What are Time Expressions for the Present Perfect & Past Simple? Time expressions are signal words give you a clue for the tense that you need to use. For example, if a sentence starts with the words, “Two days ago,…”, we know that the time is past and the action is finished. For this reason, the signal word ‘ago’ is a clue that you will need to use the Past Simple Tense. Keywords such as the examples below can help you complete exercises & tests easily. It’s a cheat sheet for the tenses!
|Time Expressions in English|
|PRESENT PERFECT||PAST SIMPLE|
|so far||at Easter|
|until now||last week|
|just now||last time|
|right now||first time|
|for||when I was 19…|
|over the last weeks|
|these few months|
|Have you ever…|
Click here for EXERCISE practice of time words with the present perfect and past simple tenses.
Be careful with some signal words! There are some signal words such as ever that can only be used with a perfect tense. But note that other signal words can be used with many tenses. For example, although we learn the prepositions of time for and since with the Present Perfect Tense, for can also be used with the Past Simple, Present Continuous, Present Simple and many other tenses.
- I’ve lived in Mexico for 3 years. (I’m still in Mexico).
- I lived in Mexico for 3 years. (I don’t live in Mexico anymore)
- I work for 3 hours every days. (My daily routine)
- I’m staying here for 3 months. (I’m here at the moment but will leave in the future)
As you can see from the example sentences above, for can be used in many different ways.
So pay close attention to the other information in a sentence (i.e. time and if it is completed or ongoing) especially if you are preparing for a test or a quiz!