Present Perfect Tense (KS2) Explained For Parents

A father and daughter sit together at the table with pens and paper, they are learning about the present perfect tense.
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The present perfect tense is a complicated label for a simple concept that we are all using all the time.

To create the present perfect tense you combine the present form of the verb 'to have' ('has,' for example), with the past participle of the main verb of the sentence ('worked', for example). So, we might have: 'She has worked at the company for a very long time.'

From Year 3 and Year 4 students will begin to get to grips with the different tenses. We have created this resource so that you'll be well placed to answer any questions your child might have as they learn the tenses.

Past And Present Tenses

Tenses are how language can be used to show when something occurred and whether or not it is still happening. Before we get to the present perfect form it is useful to have a quick reminder of past tenses and the present verb forms, including the past tense and the simple past.

The simple past tense shows an action that occurred and was completed in the past. 'I went to the shops' is an example.

The simple present refers to actions or conditions happening right now. For example, 'the bath is running.'

The perfect present tense is used to show that an action has taken place once or many times before now.

The past progressive tense's use is to indicate continuous action.

Two schoolboys are sitting at a table together looking at a book, they are learning how to use the present perfect tense.
Image © tirachard, under a Creative Commons license.

What Is The Present Perfect Tense?

The perfect present is used when talking about something that happened in the past but is still occurring or has consequences today.

The present perfect is made up of two simple steps. Firstly, 'to have' must be in its present. This is where the 'present' element of the label comes from. So, 'to have' can become 'she has,' 'they have,' 'we have,' or 'I have.'  In this way the action or occurrence becomes continuous.

The second step is to combine the present tense of 'to have' with the past participle of the main verb of the sentence. One tip for ensuring the past participle of a verb form in English is that they normally en in '-ed' or 'd'. For example, 'work' becomes 'worked.'

Here are some examples of the present perfect tense form:

He has finished his meal.

They have completed their homework.

She has travelled the world.

They have constructed a bridge.

The present perfect tense can also be used for occurrences that are not specific to a certain point in time. For example, 'I have lost my bag' and 'she has broken her arm'.

A mother and daughter are sat together learning about the present perfect tense, they have a pile of books in front of them.
Image  feelgoodjunkie from Pixabay

What Is The Past Perfect Tense?

The past perfect tense is similar to the present perfect tense except instead of having the verb 'to have' in the present, we have it in the past. So 'to have' becomes 'had,' for example.

But, we still use the past participle of the main verb. So words like 'studied,' 'visited,' and 'booked' are used. Here are some examples:

I had never eaten spaghetti before coming to Italy.

She could not buy anything because she had lost her purse.

He was told off because he had completed the wrong homework.

The past perfect is very similar to the present perfect but shows that an action or occurrence has finished.

A mother and daughter are lying next to each other looking at an iPad, learning about the present perfect tense.
Image © Racool_studio, under a Creative Commons license.

How Do Children Learn Grammar in School?

In schools, a variety of methods are used to help primary students understand and improve their grammar skills.

Children are learning grammar throughout their time at primary school, beginning with learning to connect two sentences with the conjunction 'and.' By the time they leave Year 6 they have a solid understanding of the various tenses and sentence structures that can be used.

Teachers use a variety of activities, from explaining things on the whiteboard to activities and games. However, it is very common for pupils to struggle with grammar and they often look to parents and carers to support them in their learning.

How Can I Help My Child Learn At Home?

We all lead such busy lives, often leaving little time to give our children the educational support they might need. However, one of the good things about grammar is that it can be practised in a variety of different ways either with your child or for your child to complete whilst you are busy with other tasks.

From Year 2 onward, parents can use online games to help kids practice grammar and tenses. These vary in difficulty and age range but there are some available that are catered towards those in the early stages of KS2. These games are particularly handy for when you aren't able to give 100% of your attention to your child all the time. Many of these games are really fun to use too!

Another thing that parents often try to do is keep on top of their children's language mistakes when they speak. This is not something that people are keen to do all the time, of course, but occasionally picking up on slight grammatical mistakes can nudge your child in the right direction.

For older kids, why don't you write out a list of sentences using different tenses and ask children to identify which tense is being used in each example? Remember: Practice makes perfect!

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