Explanation – How To Use The Perfect

How To Use The Perfect

The Mistake English Learners Make

The biggest problems students have with the perfect (in this order) are using the present perfect too much (instead of the past simple), not using the present perfect when they should (and using the present simple or present continuous instead), and not using the past and future perfect when they should (and using the past and future simple instead).
Wrong Ways And Right Ways For Situations In Which Lots Of Learners Would Use The Perfect


“I have gone to the forest last weekend.”
-> “I went to the forest last weekend.”
“I study English for 3 years.” AND “I am studying English for 3 years.”-> “I have studied English for 3 years.”
“I felt good. I slept a lot.” -> “I felt good. I had slept a lot.” AND “I’ll know a lot. I’ll study a lot.” -> “I’ll know a lot. I’ll have studied a lot.”

What To Understand To Avoid These Mistakes

The perfect means that the verb has a result, which can be either because something that happened before somehow caused something somehow important at the moment being talked about (past, present, or future) or because there is a count of the actions of the verb up to that moment.

Practical Tip

Only use the present perfect for counts of actions of verbs up to the moment and OTHER changing, developing, evolving situations.

It’s possible to use the perfect in the present for the other perfect situation mentioned above: where something that happened before (not a count of anything) that isn’t changing, developing, evolving anymore contributed in an important way to a set of circumstances relevant at the moment. But you will practically never be wrong not to. AND, it’s dangerous to try to because unless you’ve had a lot of exposure to English at a very young age, you won’t have a good sense for when it will be right to do this or not. It’s like stabbing in the dark, and there’s really no point. It’s just as good, and right, to use the simple past in these situations.

This only applies to the present perfect though. You do need to use the perfect in the past and the future in these situations. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier then to understand when you should.