Preparation: Past Tenses
|I worked||I didn’t work|
|You worked||You didn’t work|
|He / she / it worked||He / she / it didn‘t work|
|We worked||We didn’t work|
|They worked||They didn’t work|
“Didn’t” is short for “did not”.
|Did I work?|
|Did you work?|
|Did he / she / it work?|
|Did we work?|
|Did they work?|
Actions finished in the past.
I spoke to him yesterday.
He gave the presentation last week.
She visited the client two days ago.
Questions about the past.
What did you do in Berlin?
When did you speak to the boss?
Did you have a good feeling about the meeting?
A series of completed actions in the past.
I got up, had breakfast and drove to the office.
With the past continuous to show that a short action is interrupting a longer action.
While we were talking, the telephone rang.
We were discussing the contract when the fire alarm went off.
Signal words for the simple past:
Any words indicating past time, e.g. Yesterday, last week, on Tuesday, two days ago, when etc.
Present Perfect Simple
|I have worked||I haven’t worked|
|You have worked||You haven’t worked|
|He / she / it has worked||He / she / hasn’t worked|
|We have worked||We haven’t worked|
|They have worked||They haven’t worked|
“Haven’t” is short for “have not”.
|Have I worked?|
|Have you worked?|
|Has he / she / it worked?|
|Have we worked?|
|Have they worked?|
Unfinished actions (with since and for).
How long have you worked for XYZ? (You still work there)
I have worked for XYZ for 10 years.
I have worked there since 2010.
We often use the present perfect continuous to speak about unfinished actions (with since and for).
How long have you been working for XYZ? (You still work there)
I have been working there for 10 years.
I have been working for XYZ since 2020.
In the UK, the present perfect is normally used for completed action where no time is specified.
Have you spoken to the boss?
I have finished the report.
She has sent the email.
In the USA, the simple past is normally used for completed actions where no time is specified.
Did you speak to the boss?
I finished the report.
She sent the email.
Signal words for the present perfect:
- Since: I have been working for XYZ since 2010.
- For: I have been working for XYZ for 10 years.
- Yet: Have you spoken to her yet?
- Just: I have just finished. (UK) / I just finished. (USA)
- So far: I have drunk three cups of coffee so far this morning.
- Ever: Have you ever been to Australia?
- Never: I have never been to Australia.
- Up to now: I haven’t been impressed with his work up to now.
Sometimes the choice between using the simple past or present perfect is a question of perspective. Look at the following examples:
- I worked really hard today. (Perspective = evening, looking back over the day)
- I have worked hard today. (Perspective = middle of the day, there is still time to work even more)
- I drank four cups of coffee today. (Perspective = end of the day, I will be drinking no more coffee)
- I have drunk four cups of coffee today. (Perspective = middle of the day, still time for more coffee)
- Have you ever been to Thailand? (You are still alive)
- Did Shakespeare ever go to Thailand (Shakespeare is dead; therefore this is finished time)