3 Things to remember when reading a newspaper

Photo by Jon S
Newspapers are great for ESL learners

As an English as a Second Language learner, there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind when you read the newspaper.

1. Not everything in a Newspaper is grammatically correct

When you read a quote in a newspaper chances are that what’s in the quote probably isn’t grammatically correct. Writers use made up words sometimes to emphasize their point.

2. Newspapers use many expressions

Expressions are  hard to understand when you are new to a language, so be sure to  write expressions down and check them on the internet to find out what exactly they mean. You can use these expressions to showcase your skills in the PSC exams.

3. Newspapers use fancy words

Fancy words in a newspaper can make the message unclear, so check definitions of words that you don’t know. It will help you increase your vocabulary and clarify the message. You can use the new words you have learned in an oral conversation to help remember the new word.

A couple of my favourite newspapers are The Globe and Mail and The Montreal Gazette.

Present Perfect

Present perfect is a tense that we use very often when we are speaking.


We create affirmative present perfect sentences by have/has + past participle.

  • e.g. have seen
  • e.g. have gone
  • e.g. have got
We create negative present perfect sentences by have/has + not + past participle.
  • e.g. have not seen
  • e.g. have not gone
  • e.g. have not got
We create present perfect questions by have/has + subject + past participle.
  • e.g. have you  seen?
  • e.g. have you gone?
  • e.g. have you got?

There are a couple different ways we use present perfect:

  1. We use it when something started in the past and continues until now. e.g. I have worked at Ford since 1950.
  2. It can also be used to talk about something that finished at non-specific time in the past. e.g. I have seen Avatar before.

Errors to avoid

These two ways often get mixed up. Sometimes people use present perfect when they should use simple past.
  • e.g. I have seen Titanic last night.  (incorrect)
  • The above example is wrong because  it has a time reference in a present perfect sentence.
  • e.g. I have seen Titanic. (correct)
  • The above is correct because it does not specify the time.
A common mistake that French people make is translating French into English. What happens is passe compose is translated into present perfect. This is an incorrect translation and causes confusion. Passe compose is a past tense, but present perfect is not. This is where the confusion comes from.
  • e.g. J’ai vu un film hier. Which translates into > I have seen a film yesterday.
Some questions that you will hear often using present perfect are:
  • How have you been?
  • What have you been up to lately?

Using Since and For

  • Since + start time
    • e.g. I have worked for CIDA since 2007.
  • For + duration of time
    • e.g. I have worked for CIDA for five years.
In terms of the PSC Language tests, present perfect can present some problems if you are not comfortable with it. For the oral test, you have you to make sure that listen carefully to what the evaluator is asking, and be sure to reply in the same grammar tense.
For some exercises check out Englishpage.com

Simple Past Vs Present Perfect

This post is from another site that I run. I reworked it a little to make it look better.

Simple past

We use simple past when we know something is in the past and completed

  • e.g. I saw that dog.

We can also use the simple past  to tell a series of  events in order in the past.

  • e.g. I saw that dog. I saw that cat.

We use this form to tell stories.

Normally, we use a time reference when we talk in the past tense.

  • e.g. I saw that dog yesterday.

Simple Past vs Present Perfect is a hard comparison for some people because there are times you can say both.

  • e.g. I saw that dog vs I have seen that dog.

In this example both mean the same thing because we don’t specify the time.

Therefore, the question is why would I need to use one over the other. It really boils down to context a lot of the time. In the “I have seen that dog”  example it is likely that the person is seeing the dog right at that time. That is likely the reason they are saying that they have seen it. However, in the other example we are unsure when the person saw the dog. Often the question that would follow after a statement like “I saw that dog” is “when did you see that dog?”


yesterday – last year/month/week/day – ago

Present perfect

We use present perfect in two ways.

Unspecified time

We can use it when we don’t specify the time, and the event was in the past.

  • e.g. I have seen that dog.

We can also use the present perfect when something has happened more than once in the past when we don’t specify the time.

  • e.g. I have seen that dog many times.

Action started in the past and continues until now

The other way that the present perfect we use present perfect is when something started in the past and continues until now.

  • e.g. I have had that dog since I was young.

When you use present perfect a time reference is NOT used.Correcte.g. I have seen that dogIncorrect

  • e.g. I have seen that dog yesterday.

Things to look out for

One common mistake made by French people specifically is that they translate directly from French to English.

  • e.g. J’ai vu un film hier which translated directly means I have seen a film yesterday.

This is wrong because you are using a time reference while using the Present Perfect. The correct translation would be;

I saw a film yesterday.


yet – already – lately – for – since – ever – so far

Also, if you want to do some exercises about this you can find them at either English Page or at EGO4U.

Is there anything else you find confusing about simple past vs present perfect?