пятница, 23 декабря 2011 г.

Perfect Tenses in Action

The use of perfect tenses in everyday conversation sets you apart as an advanced learner of the English language. Perfect tenses are different in that they have no similar structure in the Russian language, and can either be translated into Russian either as the past tense or present tense verbs (see more information here in Russian). Since there is nothing exactly like the Perfect tenses in Russian, Russian speakers of English tend to make the same, very basic mistakes. The good news is you can master this tense form if you realize three important things:

First, Present Perfect is used to describe a situation, an action or a state that started in the past and continues until now. It usually involves an idea of a time span in its core. For instance: I've had this car for 5  years already.  We've always decorated a Christmas tree (since we got married). The span of time can be expressed either explicitly (using for, since, etc.) or implicitly (this is when we usually make the most of our mistakes). In this case we can also use the Present Perfect Continuous tense.

Secondly, the Present Perfect tense describes an action that has just completed. In this case we do not need to  point to the exact time in the past when the action took place, but rather we deliver the news. For example: My parents have come in for Christmas! I've read this book already. Likewise, the "just-completed" action can be expressed explicitly (using just, already, yet, this morning, this month, this year) or implicitly (this is when we need to understand the context very well). If there's a time phrase pointing to the past we use the Past Simple. Compare these three sentences: I had an exam last month. I've had an exam! I've had an exam this morning. 

Finally, we use the Present Perfect tense to describe our accomplishments or state a fact of something that we have or haven't done up to today. For instance: I have won 3 championships. We've been to 5 countries so far. We have never been to Spain. Such accomplishment can either be explicit (use words ever, never, three times, four times, so far, etc.) or implicit (you don't have the words pointing to the use of the tense, but you still use the Perfect Tense).

The best way to see how the Perfect Tenses are used is in practice. I've had a hard time looking for the right kind of a video, have been looking for 3 days actually, and then I realized that the best one would be an interview and - BINGO! The first interview had plenty of Perfect Tenses! So, here it is. Watch it, fill out the gaps and think why the Perfect Tenses are used here. The key is available only for those who are in our OnlinEnglish Grammar network. If you would like to join read here how to do that.

PS: The video is used strictly for educational purposes. Note the use of Perfect Tenses and Past Simple! Also note the use of Present Simple to talk about the events of the past to make your story more interesting and alive.

I was really very excited about it because, basically, the message of the Secret is the message that I 1)_______________to share with the people on my show for the past twenty-one years. That message is that you're really responsible for your life. You are responsible for your life. I 2)____________ this... since The Color Purple. In 1985, I probably told you the story when I did The Color Purple, but in 1985 I did The Color Purple. Prior to that I 3)___________ the book, Larry. This is when I got the secret thing. But then I didn't know it was called the secret. I read the book The Color Purple and then went out and got books for everybody else I knew. And I was obsessed about this story... obsessed about it. I ate, slept, thought all the time about The Color Purple. 

I moved to Chicago. I get a call from a casting agent asking if I would like to come and audition for a movie. I 4)_______________ a call in my life for a movie or anything like that. And I say, "Is it The Color Purple?" And he says, "No, it's a movie called The Moon Song." And I go, "I 5)_________________ for The Color Purple." And I go to the audition and of course it was The Color Purple. I audition, I don't hear anything for months. And I go to this fat farm, and I think it's because I'm fat 'cause I was about 212 lbs at the time. And I think, "I didn't get the call back because I'm so fat." 

And... I'm at this fat farm and I'm praying and crying, saying to God, "Help me let this go." Because I wanted to be in this movie so much, I wanted it, I wanted it, I wanted it. I thought I was going to be in the movie. There's all these signs that I should be in the movie... and I go to this fat farm and I'm praying and crying and as I'm on the track signing the song I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all... I'm singing that song, praying and crying, a woman comes out to me and she says, on the track, it's raining, and she says, "There's a phone call, for you." And the phone call was Stephen Spielberg saying, "I wanna see you in my office in California tomorrow."

Now what I learned from that, and that moment absolutely changed my life forever, because I 6) ___________ The Color Purple into my life. I didn't know Stephen Spielberg, I didn't know Quincy Jones who saw me in Chicago. In 1984 he was there for a lawsuit that was being filed against Micheal Jackson 'cause he 7)_________________ on his Thriller album and he saw me on AM Chicago and said, "That's Sophia." Now I didn't know him, I didn't know anybody that had to do with it. But I knew that I 8)____________ that into my life and it changed the way I thought about my life forever. 

Larry: So you're not surprised at the success of The Secret?

I am thrilled for the success of The Secret. I think that the message needs to go further because I think the mistake that was made with the secret is that they tried to... they... don't know who they are... that they tried that to be the answer to all questions. It's not that. It's just one law, the law of attraction is one law. There're many laws working in the world, but it is very true that the way you think creates the reality for yourself. There are other factors going on ... but you really can change your own reality based on the way that you think.