Wordy Wednesday #1
I’ve decided to start a mini-series with some questions about EFL that I’d like answered – queries about the world of TEFL at large, niggles about grammar and vocab or just plain, old “What do you think?” fun. Here’s the first…
As I was walking along the prom from one class to another, I wondered, “Why do students say ‘I’ve finished!’ – surely it’s a completed action, so they should use the past simple?”
Hi T, I love these questions!
here’s an off the top of my head answer:
the present perfect is also used to talk about completed actions in the past – in this case there is no reference to a specific past time, and when exactly they finished is not important. It is the completion of the action that’s important, not the moment when it happened. This completion may be important because they now want something from you – praise, more work, permission to leave – what some grammar explanations call “present result” – or it may simply be an announcement of a recent event that you may or may not have been aware of (the use that we see a lot in the news)
I would agree with Ceri. The students are looking for a present result. “I have finished so it is now time to correct my work”
I hadn’t thought about the idea that there is no reference to a specific time–sometimes a student will be chitchatting with a classmate and when I glare at them, they will say, “We’ve finished.” Which is to say, not right now. We finished at some unspecified time in the past. And also: We have finished and the present result is that we can chat, because we have no work.
Dear Ceri and Walton,
Excellent replies – Kudos points to you both! I was thinking about it and we use this structure for other things too, when the action is important, not the ‘when’.
Thanks for your swift reponses…see you next Wednesday!
My first guess would be L1 transfer, at least if they’re Spanish: “¡Ya he terminado!”
I’d like to know why some of my students, when told we are going to look at the present perfect today, say: “We do that already.”
Dan – priceless!
Nicky – I’m not so sure. I think students normally say “Terminé”. Anyway, to be honest my students don’t actually say “I’ve finished” – it’s normally just “Finished!”.