Present perfect tense – finished versus up to now time

Posted on Apr 26 2014 - 3:48am by Zdenda

There have been many different attempts to explain the difference between the past simple and present perfect tenses to learners of English. I have tried to do this for example in my posts on present perfect basics, Present perfect tense vs Past simple or present perfect infographics.

In the textbook New Inside Out pre-intermediate they try to introduce the concept of “finished” and “up to now” time expressions. I think, it is not a bad way to distinguish between the past simple and present perfect tenses.

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According to the textbook, finished times are a the expressions which refer to a period or moments that finished in the past and are not connected to the present (for example, yesterday finished several hours ago and this is not connected to now). On the other hand, up to now time expressions refer to periods which are somehow connected to the present time (for example, today is still going on till this moment).

Then the theory is quite simple. If you use a time expression for finished time, use past simple tense. If you use a time expression for up to now time, use present perfect tense.

Present perfect tense – a mind map

Here you can see the mind map which explains the differences between finished times and up to now times.
finished and up to now times
The finished times are just the points on the timeline. On the other hand, the up to now times are connected to the present moment.

Present perfect tense – games

In the first activity your task is to divide the times into two categories. On the first slide tick all the expressions for finished times and on the second tick all the expressions for up to now times. If you are successful you will get an opportunity to play the game Hot race.
Present perfect tense – quiz and Hot race
In the second game your task is to choose the correct option and then if you are successful you should shoot all the bad ducks.
Present perfect tense – On target

English Learning Magazine

At our sister site englishlearningmagazine.com we have published a new text on Prague. There is a text and a quiz to check your comprehension. It is mobile phones friendly, so give it a try.

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10 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. aisha 26/04/2014 at 4:27 am -

    Great. Use your site a lot since i am teaching grammar instead if lit for the first time. İ appreciate short, effective posts. Hate sordu posts.

  2. addau 26/04/2014 at 6:48 am -

    We are really enjoying all the contributions

  3. Zdenda 26/04/2014 at 7:40 am -

    Thank you.

  4. Andrew 26/04/2014 at 11:09 am -

    Teaching and learning the present perfect is a lifetime’s work! A couple of oddities occur to me which don’t quite fit into this otherwise informative and reliable “masterplan” – proving, once again, that the exceptions prove the rule!
    “It’s the first time I’ve done this.” – may actually refer to an action in the “up to now” time which hasn’t yet taken place! I suspect this is an elliptical and much neater way of saying “It will be the first time I’ll have done this.”
    “For several days” – can equally refer to finished time or “up to now”, so that phrase would in both categories.
    We might ask someone “What did you do today?” or “What have you done today?”, depending on the time of day or the finished/unfinished period of the day (e.g. working hours/the trip to the seaside) we are referring to.
    And L1 always influences the learner’s grasp of the present perfect – German and especially Spanish speakers would regard “It happened a second ago” as odd, since it is very recent past and a tense equivalent to the present perfect would be preferred; French speakers only use their passé simple (pastsimple) in written language and Polish speakers only have one past tense!
    Food for thought…

  5. Zdenda 26/04/2014 at 5:01 pm -

    I agree with you. I do not believe that there is a universal rule. That is why there have been three posts so far on Present perfect here. And I will produce at least two more soon.
    Maybe then all the mind maps and rules will create the whole picture, or they might not.

  6. Paul 27/04/2014 at 7:03 am -

    Hi, just passing on some comments that we received at TE – they may or may not be right, just to let you know!
    ‘There are a few mistakes. Years ago is finished time, not up to now. And over the years is up to now, not finished time.’

    ‘Why there is whites people only thre it means black people they don,t bother them selves to get information or to learn more’ (I’m not sure if this is about this mind-map, other mind-maps or whether it’s about you at all…..just passing it on :))

    ‘Hi. Sorry, but there are some mistakes in the quiz. Could you check it again?’ (No details mentioned)

    The other 98 comments were positive 🙂

    Thanks for posting,

    Paul

  7. Paul 27/04/2014 at 7:17 am -

    Hello again,

    Apologies, the comment about white people and black people seemed to be about the visitors commenting on the site, and I’ve removed it.

    All the best, Paul

  8. imane 27/04/2014 at 6:26 pm -

    very useful, thank you 🙂

  9. Zdenda 28/04/2014 at 2:34 am -

    Thanks Paul. I will check the quiz and correct it. I will have a look at the mind map again. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to see the mistake I have made.
    Thanks

  10. lara 19/06/2014 at 7:45 pm -

    thats very useful. i like it

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