Simple Past or Present Perfect?

The Rule

The action started in the past and ended in the past = simple past
The action started in the past and still going into the present = present perfect

  • We have talked on the phone every Sunday for the last two years. (Implied: We will talk on the phone again next Sunday.)
  • We talked on the phone every night. (Implied: We don’t any more.)
  • When I was young, I loved candy. (Implied: I don’t love candy any more.)
  • I have always loved candy. (Implied: I still do today.)
  • Did you like Star Wars? I don’t know, I have never seen it. (Implied: up until now I have not seen it, but I may see it one day.)
  • I didn’t see Star Wars until I was 10. (Implied: but I saw it when I was 10.)
  • I haven’t seen Star Wars since I was 10. (Implied: I saw Star Wars when I was 10, but have not seen it again until now.)
  • I was fired from my job and I never saw it coming. (Implied: I didn’t see it coming, but now it has happened and it is past.)
  • My sister has been to London 5 times. (Implied: She may go to London again.)
  • I’ve forgotten my password! (Implied: I cannot open my email today.)
  • I forgot my password! (Implied: but now I remember it.)

Simple Past or Present Perfect

In, On, or At?

IN, ON, or AT Geographic Location

When speaking about geographic location, IN is used to indicate big places, for example:

  • Big, as in IN a country: We live IN France. The statue of Liberty is IN the USA. There are many languages IN Europe. You can buy nice jewelry IN Paris. There are nice old houses IN the Bronx.
  • ON is used to indicate smaller places. There is a bakery ON my street. It’s impossible to park ON this avenue. Many birds live ON the Amazon.
  • AT is used to indicate very specific locations such as: I will meet you AT the intersection. She’s already AT the store. I have pet birds AT my house.  You can let dogs loose AT this park.

Date and Time

The same usage of IN, ON, and AT happens with date and time.

Big: There was a lot of industrial development IN the 19th Century. I visited Africa IN 2016. I take my vacations IN July. It’s not surprising to have rain IN the first week of March.

Small: I will be in New York ON my birthday. They do fun activities ON the weekend (Watch out! They say “AT the weekend” in England). I talk to my mother ON Mondays.

Smaller: He always has a sandwich AT lunch. She drinks coffee only AT breakfast. Let’s meet AT noon.

These rules do NOT work 100% of the time. There are EXCEPTIONS such as: “in the evening”, “in the afternoon”, “in the morning”.

Simple Past

In English we use the Simple Past to express the following:

An action started and ended in the past.

I took a long walk yesterday.

Negative: I did not take a long walk yesterday.
Interrogative: Did you take a long walk yesterday?

Yesterday I spoke to my mother, decided to visit her, but realized that my car wouldn’t start.

Negative: Yesterday I didn’t speak to my mother, I didn’t visit her, and I didn’t realize that my car wouldn’t start.
Interrogative: Did you speak to your mother yesterday? Did you visit her yesterday? Did your car start yesterday?

A duration that started and ended in the past.

I lived in America for 18 years. (What are the negative and interrogative forms?)
They watched TV all day yesterday.

A habit that started and ended in the past.

When I was a child I was afraid of the dark.
He always cleaned his car on the week-end.

General statements about the past.

Phone calls used to cost a lot of money.
She hated mushrooms before she moved to China.

The active / passive voice.

Active: The snake bit the man.
Passive: The man was bitten by the snake.

The Past

Yes / No Questions

Most Yes / No questions start with an auxiliary

  • Do you like your new teacher? (Yes, I do / No, I don’t)
  • Can you help me? (Yes, I can / No, I can’t)
  • Have you been to England? (Yes, I have / No, I haven’t)
  • England: Have you got the time?  (Yes, I have / No, I haven’t)
  • America: Do you have the time? (Yes, I do / No, I haven’t)
  • Old construction: Have you the time? (Yes, I have / No, I haven’t)
  • Did you visit your cousin in New York? (Yes, I did / No, I didn’t)
  • Are your from France? (Yes, I am / No, I am not)
  • Is this common? (Yes, it is / No, it is not)


Let’s play 20 questions. I am thinking of something, try to guess what it is by asking me 20 questions. For example: Is it an animal? Is it mineral? etc.

Yes or No

Ask Me Some Questions

Ask Me Some Questions Based on the Following Statements

  • I go to bed at 10 PM.
  • My favorite food is cheese.
  • My dog doesn’t like cats.
  • I like to go to Spain on holidays.
  • You are reading a science fiction novel.
  • I take the metro to go to work.
  • My parents have lunch at 12 noon sharp!
  • They speak Spanish really well.
  • Susan goes to work every day.
  • He thinks smoking will not hurt him.

Question Everything

Mistakes French Speakers Commonly Make in English

Incorrect Correct Why?
I have played tennis yesterday. I played tennis yesterday. You did it. It ended. You need the simple past.
I can’t play now. I do my homework. I can’t play now. I am doing my homework. You are still doing it. It’s continuous.
I live in London since last year. I have been living in London since last year. You are still living in London. It’s continuous.
I will tell you as soon as I will know. I will tell you as soon as I know. Time clauses introduced by “after”, “as soon as”, “until”, “when” do not take the future tense.

Why is it “I have been living in London since last year” and not “I live in London since last year”? Because with SINCE you have to use the Present Perfect: the action started in the past. In French you use the present in that case “J’habite à Londre depuis…” but not in English!

Mistakes French people make in English

For, Since, and Ago Advanced Practice

This exercise is advanced because you need to choose between For, Since, and Ago and also find the tense that makes sense with the meaning of the sentence.

They started waiting 30 minutes ago.
They are still waiting.

She became a doctor last year.
She is still a doctor.

He started going to this restaurant 5 years ago.
He still goes to this restaurant.

I bought a dog in 1995.
I still have a dog.

Fred arrived at 6 o’clock.
He’s still here.

Alice fell ill at Christmas.
She is still ill.

The shop opened this morning.
It’s still open.

He went to Paris a week ago.
He’s still in Paris.

He started playing video games 6 hour ago.
He’s still playing video games.

He finished school in June.
He’s still looking for a job.

For Since or Ago (3)

For, Since, or Ago?

FOR = DURÉE + verbe au prétérit, present perfect simple ou present perfect continu. On ne sait pas quand la durée a commencé ou la durée est approximative. Par exemple, “il y a deux ans” pourrait être deux ans + trois semaines, cela est considéré comme une durée “vague”.

SINCE = DURÉE QUI CONTINUE + verbe au present perfect. On sait quand la durée a commencé.

AGO = DATE + verbe au prétérit.

Memorize common expressions such as “for a long time” and “for a few months”, “a long time ago” because they never change.

Let’s practice!

  1. He left two years ……………..
  2. He’s been working here ……………….. two years now.
  3. She stayed with him ……………….. two days.
  4. She’s been working with us ………………… last year.
  5. They got married twenty years ……………..
  6. They’ve been married ………………. Twenty years.
  7. They’ve been married ……………….. 1985.
  8. I’ve been learning English ……………… 8 years.
  9. She’s tired because she’s been driving ……………….. this morning.
  10. She’s tired because she’s been driving ……………….. 6 hours.
  11. This passenger has been sick ………………….. she came on board.
  12. He has been blind ……………………. birth.
  13. It’s been raining ………………… two days!
  14. I have lived in the same house ………………….. 10 years.
  15. I have lived in the same house ………………… 2005.
  16. I have been at this school …………….. 3 years.
  17. We’ve been waiting for the train ……………… noon.
  18. I haven’t seen my neighbor …………………. last week.
  19. I’ve been working here ………………… the beginning of the year.
  20. She’s been sick …………………… over a week.
  21. He’s been learning English ………………… a long time.
  22. My mother has been working at the bank ……………………. she graduated from the University.
  23. You’ve been studying …………………… half an hour.
  24. He’s lived in this apartment ……………………….. he was a young man.
  25. I haven’t seen my friends ……………………… I left home.
  26. The snow came down ……………… over 10 hours!
  27. I haven’t slept …………………… 20 hours.
  28. I haven’t slept ……………………….. Tuesday!
  29. ……………….. when do your parents let you borrow their car ?
  30. We haven’t been to the cinema ………………… ages.
  31. How long have you lived in the United States? (one year)
  32. How long has Mary been a nurse? (April)
  33. How long has Karen known Tom? (1979)
  34. How long have they studied English? (a few months)
  35. How long has Karen played tennis? (a long time)
  36. How long has he worn glasses? (1975)
  37. How long has Emily played the piano? (high school)
  38. How long will you be on vacation? (three weeks)
  39. How long have you driven a car? (my birthday)
  40. How long has Ron had his new computer? (last month)
  41. How long has she owned the book shop? (ten years)
  42. How long has Gary played football? (several years)
  43. How long have your friends been in town? (Monday)
  44. How long has Mrs. Smith lived on Clark Street? (many years)
  45. How long has the post office been closed. (five o’clock)

For Since or Ago (2)

For or Since?

FOR = DURÉE + verbe au prétérit, present perfect simple ou present perfect continu. On ne sait pas quand la durée a commencé ou la durée est approximative. Par exemple, “il y a deux ans” pourrait être deux ans + trois semaines, cela est considéré comme une durée “vague”.

SINCE = DURÉE QUI CONTINUE + verbe au present perfect. On sait quand la durée a commencé.

Let’s practice!

1. Which is correct?
a) for a long period
b) since a long period
2. Which is correct?
a) for 6 years
b) since 6 years
3. Which is correct?
a) for 1992
b) since 1992
4. Which is correct?
a) for 6 weeks
b) since 6 weeks
5. Which is correct?
a) for 8 months
b) since 8 months
6. Which is correct?
a) for 10 minutes
b) since 10 minutes
7. Which is correct?
a) for a long time
b) since a long time
8. Which is correct?
a) for ages
b) since ages
9. Which is correct?
a) for March 18
b) since March 18
10. Which is correct?
a) for the end of last year
b) since the end of last year
11. Which is correct?
a) for I joined the firm
b) since I joined the firm
12. Which is correct?
a) for 10 hours
b) since 10 hours
13. Which is correct?
a) for 10 o’ clock
b) since 10 o’clock
14. Which is correct?
a) for the beginning of the year
b) since the beginning of the year
15. Which is correct?
a) for a six month period
b) since a six month period

For Since or Ago (1)

How to Say Numbers in English

Being able to say numbers correctly is an important part of having effective conversations with customers and suppliers. Please review the rules and we will do the test (at the bottom of the page) together.

The Rules

Numbers from one to a million

1 one
21 twenty-one
84 eighty-four
100 a/one hundred
200 two hundred
432 four hundred and thirty-two
1,000 a/one thousand
1,001 a/one thousand and one
1,100 one thousand one hundred/eleven hundred
2,000 two thousand
2,932 two thousand nine hundred and thirty-two
3,100 three thousand one hundred
100,000 a/one hundred thousand
1,000,000 a/one million

Saying a instead of one

You can say a hundred and fifty (150), but NOT two thousand a hundred and fifty (2,150). Say two thousand one hundred and fifty. People often use a instead of one in conversation, but it is better to use one in technical contexts.

Ways of saying the number 0

In a series of numbers:
You can pronounce 0 like the letter o, when you are giving a series of numbers such as a credit card number or a flight number. (See also the sections on phone numbers and road numbers).

In dates:
Say oh in giving the name of a year, such as 1904 (‘nineteen oh four’).

In mathematics, science, and technical contexts:
British English: Say nought or zero.
American English: Say zero.

Fractions and decimals


½ a half
two and a half
¼ a quarter
¾ three quarters
American English also three fourths


0.5 British English nought point five
American English zero point five
2.5 two point five
0.25 British English nought point two five
American English zero point two five
0.75 British English nought point seven five
American English zero point seven five


Days and months:
Write 3 June/3rd June/June 3/June 3rd. Say ‘the third of June’ or ‘June the third’.

Writing dates as numbers
3/6 (or 03/06) means 3 June in British English, and March 6 in American English. British and American speakers put the month and day in different orders.

Saying the numbers of years

1066 ten sixty-six
1605 sixteen oh five
1776 seventeen seventy-six
1900 nineteen hundred
1999 nineteen ninety-nine
2000 (the year) two thousand
2001 two thousand and one



These are some common ways of saying amounts of money. British speakers talk about money in the following way:

45p forty-five p or forty-five pence
£1 one pound
£1.50 one pound fifty or one fifty
£2 two pounds
£2.55 two pounds fifty-five or two fifty-five
£100 a/one hundred pounds
£115.99 a hundred and fifteen pounds, ninety-nine p/pence
£250 two hundred and fifty pounds or two fifty pounds
£2,682.74 two thousand six hundred and eighty-two pounds, seventy-four p/pence

American speakers talk about money in the following way:

45¢ forty-five cents
$1 a dollar
$1.50 a dollar fifty
$2 two dollars
$2.55 two dollars and fifty-five cents or two fifty-five
$100 a/one hundred dollars
$115.99 a/one hundred fifteen dollars and ninety-nine cents or a/one hundred fifteen, ninety-nine
$250 two hundred (and) fifty dollars or two fifty dollars
$2,682.74 two thousand six hundred eighty-two dollars and seventy-four cents

Phone numbers

Say phone numbers as series of numbers, with pauses between the groups of numbers. For example, say 08081 570983 as oh eight oh eight one, five seven oh nine eight three.

British English: For phone numbers like 5155, people often say five one double five. For numbers like 1555, people often say one treble five or one five double five.

American English: People often say ‘area code’ before the first part of the number, which represents the area where they live; for example, area code five five five, six three two, nine eight two one (=(555) 632-9821).

Test: Can You Say these Numbers?

  1. When were you born?
  2. What year were your parents born?
  3. What year were your children born?
  4. What’s the date today?
  5. What time is it right now?
  6. How much money do you wish you had in your bank account?
  7. What’s your office phone number?

Some Numbers About the Eiffel Tower

Number of Steel Workers who worked on the Eiffel Tower: 300
Number of Workers Killed during Construction of the Eiffel Tower: 1
Number of Rivets used in the Eiffel Tower: 2,500,000
Number of Steel pieces used in the Eiffel Tower: 18,038
Height: 300.51 meters (986 feet) (+/- 15 cm depending on temperature)
1st level – 57 meters
2nd level – 115 meters
3rd level – 276 meters
Height including television antenna: 320.755 meters (1052 feet)

Weight: 7,000 tons (1,000 tons removed during 1990’s renovation)

Some Numbers about Commercial Airplanes

On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights, 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights.

The A380 has about 4,000,000 parts, with 2,500,000 part numbers produced by 1,500 companies from 30 countries around the world.