How the present perfect tense works

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    • Written by Chris Tunwell on Tue, Nov 6, 2018
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    Experiences

    The essence of the present perfect tense pulls the verbal expression down, inside us. This movement reflects our experience and even belief and true knowledge, which even in mediaeval times was placed in the heart. The sense we are aiming for is very similar in all of the following three examples:

    • I have visited the Louvre.
    • I believe in aliens.
    • I know it’s true.

    No Details

    The movement physically collapses our lungs. For this reason we do not go into detail, because in simple structures, we can not add extensive information. To add detail of past experiences, we typically use the simple and progressive past tense or use an adverb.

    • There has been a plane crash

    • A Transatlantic flight out of Paris crashed at 7.45 pm, twenty minutes after take off. Nobody was killed …etc.

    Recent Time
    In a similar movement - a slight variation on the theme - the expression is pulled back and released until the present moment ( a figurative positioning in the pronunciation dynamic) the result reflects a recent occurrence; something that has just happened, for example, or an occurrence without precise pinpointing of when. Any details are usually supplied later, again using the appropriate past factual expression (simple or prog. past).

    • I’ve just had lunch.
    • I’ve just seen him.
    What we need to understand for the perfect tenses is that time runs from a past point or infinity until a defined point.

    In grammar, three basic points of time exist:

    • a relative past point
    • a future point: and
    • the present point (which is of course in constant motion)

    In terms of the present point, we can see how experiences and events accumulate in undefined moments. For example:

    • Up until now, I’ve eaten 672 pizzas, 1,202 hot dogs and drank 6,789 litres of Coke.

    When we create a past point, we can then relate events and experiences prior to that point, whether we create that point five seconds ago or hundreds or thousands of years back in time. For example:

    • Before you came in the door, we were talking about politics. (progressive past idea)

    • Before you came in the door, I had thought I was going to spend the evening alone. (Past Perfect Tense)

    A future projected point considers what will either occur or extend until such point, as if looking back from such a fixed future moment.

    • By Friday, I have to finish this job. (Obligation)

    • By Friday I will have finished. (Future Perfect)

    If, on the other hand, we wish to talk about events during a fixed period in the past, we must use the Past Factual tense, using DID, the past form of the modal DO, or the relevant past form, which could be used for both the Preterit and Imperfect forms.

    • In 1970, England didn’t win the World Cup (Preterit) – One off event

    • In the 1970’s, I studied at High School. (Imperfect) – fact over a period of time.

     

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