Past simple, Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous – lesson plan and comments

Aim: students will be better able to use Past Simple, Present perfect Simple and Continuous

Level: Intermediate +

Assumptions: students are familiar with Past Simple and Present Perfect Simple although might not be able to use the two accurately

Speaking#1: Talk to your partner and decide which of the sentences about your teacher below are true (T) and which are false (F). Give reasons why:

IDEA: change the sentences accordingly to fit your professional experience.

  1. I graduated with a BA in English in 2009.
  2. I’ve been an English teacher since January 2008.
  3. I’ve already taught it in 3 countries.
  4. I moved to Holland 2 years ago.
  5. I have never worked outside of Europe.
  6. I’ve been living abroad for over five years.

Speaking #2: Check with your teacher and ask at least two more questions for each example to get more information.

Photo from:
Photo from:

IDEA #2: Before moving to the following activity (Focus on grammar), try first getting your students to change the above sentences to make them true for themselves. They can change the content (e.g. dates, names, places), but not the grammar. I’ve done it a couple of times and it works quite well: gives them additional speaking practice, they have to play with the language and process it. In contrast, in the traditional PPP approach, practice is usually the very last thing you do in class after spending a very long time on rules and controlled written practice, which I’m doubtful helps improve the immediate accuracy. It also steal the pleasure from playing with the language and getting it wrong, without worrying about being correct.

Focus on grammar:

a) Which sentences from exercise 1 use:

  • past simple (PS)
  • present perfect simple (PPS)
  • present perfect continuous (PPC)

b) When do we use each of the tenses? Write PS, PPS or PPC next to the bullet points below and select one of the sentences from exercise 1 that fits the description.

  • for actions which started in the past and continue until now
  • for states which started in the past and continue until now
  • to talk about completed actions at a specific point in the past
  • to talk about completed past actions and experiences in life without a specific time reference

c) how do we make positive and negative sentences in each case? Write the form below using the words: subject, didn’t, haven’t, past participle, been, past simple form of the verb, have, verb +ing, infinitive

Under Creative Commons from:
Under Creative Commons from:
  • PS:
  • PPS:
  • PPC:

d) what about questions?

  • PS: (q. word) +
  • PPS: (q. word) +
  • PPC (q. word) +

e) Which expressions do we use with PS, PPS or PPC? Complete the table below. You can use one expression more than once. Check with the sentences from exercise 1: yet, (5 years) ago, in (1980), last (week), already, never, since, for, the first time, once/twice

Past Simple (PS)
Present Perfect Simple (PPS)
Present Perfect Cont. (PPC)
  1. Written practice: look again at sentences in 1 and write similar ones about your life. Make some of them true and some false.
  2. Speaking #3: Talk to your partner. Ask them questions about their sentences to find out if they’re true or false. Find out more about each event by asking additional questions. Swap roles. IDEA: Tell the students they shouldn’t give away the truth easily. The ‘interrogator’ has to find out which sentences are a lie by asking as many detailed questions as possible. You might want to demo this with the whole class.
  3. Speaking #4: Imagine you’re taking part in a job interview. Think about your experience and abilities, as well as the questions the interviewer might ask you. Role-play the interview twice swapping roles.

    Photo under Creative Commons from:
    Photo under Creative Commons from:

IDEA: don’t allow too much preparation time. The students have already practised talking about their lives during the class. Allow only to write down bullet points or ideas. After all, it’s supposed to be a speaking activity.

Let me know if you decide to do the class. I’d be curious to hear whether it went well. Comment below if you have any suggestions and don’t forget to follow the blog on the right hand side to receive the latest posts by email.


11 thoughts on “Past simple, Present Perfect Simple and Present Perfect Continuous – lesson plan and comments

  1. Great suggestions, thanks! I’m going to do a Present Perfect vs, Past Simple “grammar clinic” soon, and I’ll definitely use these ideas for a guided discovery sheet as well as your speaking suggestions.

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