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VI. The Present Continuous vs. the Present Simple

The Present Continuous is used to denote: The Present Simple is used to denote:
something that is happening at or around the time of speaking; I am reading Harry Potter. things in general or things that happen repeatedly; I read a lot.
temporary situations; You are working hard today. - Yes. I have got a lot to do. permanent situations; John works hard most of the time.
annoying or surprising habits; My neighbour is always playing the piano. habits, character traits, abilities; She plays the piano.
personal arrangements; What time are you leaving tomorrow? timetables, programmes, etc. What time does the train leave?



I. The Formation

All the forms of the Present Perfect are analytic. They are formed by means of the Present Indefinite of the auxiliary ''have'' and Participle II of the notional verb.

In the interrogative form the auxiliary comes before the subject, Participle II following it.

In the negative the corresponding negative forms of ''have'' are used, Participle II following them.

  • I have spoken.
  • Have you spoken?
  • I have not spoken.
  • Haven't I spoken?
  • Have I not spoken?


II. The Use.The Present Perfect has three uses.

1) The Present Perfect is used to express an action already completed before the present situation but connected with the present situation in its consequences (the Present Perfect Exclusive). We can often change a present perfect sentence into a present sentence with a similar meaning. It is not important/known for the speaker when, where or under what circumstances the action took place.

· I have torn the paper in two (=The paper is torn in two).

· I have come (=I am here).

· Have you read the Bible? (=Do you know the Bible?)

· I have milked a cow three times!


Thus the Present Perfect Simple is often used:

a) to describe someone’s life experience and say how many times somebody has something done up to the present: I have written six letters since lunchtime./I have never been to Spain.

b) to announce news on TV, radio or in letters or to introduce a new topic of conversation. After announcing news, we usually use the Past Simple to give more details.

· Uncle George has crashed the car again. He ran into a tree in High Street.

· Joe has passed his exam. He got 87%.

· Oh, I’ve cut my finger! – How did it happen?

· I am sorry I haven't written before but I've been very busy lately as Tom has been away. We have carefully considered the report which you sent us on 26 April, and have decided to take the following action.

· - Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, where have you been?

- I have been to London to look at the Queen.

- Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, what did you see there?

- I saw a little mouse under her chair!

c) with other present tenses with report/comment verbs or phrases (guess, imagine, suppose, etc.). We also use it when commenting on the present result of something in the past (usually with appear, seem, sound, etc.).

· I reckon Gloria’s been held up in traffic. Do you suppose they have forgotten they’re meant to be here?

· He sounds as if he has run all the way here.

· It seems they’ve already decided without consulting us.

Note 1: The Present Perfect is frequently used with the adverbs 'just, already, yet, so far, recently, lately, ever, often, seldom, never, still, once, twice, three times'. Mind that we use already with the affirmative and yet with the negative and in questions. Mind that we can use already in questions to show great surprise: Wow! Have you washed all the dishes already?

2) The Present Perfect is used for an action which lasts throughout an incomplete period, i.e. it began in the past and continued into the present (the Present Perfect Inclusive).

· He has been in the army for two years. (He is still in the army.)

· It has been very cold lately but now it is getting warmer.


Note 1: Its use is compulsory with verbs which cannot be used in the Continuous form.

· I have loved her since she was a child.


Note 2: The Present Perfect is preferred to the Present Perfect Continuous in negative sentences.

· It hasn't rained for two weeks. (cf. It has been raining for two weeks.)


3) The Present Perfect is used in adverbial clauses of time and condition to say that the action of the subordinate clause will be accomplished before the action of the principal clause.

· I won't leave till you have answered me.

Note: Sometimes the Present Simple is found in this type of clauses in the same meaning of the verb. With durative verbs the Present Perfect is necessary. With terminative verbs the use of both forms is possible.

· I can tell you everything when I have tried the machine.

· Mother will stay at home until we return/have returned.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 1777

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