While I am waiting for the concert to begin, let me tell you the story of Shirley, one of my students.
A Malayali born in Kolkata, Shirley was an adorable child. She has lived in the city ever since. She studied at St. Thomas High School and then graduated in nursing. She worked as an intern at the Christian Medical College in Vellore for a year. Then she returned to Kolkata and worked in a private hospital. But the hospital was shut down in 2011 after an accidental fire killed 95 people, mostly patients. Out of job, Shirley decided to do master’s in Nursing. Two years later, with an M. Sc. (Nursing) on her CV, she joined a nursing college as a lecturer. She has been teaching there so far, but now she plans to migrate to Canada.
A hospital in Toronto has offered her a job provisionally. She applied for and got a passport while she was doing M.Sc. Recently she has applied for a Canadian visa and work permit.
Shirley is an accomplished musician too. She has been learning classical music since she was a child and presently, she performs at concerts. At the moment, I am in Kalamandir, waiting for a musical programme to begin. Shirley is going to perform tonight. Look! She’s just come on stage.
The simple past tense: Most of the sentences you’ve just read are about the past. And the past has been described using three forms. One of them is the simple past. The sentences in this form are:
1. … Shirley was an adorable child and bright student
2. She studied at St. Thomas High School and then graduated in nursing
3. … she worked as an intern …
4. Then she returned to Kolkata and worked in a private hospital
5. But that hospital was shut down in 2011 after an accidental fire killed 95 people …
6. Out of job, Shirley decided to do her master’s in Nursing
7. With an M. Sc. (Nursing) on her CV, she joined a nursing college as a lecturer.
8. She applied for and got a passport …
You would see that in all these sentences, we are treating the past as a closed or completed action (Sentences 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8), event (Sentence 5), or state (Sentence 1). So please remember:
We will now move on to present perfect tenses. Let’s go back to the passage above and turn to the other sentences that have something to do with the past.
1. She has lived in the city ever since.
2. She has been teaching there ever since …
3. A hospital in Toronto has offered her a job provisionally
4. Recently she has applied for a Canadian visa
5. She has been learning classical music since she was a child …
6. Ah! She’s just come on stage
These sentences are in the present perfect simple (Sentences 1, 3, 4, and 6) and present perfect continuous (2 and 5). We use these forms to describe past events that have some connection with the present.
1. She has lived in the city ever since. ð she started living in the past and still lives there
2. She has been teaching there ever since … ð began teaching in the past, she’s still teaching
3. A hospital in Toronto has offered her a job provisionally ð the offer is valid as of now
4. Recently she has applied for a Canadian visa ð her application is under consideration
5. She has been learning classical music since she was a child … ð she’s still learning
6. Ah! She’s just come on stage ð a recent event began a little earlier, which is also a part of the present
I can hear you asking: What’s the difference between the past perfect simple and the past perfect continuous?
Well, you use the continuous form of the present perfect to talk about:
1. An action that began in the past and is still continuing
2. An action that continued for some time and has just ended
1. Shirley has been teaching …
2. She’s been learning music ð An action that is yet to be complete, she’s still learning
3. Shirley looks tired because she’s been working out at the gym ð the action (work-out) is just over
Present continuous or present perfect continuous?
A common mistake committed by many speakers is: Shirley
is teaching at a college since last year. û
As you are connecting Shirley’s present activity with the past (last year), you shouldn’t use the present continuous form here. You say: Shirley has been teaching since last year. ü
Continuous tenses and verbs that talk about states:
You do not normally use state verbs (some books call them stative verbs) like know, believe, etc. in continuous tenses. You do not say: I
have been knowing Shirley since we were
in school. û
You say: I have known Shirley since we were in school. ü
Also, certain verbs like begin, start, etc. which represent one-off actions are not normally used in continuous tenses. For example, you don’t say: She
has been starting to practise yoga.
You say: she has started to practise yoga. ü
Another point to note:
You do not normally use time expressions of the past with the present perfect tenses. For example, you don’t say: She
has applied for a Canadian visa last month. û
The sentence “She has applied for a Canadian visa” is fine if you don’t specify when she applied.
But if you wish to specify the time, you are possibly looking at the past as a completed event and you use the simple past instead: She applied for a Canadian visa last month. ü
The forms are:
A. The present perfect simple:
· I / We / You / They + have + the past participle form of the main verb
· He / She + has + the past participle form of the main verb
B. The present perfect continuous:
· I / We / You / They + have been + the +ing form of the main verb
· He / She + has been + the +ing form of the main verb
1. Choose the correct alternative:
a. Shirley was / has been born in Kolkata.
b. Shirley has lived / lived / is living in Kolkata since her childhood.
c. Shirley has been / was an adorable child.
d. She graduated / has graduated in 2013
e. She has been learning / has learned music, but she believes she has a long way to go.
f. She has got / got herself a passport when she was a student.
g. Shirley has applied / applied for a Canadian visa; she has a visa interview next week.
h. Shirley invited / has invited / is inviting me to her concert next week.
i. Look! Shirley just came / has just come in. Doesn’t she look awesome in her new dress?
2. Correct the sentences if they are incorrect. Put a ü next to a sentence if it is correct.
a. Shirley was always a sincere and hardworking student.
b. In her first job, she has worked sixteen hours a day.
c. The tragedy happened because the hospital owners have not followed safety regulations.
d. A hospital in Canada offered Shirley a job. She will go to Canada if she gets a work permit.
e. Shirley has been knowing her boyfriend since she was in school.
f. Shirley looks awesome in her new dress.
3. Think of your academic / professional career so far. Write a brief note on your own career, roughly in the line of the passage on Shirley.
Sunday, 26 May 2014