ENGLISH GRAMMAR TIPS – TALKING ABOUT THE PAST

PAST SIMPLE, PRESENT PERFECT OR PAST PERFECT?

English grammar can be a bit tricky sometimes. Many students get confused when to use the past simple, present perfect and past perfect. With these easy tips you’ll never make a mistake again!

Let’s look at the verb ‘To Eat’

Past Simple:                       Ate

Present Perfect:               Has/Have Eaten

Past Perfect:                      Had Eaten

 PAST SIMPLE

We use Past Simple when the action has finished.

Example 1:  I ate an apple yesterday.
The action happened yesterday, so it is finished! Therefore we use the Past Simple.

Example 2:  I ate fish and chips when I was on holiday in London.
I am not in London now so the action is also finished.

Past simplePRESENT PERFECT

We use the Present Perfect, when an action happened in the past, but the action or the time is not finished.

Example 1:  I have eaten 2 apples so far.
The words ‘so far’ shows us that there are still more apples which I have to eat.  This means that the action is not finished.

Example 2: Have you ever eaten fish?
I want to know if you have eaten fish in your life.  Your life is the time in which the action is happening, and since your life is not yet finished, we use present perfect.

Present perfect

PAST PEFRECT

We use Past Perfect when we want to show that an action happened in the past BEFORE another action also in the past.

Example 1: I was not hungry yesterday afternoon because I had eaten a big breakfast in the morning.
The action ‘I was not hungry’ happened in the past, but the action ‘I had eaten a big breakfast’ happened in the past before the first action.

past perfect

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