The present perfect form can be particularly challenging for teachers to teach and students to learn. This is because in many other languages, the present perfect tense functions differently than it does in English. The main goal when teaching the present perfect tense to English language learners is to get them to understand its two main usages. Follow this easy step-by-step guide on how to teach the present perfect tense and your students will be using it confidently in no time.
How To Teach The Present Perfect Tense
Step 1: The Two Main Uses
To begin the lesson, explain to students that there are two main uses of the present perfect tense; to talk about finished past actions, and to talk about an action that started in the past and continued to the present. Write these two uses as headings on the board and draw a simple timeline below each heading. Students will likely not quite understand what you mean at this point, so it’s time to give them lots of examples to help them grasp these uses of the present perfect tense.
Step 2: Finished Past Actions
A great way to demonstrate this first usage of the present perfect tense is to talk about your past experiences. For example, you can tell students “I have visited many countries.“, “I have been to South Korea and Japan.“, “I have climbed Mt. Fuji.“, etc. Write these examples on the board.
Next, elicit from students the fact that these actions/events took place in the past and finished in the past. For example, you can ask students “Am I in Japan now?“, “Am I still climbing Mt. Fuji?“, etc.
Step 3: Actions That Started In The Past And Continue To The Present
Once students have grasped the first usage, it’s time to teach them the second usage of the present perfect tense. To do this, you can elicit many examples from students. For example, you can ask students how long they have lived in the current country/city you are in (“I have lived in England for 5 years“), how long they have studied English (“I have studied English for three years.“), how long they have known their best friend (“I have known Kelly for 7 years“), etc. Write all these examples on the board so you can refer to them later.
Step 4: Present Perfect Tense Structure
Next, show students the present perfect structure. The present perfect structure is as follows:
subject + have/has + past participle
You may need to explain what ‘subject’ and ‘past participle’ refer to. A great way to do this is to use the examples on the board from steps 2 and 3 and have students identify the subject and past participle in each sentence. Once students understand the present perfect tense structure, swap out the subjects and verbs in each sentence to make new sentences.
Step 5: Ask And Answer Using The Present Perfect
Now students understand the main uses and the structure of the present perfect tense, teach students how to ask and answer questions in the present perfect tense. For example,
T: “Have you been to France?“
S: “Yes, I have.” / “No, I haven’t.“
T: “What other countries have you been to?“
S: “I have been to Spain, Germany, Thailand, and Vietnam.“
T: “How long have you studied English?“
S: “I have studied English for 3 years.“
T: “How long have you lived in this town?“
S: “I have lived here for 2 months.“
Once students understand, have them practice asking and answering present perfect questions with their partner. After 10 minutes, stop the class and ask some students to tell you what their partner said. This way, students can practice changing the subject in the sentence (i.e. “He/She has studied English for 3 years.“).
Step 6: Review With A Quiz
Finally, it’s time to review what students have learned with a fun quiz. You can use the above quiz video or you can find many free present perfect exercise worksheets here.
Thanks for reading. I hope you found this guide on how to teach the present perfect tense useful. Before you go, be sure to check out these related resources:
Present Perfect Games
How To Teach The Present Perfect Continuous
English Grammar Exercises
How To Teach The Present Simple