Teaching the present perfect tense is not easy and that is hardly surprising. Although the present perfect is a present tense, it is mainly used to talk about events that happened in the past. This can be quite confusing for ESL learners. Consequently, they tend to use the past simple in cases where the present perfect is required.
Before you start teaching the present perfect tense, make it clear that the past simple and the present perfect are not interchangeable. Of course, in a few cases they are both possible, but these are exceptions rather than the rules. For example, the past simple and the present perfect can both be used to give news of recent events. The past simple just happens to be more common in American English.
There was an explosion near the castle. OR There has been an explosion near the castle.
The present perfect refers to the unknown or unspecified past. The past simple refers to a specified or known time in the past.
Once you have introduced these concepts, you can start teaching the present perfect tense. Give examples with regular verbs. Since regular verbs have past and past participle forms ending in –ed, they are unlikely to cause much confusion.
I have finished working on that project.
They have accepted the invitation.
Once they become familiar with the structure of the present perfect tense, teach them to make questions and negatives.
She has not yet returned from work.
Has she returned from work?
Write some affirmative sentences on the board and ask students to change them into questions and negatives.
The adverbs already, just, ever, never, for and since
These adverbs are very common with the present perfect tense. While teaching these adverbs, don’t forget to mention where they go in a sentence. Already, just, ever and never usually goes after the auxiliary verb and before the main verb. Ever is mainly used in questions.
I have never been to Australia.
Have you ever been to Australia?
If there are two auxiliary verbs, the adverb goes between the two.
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