Friday, March 13, 2009

Present Perfect Tense for ESL Learners

Hello, readers!
Some people think that French and German learners of English are in a much more favored position than Indian learners of English . The reason is obvious . French and German are cognate with English . In other words English bears close similarity to German and French . But truth is sometimes stranger than fiction! . The truth here is that French and German learners of English are liable to make far more mistakes than Malayalam-speaking learners of Kerala , particularly when it comes to the use of English tenses! Present Perfect tense is a good example in point , It is true that there are corresponding verb-forms in French and German ,.The French call the tense Passé Composé .,and its usual verb-form is have+ past participle of the main verb . However, when the past participle has the force of an adjective ,the verb-form is ;is +past participle of the main verb . and the participle agrees with the subject in number and gender . But the French use their present perfect where the native speakers of English would like to use Simple Past . Besides , the French use past time reference with this tense which is not allowed in English For example

Elle est arrivée hier(this is permitted in French)

She has arrived yesterday(this is grammatically incorrect in English)

In German too this verb-form is put to applications different from those in English . Thus present perfect can be a real pitfall for French and German ESL learners! Students from Kerala who learn English from scratch make fewer mistakes in the use of English tenses!

Applications of Present Perfect

Present Perfect is used to indicate an action that is just completed . The word perfect implies that the action indicated by the verb is finished and it is not a progressive one Now a reasonable question might pop up :If the action is finished why is the tense called present perfect.?Strictly speaking, even if an action was completed a moment ago , it belongs to the past . Hence , we have got to find an answer to this question. A sensible answer would be as follows: The action belongs to the past OK, but the effect of the action belongs to the present. Thus this tense is a kind of bridge between the past and the present.There should be two actions to illustrate this tense. One action is the cause and the other the effect . The cause should be expressed in the present perfect tense and the effect can be expressed in present continuous or any other way appropriate to the context.

I am giving below a few sentences by way of illustration .Please remember that the clause representing cause is in red and the effect in blue

1 Shall I get you some tea?
No, thanks .I have had it .

2 We have won. Let us celebrate!

3You have finished your job.Now you can go home.

4. She has completed her course , so she can leave the school.

5 India is proud of him because he has won an Oscar.

6 He has completed 18 years .He is eligible to vote.

7 I have put in 10 years of service . I am now eligible for a promotion

8 Now that you have given up smoking ,your health will improve.

9 You have fully recovered..Yu can leave the hospital

10 All the guests have come .Now we can begin the party.

From the examples given you may have observed the following points:

*Present Perfect is a bridge connecting the past with the present

*The past is always a recent one .If the past is too remote the action's connection with the present would be lost .and, therefore, the use of PresentPerfect would not be justified.

* Past time references are avoided It is because Present Perfect points at present time and past time references would have a contradicting effect!

* Adverbs are placed between the auxiliary and the main verbs

Dear readers, I will continue the discussion in my next post

Thank you

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