Present Perfect Tense Guide

The most widely known detail about Present Perfect Tense is that it does not have the exact equivalent in Turkish. For this reason, especially those who are new to English or those who are below the average level that can be defined as ‘’pre-intermediate’’ use either present or past tense even in circumstances that require present perfect tense because they think in Turkish. Although this is not considered a major problem, it can lead to misunderstandings during the conversation. Consequently, it is necessary to stop thinking with the Turkish logic about the present perfect tense and not to think in this way: ‘’it is not like that in Turkish’’

What does Present Perfect Tense mean?

Although it is translated into Turkish as “yakın geçmiş zaman’’, the present perfect tense does not only represent recent past tense but also it is used for situations that start at any time in the past and are still continuing. Therefore, the patterns that we use while we talk about the past describe the ending of an event such as ‘’2 years ago, yesterday, last week’’ should not be used in this type of time.

What are the present perfect tense rules?

Present Perfect Tense is very simple only when you go through the corresponding pattern and do not compare it to your native language. In this type of time, to make a sentence, it is enough to learn the situations in which it is used and to comprehend the sentence structure consisting of 4 elements in total. When you are building sentences with Present Perfect Tense, you should use these patterns step by step:

  1. When the subject is ‘’I’’ ‘’You’’ ‘’We’’ ‘’They’’, “have” is used as an auxiliary verb. Then the third form of a verb and an object follows.
  1. When the subject is ‘’He’’ ‘’She’’ ‘’It’’, “has” is used as an auxiliary verb. Then the third form of a verb and an object follows.
  • The auxiliary verb that follows the subject is always fixed. You can only see the abbreviations such as I’ve, she’s, they’ve in the written or spoken language. However, there is no change in the auxiliary verb in a different situation.
  • In Present Perfect Tense, verbs are always used in their 3rd form. This does not change for the verbs whose 3rd form is the same as the 1st or 2nd form. There is no exception regarding this rule.
  • The object in the sentence is always at the end. Since it is necessary to be aware to not to use time phrases representing the end date of anything like ‘’Yesterday, last month, 5 weeks ago’’ in present perfect tense; most of the time, only the object appears at the end of the sentence. The adverb is not used.
  • The rules of positive, negative or question sentences in English also apply to Present Perfect Tense.

In What Cases is Present Perfect Tense used?

After learning the definition, basic structures and rules of this tense, mostly the most confusing part is where to use it just like the prefix “the” in English. Therefore, starting from its simplest usages and diversifying it gradually, makes this type of tense easier to understand.

Events that have started in the past and are still ongoing: You can use this tense for events that have started in the near or distant past but have not ended in the ongoing process. In Turkish, it is enough to use the present continuous suffix for an action that has already taken place but is still unfinished. However, in English, a completely different sentence structure is used. For example in Turkish, while we say ” Bana ek mesai verdiler, bu yüzden hâlâ çalışıyorum’’ we use only the past and present tense together. But in English, Present Perfect Tense and Present Continuous Tense are preferred for this type of situation. “They’ve assigned me overtime, that’s why I’m still working.” (Bana ek mesai verildi -ancak ek mesai henüz bitmiş değil- bu yüzden hâlâ çalışıyorum.) If the overtime that is assigned is finished and done, the sentence will be “They assigned me overtime, that’s why I worked.”

Examples can be used for situations that happened a long time ago and currently ongoing. In this sentence: “5 yıldır mühendis olarak çalışıyorum.” Only the present continuous time is used. In English, however: “I’ve been working as an engineer for 5 years.” is used (5 yıldır mühendis olarak çalıştım / çalışıyorum.)

As it is seen, the confusion about the Present Perfect Tense arises from the fact that this type of tense expresses two different types of tenses together in Turkish. For an action that is carried out and have been carried out, either only the present continuous or present tense with past tense is used. But to say “yaptım, yapıyorum” in English, it’s enough to say “I’ve been doing”.

While We are Talking About Past Experiences: This type of tense can be used when someone is talking about anything that has already been experienced and is now finished. However, in this case, it is not an important mistake to use only Simple Past Tense. For example, it is not  a huge mistake to use “I was in Cyprus 2 years ago.” instead of “I’ve been in Cyprus before.’’ Since this is the most contradictory part of the Present Perfect Tense for the Turkish language, it is useful to accept this rule as it is and use it without question. Otherwise, as you think within the framework of Turkish grammar rules, it becomes increasingly difficult to use this pattern.

Describing Changes in a Specific Period of Time: This type of tense is also used for situations that are completely different for a while but have reached the present continuous tense with the change. For example; “Her health has been better recently.” (Onun sağlığı son zamanlarda daha iyi oldu.) This type of sentence tells us that the situation was different, but now it has been moving in a different direction and that it is still valid.

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