GYG Day 16: Simple past vs present perfect

“What did you do ……..?” vs “What have you done at the weekend?”

Blogging grammar on Monday morning is hardcore, I know, but if you’ve been following Teatime Titbits recently, you will know that we are doing a 50 day Grow Your Grammar challenge. Welcome to week 4 & day 16. Let’s go! As it is Monday, you may spend some of your day chin-wagging with colleagues about the weekend.

So here’s a little question for you. Which do you use – the left or the right? Drum roll ….. the LEFT one, of course. The weekend is over (in the past), signalled by the ‘at the weekend’.

The “have … done*” form (Present Perfect) (*3rd form (past participle) of ‘to do’ (see 3rd column of any verb list in any dictionary, grammar book) or as I call it the ‘Past Present’(PP), as my name says, has something to do with the past and the present – something started in the past and continues to today.

It is very difficult because you don’t have such a tense in German, even though your past tense (haben gesehen) could be mistaken for the PP (have seen).

To make life a little easier, I revamped the tense name (Past Present) to make it clearer that it has to do with both the past and the present. I offer so-called ‘signal words’ to serve as aide – memoires. If this tense confuses you, then this week is just for you.

Let’s jump in with the first set of signal words:

How long, for (period of time), since (specific time) – when an action is still ongoing.

“How long have you worked for XYZ company?”

“I have worked for XYZ company for 5 years / since 2011.”

That means, you joined 5 years ago and you still work there now.

N.B. The German translation:

“Wie lange arbeitest Du bei der Firma XYZ?“

“Ich arbeite bei der Firma XYZ seit 5 Jahren.“

See how you use the German present tense !!!!!!!!!. Is it any wonder then that the ‘Denglish’ version is:

“How long (do) you work for XYZ company or are you working …?”

“I am working / I work for XYZ company since 5 years.”

Here are some other examples, with this CORRECT construction:

Present partner:

“How long have you been together/been* married?”

“We have been together for 7 years”.

*3rd form of ‘to be’

Present home:

“How long have you lived in Münster?”

“I’ve lived* in Münster for 10 years.”

*the long ‘have lived’ in often shortened to “I’ve (lived)”

Present car:

“How long have you had your BMW?”

“I’ve had* it for 6 years now?”

* seems strange maybe, but it’s correct.

Recap. See how all the headlines talk about “PRESENT Thingybob”, however, these thingybobs started in the past and are still ongoing now, today – the PRESENT.

Hope it helps a little!?!? Stay tuned for the next instalment of the PP saga.

to chin-wag (plaudern), tense (Zeitform), to revamp (hier: etw ausbessern), aide – memoires (Eselsbrücke), to confuse sb (jdn durcheinander bringen), “Is it any wonder then that..”? (Ist es da noch verwunderlich, dass), to recap (etw wiederholen), thingybob (Dingsbums), stay tuned (Bleiben Sie dran), instalment (Fortsetzungsfolge)

For more help, check out units 11 and 12 in the English Grammar in Use.

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*these are affiliate links, so if you buy the book through this link, I will receive a small commission and no extra cost to you. Thanx 4 your support.

To recommend (empfehlen), commission (Provision),

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