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Past Simple
irregular verbs: see 2nd column of irregular
I spoke
regular verbs: infinitive + ed
I worked

Present Perfect Simple

irregular verbs: form of 'have' + 3rd column of irregular verbs
I / you / we / they have spoken
he / she / it has spoken
regular verbs: form of 'have' + infinitive + ed
I / you / we / they have worked
he / she / it has worked

Exceptions when adding 'ed':
when the final letter is e, only add d
love - loved
after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled
admit - admitted
final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)
travel - travelled
after a consonant, final y becomes i (but: not after a vowel)
worry - worried
but: play - played
In British English, the use of Simple Past and Present Perfect is quite strict. As soon as a time expression in the
past is given, you have to use Simple Past. If there are no signal words, you must decide if we just talk about an
action in the past or if its consequence in the present is important.
Note that the following explanations and exercises refer to British English only. In American English, you can
normally use Simple Past instead of Present Perfect. We cannot accept this in our exercises, however, as this
would lead to confusions amongst those who have to learn the differences.
Certain time in the past or just / already / yet?
Do you want to express that an action happened at a certain time in the past (even if it was just a few seconds
ago) or that an action has just / already / not yet happened?
Past Simple
Present Perfect Simple
certain time in the past
just / already / not yet
I phoned Mary 2 minutes ago.
I have just phoned Mary.
Certain event in the past or how often so far?

Do you want to express when a certain action took place or whether / how often an action has happened till
Past Simple
Present Perfect Simple
certain event in the past
whether / how often till now
He went to Canada last summer.
Have you ever been to Canada? / I have been to Canada
Emphasis on action or result?
Do you just want to express what happened in the past? Or do you want to emphasise the result (a past action's
consequence in the present)?
Past Simple
Present Perfect Simple
Emphasis on action
Emphasis on result
I bought a new bike.(just telling
I have bought a new bike. (With this sentence I actually want to
what I did in the past.)
express that I have a new bike now.)
Signal Words
Past Simple
Present Perfect Simple
... ago
in 1990
up to now
the other day
until now / till now
last ...
(not) yet
so far
lately / recently

Present Perfect Simple

Past Simple

Unfinished actions that started in the past and

continue to the present:
I've known Julie for ten years (and I still know

Finished actions:
I knew Julie for ten years (but then she moved away and we
lost touch).

A finished action in someone's life (when the

person is still alive: life experience):
My brother has been to Mexico three times.

A finished action in someone's life (when the person is

My great-grandmother went to Mexico three times.

A finished action with a result in the present:

I've lost my keys! (The result is that I can't get
into my house now).

A finished action with no result in the present:

I lost my keys yesterday. It was terrible! (Now there is no
result. I got new keys yesterday).

With an unfinished time word (this week, this

month, today):
I've seen John this week.

With a finished time word (last week, last month,

I saw John last week.


Some people think the present perfect continuous is difficult to use, but really it's not very complicated, and it
sounds very impressive when you use it correctly.
There are two main times we use this tense. Remember we can't use it with stative verbs.
1: To say how long for unfinished actions which started in the past and continue to the present. We often use this
with for and since. (See the present perfect for the same use with stative verbs)
I've been living in London for two years.
She's been working here since 2004.
We've been waiting for the bus for hours.
2: Actions which have just stopped (though the whole action can be unfinished) and have a result, which we can
often see, hear, or feel, in the present (focus on action). (See the present perfect for a similar use which focuses
on the result of the action)
I'm so tired, I've been studying.
I've been running, so I'm really hot.
It's been raining, the pavement is wet.
I've been reading your book, it's very good.
We use the past perfect tense fairly often in English.
1: A completed action before something else in the past.
When we arrived, the film had started. (= first the film started, then later we arrived)
2: To explain or give a reason for something in the past.
I'd eaten dinner so I wasn't hungry.
It had snowed in the night, so the bus didn't arrive.
3: Stative verbs only: something that started in the past and continued up to another action in the past.
When he graduated, he had been in London for six years.
(= he arrived in London six years before he graduated and lived there continuously until he graduated, or even
4: As part of the third conditional.
If I had known you were ill, I would have visited you.
PAST PERFECT CONTINUOUS (had been + vb-ing)
The past perfect continuous isn't the most common tense, but it's still useful to know.
Something that started in the past and continued up to another action or event (tells us 'how long')
She had been working at that company for a year when she met James. (This tells us how long something had
continued before another event in the past. We usually use 'for' or 'since' in the same way as we do with
the present perfect continuous)

Cause of something in the past

The pavement was wet, it had been raining. (It was raining before the time I'm describing in the past. We could
see the result of the rain - compare with the present perfect continuous)
Using the words in parentheses, complete the text below with the appropriate tenses:
1. It is already 9:30 PM and I (wait)
five minutes, I am going to leave.

here for over an hour. If John does not get here in the next

2. I was really angry at John yesterday. By the time he finally arrived, I (wait)
almost left without him.
3. Did you hear that Ben was fired last month? He (work)
ten years and he (work)

for over an hour. I

for that import company for more than

in almost every department. Nobody knew the company like he did.

4. I (see)
many pictures of the pyramids before I went to Egypt. Pictures of the monuments are
very misleading. The pyramids are actually quite small.
5. Sarah (climb)
the Matterhorn, (sail)
on safari in Kenya. She is such an adventurous person.

around the world, and (go)

6. Sarah (climb)

around the world and (go)

the Matterhorn, (sail)

safari in Kenya by the time she turned twenty-five. She (experience)

people do in their entire lives.

more by that age than most

7. When Melanie came into the office yesterday, her eyes were red and watery. I think she (cry)