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Time Expressions - Past or Present Perfect?


The following lesson takes an inductive approach to helping students refine their usage of past simple or present perfect. Focusing on time signifiers instead of conjugation can help students improve their overall understanding of the importance time and context plays in speaking English.

Aim: Improving time signifier recognition and production skills in the particularly difficult area of past simple or present perfect

Activity: Group work finding appropriate solutions using a number of different time signifiers

Level: intermediate


  • Put two category headings on the board: Past Simple - Present Perfect
  • Have students brain storm on the various time signifiers that are used in each tense.
  • Put the time expressions into the correct category on the board and have students copy the exercise.
  • Ask students to provide example sentences for each of the time expressions - signifiers that are on the board.
  • Divide students into groups of 3 -4. Give students worksheet and ask them to decide which time signifiers - expressions can go with which sentences. Make sure to point out that there are a number of possibilities for each sentence.
  • Correct sentences as a class. Follow-up by discussing which time signifier(s) might be best in each case and why.

Present Perfect or Simple Past - Which Time Signifier - Which Sentences?

Choose which of the following time expressions can be used with which sentences. There are various possibilities for each sentence.

Time Signifiers

ever since that time, yet, just, in the last few months, after the course finished, already, recently, so far, that month, yesterday, many years ago, for the past few weeks, lately, when he went to school, since two weeks ago, just last week, two semesters ago


  1. He's arrived.
  2. She's been working very hard.
  3. They bought an Audi.
  4. The weather was really hot.
  5. I was a Beattles fan
  6. Has she finished?
  7. We went on Holiday.
  8. I used to smoke.
  9. He's lived in that apartment.
  10. I've been to the bank.

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