday"

- "I'd never eaten sushi before I visited Japan"


I hope this is helpful to you. ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ‘


Please feel free to ask us any questions you have throughout your studies.


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Kayo
Monday at 08:27 AM
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The example sentences "I have been to 10 countries by my 25th birthday" and "I'd never eaten sushi before I visited Japan." Are these the same mean as "I have been to 10 countries before my 25th birthday" and "I'd never eaten sushi by I visited Japan"?

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Friday at 12:14 PM
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Hi there Rehman,


Thanks for taking the time to write to us! ๐Ÿ˜„


Please stay tuned, as weโ€™re always updating new content on our website! ๐Ÿ˜„โค๏ธ๏ธ


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rehman
Thursday at 10:50 AM
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very easy way.great

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Monday at 10:20 AM
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Hello Luis,


Not sure I understand what you want to do. We have our lessons here for our English students, so I hope you can enjoy them.


If you ever have any questions, please let us know.


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Eva

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Luis
Saturday at 12:23 PM
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I know that videos here are for personal use. I had read the Terms of Use, but not at all. I try to upload one for private and personal use only on my social media, because its capacity is look unlimited and to see how its work. I want to know if you would agree?

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Saturday at 08:56 AM
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Hello Daniel and Sulleyman,


Thank you for taking the time to comment on our site!


It's wonderful to have enthusiastic students!


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Daniel
Saturday at 04:14 AM
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Very useful remind

Suleyman
Friday at 08:31 AM
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Your expectations is very clear, thank you so much

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Thursday at 03:24 PM
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Hello Cesar,


Thanks for sharing your new skills!๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„


We are constantly updating our lessons so please stay tuned!


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