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Present Perfect

This is a series of grammar lesson plans. For an introduction to the series, please click here.

Name: Present Perfect

Time: 1 hour

Prep Time: Time to gather the materials

Materials: You and the students should bring some pictures of places you’ve been. Come prepared with some copies of a map of the city you teach in. The students that don’t bring any pictures can use the maps.

Primary Objective: Teach the use of present perfect for events that started and ended in the past (this lesson is not about for and since).

Other Benefits: Discuss past travel


First Exposure (15 minutes) Show the students several pictures from your past. Describe them with present perfect. (e.g. I’ve been to… I’ve eaten… I’ve danced at… I’ve visited…)

After you’ve said five facts, ask various students questions to prompt them to use the present perfect. (e.g. Where have I been? What have I eaten? Where have I danced? What have I visited?)

Now, say another five facts and ask another five questions. In total, try to use 30+ examples. At the end, ask random questions from everything you said.

Identify the Grammar (5 minutes) Ask the students these questions. Ask follow-up questions as needed to solicit the correct answers.

Which verb tense am I using? Present Perfect

When did these events happen? Sometime in the past, but we don’t know when exactly.

Does it matter when these events happened? No, it doesn’t matter. We’re just interested in the event, not when.

Controlled Use (15 minutes) Have the students complete this worksheet. Then review it.

Explanation (5 minutes) Now, explain to the students that present perfect is have/has + the third form of the verb (usually –ed, but sometimes different like eaten of eat-ate-eaten). We use it for situations that happened in the past, but we don’t know, or we don’t care when.

For example:

A: I’ve baked a cake!

B: When?

A: Who cares!? Let’s eat.


A: Do you want to see The Matrix?

B: No, I have already watched it.

A: When?

B: Hmm, I don’t remember when I watched it.

If we say “when” then we can’t use present perfect to talk about past events.

For example: “I have eaten dinner at 7p.m.” is wrong because we know when.

Free Use (20 minutes)

Finally, with the students’ help, write 5-10 present perfect questions on the board. They should discuss them in pairs, but give more than one-sentence answers. Tell them to just discuss the questions normally and see if they have a chance to use the present perfect. Switch partners for time. Here are some questions you might use.

Where have you traveled?

What have you done that you are really happy about?

Have you ever told a lie?

How have you changed as a person?

What are some good movies you have watched?

Extension: Students should look at each other’s pictures and ask questions in the present perfect. “Have you eaten at this restaurant?” “Have you swum in this lake?” etc.

Homework: Ask the students to write a short essay about their favorite place. They should use present perfect five times in their essay.

Grammar Lesson Plans-Introduction

Grammar Lesson Plans—Introduction

Ah, grammar. If words are the building blocks of a language, then grammar is the cement that holds the words together. Though some teachers may complain that grammar is boring, this teacher has never found that to be true. Moreover, I’ve never felt it from my students. The truth is that students match their teacher’s enthusiasm.

Still, in an effort to help, these lessons will be as exiting as we can make them.

A few words on the whole debate about how or even if teachers should teach grammar.

What debate you say? Well, for one, children learn grammar in their native language quite differently from adults learning the grammar of a foreign language. No one explains the difference between present perfect and past simple to their child. So, how do they figure it out? What’s more, when a non-native speaker gets good at English, they stop thinking about the rules and just speak. Think of a diplomat at the U.N. They’re not worrying about grammar rules as they argue.

So maybe students should spend a whole lot more time using language until it becomes intuitive and a whole lot less time trying to comprehend strange rules they’re going to stop thinking about once they get good anyway.

To all this, I answer that grammar rules are good training wheels that stop being necessary once you get used to them. Students find the rules terribly useful. That said, teachers should take advantage of the human inclination to find patterns in a language (as a child does).

Also, so much depends on the specific student. Is the student trying to map English onto the grammar of their language? Those students will benefit from being told the exact rules. Students who, on the other hand, have been studying languages for years are good at seeing patterns. When you don’t tell them the rules, they’ll teach themselves. The theory is this self-explanation is a deeper, more memorable learning.

At the end of the day, though, students benefit from being told the rules and figuring them out on their own. If both elements are in the lesson, you can adjust the time you spend on each part based on feedback from your students. Like a good dancer adjusts to their partner, a good teacher adjusts to their students. The lessons on this site will try to both help students see patterns on their own and take time to explain the rules more fully (usually nearer to the end, but, we’ll switch it up).