Time Expressions Present Perfect & Past Simple

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
ever ago
yet in 2018
already in December
so far at Easter
until now last week
just now last time
right now first time
recently after
lately yesterday
since before
for when I was 19…
over the last weeks
these few months
right now
How long
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!

Past Simple, Past Continuous or Past Perfect Exercise
English Test: Verb Tenses
Present Perfect or Past Simple Exercise B1


  100 Irregular Verbs In The Past: B1 IntermediateTime Words With The Present Tenses   


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