When is the present perfect NOT about the past?

Grammar quirks

Using the present perfect for the future

We usually think of the present perfect as a tense that describes actions that connect the past to the present but it can be used for the future, too. Want to see how? This video will show you ...


Maybe you've been teaching English for quite a while now. And in all honesty, you could teach the present continuous standing on your head. But sometimes do you ever get little quirks of grammar, which come up, maybe in lessons that you don't often see in course books that make you stop, and think? For me, these have often been things which come up from students in classes, where I've thought 'I don't know the answer to that one'. And I've had to go and look it up, think about it, and it's given me a lot of satisfaction when I've come up with the answer. My name is Jo Gakonga, from ELT training.com. And this is a short series of videos on those little quirks of English grammar, which perhaps make you stop and think. This is episode one and it's to do with the present perfect, and how it's sometimes used for the future.

As we all know, the present perfect is usually used as a tense which connects the present and the past. For example, it could be used for experience - I've ridden a camel - sometime in the past in my life not specified when; or for actions which started in the past, and are still true now - I've lived here for 10 years. But we don't usually think of it as a tense which is used for future use. But it can be. Here's an example:

When I've been to the supermarket, I'll call you.

So here we have the present perfect 'I've been'. The meaning here, of course, is that I'm going to the supermarket here, and I'll call you afterwards, presumably when I've got back. This is a first conditional use, you could argue, but usually the first conditional perhaps is used with the present tense. For example,

When I go to the supermarket, I'll call you.

But this has got a slightly different meaning. That means that we go to the supermarket and I'll call you at that time. So there is a difference in meaning here. Of course, because it's a first conditional, we can use other time frames. So we could talk about ‘as soon as I've been to the supermarket I’ll call you’ or 'after I've been to the supermarket, I'll call you’ - something of that nature. And of course, there are lots of other examples. Here's a typical current one,

When I've recovered from this Coronavirus. I'm never going to wear a mask again

After the Coronavirus is finished obviously. Or this one with an IF clause.

If he's been out, he'll need to wash his hands.

As we can see here in the second clause, we've usually got some kind of future form. Here. It's 'will', but it's interesting that we can use the present perfect for the future.

So there we are… the first in the series. I hope that's been of a little bit of interest. And if you've got anything that you'd like to suggest for this series, then please do contact me. Thanks very much for watching. See you soon. Bye

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