Past and present importance

Indonesia and Australia have concluded their Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) in August 2018.

Sometimes past events, although finished, are somehow important in the present, and we can communicate this importance using present perfect tense, often in conjunction with related time expressions.

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Have you tried present perfect recently?

Social media are the most common media to be used to share information recently.

This looks like as though it might function as the opening sentence of an IELTS Task 2 essay. Let’s first of all remind ourselves about some ideal features for the IELTS Task 2 opening sentence:

  1. We’re introducing the topic as stated on the IELTS question paper.
  2. We’re thinking about our reader and what might be interesting to him / her. (Our reader is an educated non-specialist, someone quite educated who reads a lot and knows what’s happening in the world.)
  3. We’re relating the topic to a current situation or event, because current situations or events are automatically interesting.
  4. We’re relating the topic to a local context, because that’s also interesting to our reader, and because we know more about local than about distant contexts.

Hmm, even without seeing the question paper we can see that our writer has generally ticked these boxes. Now let’s focus on the word recently. That’s a good word to use as it helps to tick box number 3 – it helps us to focus on a current feature of the topic. It’s important to understand, however, that current is communicated in various ways and we have to choose time expressions and matching tenses carefully.

Current = now

  • Social media are the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media are today the most common media to be used to share information.
  • These days social media are the most common media to be used to share information.

All present simple tense.
Notice that present simple tense can mean ‘now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.

Current = around now

  • Social media are becoming the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media are today becoming the most common media to be used to share information.
  • These days social media are becoming the most common media to be used to share information.

All present continuous tense.
Notice that present continuous tense can mean ‘around now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.
Notice also that ‘to be ‘ cannot be continuous. In this case it is easy to use ‘become’ in the continuous, but only if you feel the situation is changing over time.

Current = up to and including now

  • Social media have become the most common media to be used to share information.
  • Social media have become the most common media to be used to share information recently.
  • Social media have recently become the most common media to be used to share information.

All present perfect tense.
Notice that present perfect tense means ‘up to and including now’, and so you don’t have to use a time expression.
‘Recently’ is a strong ‘present perfect’ time expression and if you don’t believe me, browse over and check out countless other examples at forbetterenglish.com.

Conclusion

Returning to our opening example, clearly our writer wants to communicate either ‘now’ or ‘around now’, and so ‘recently’ is not the best time expression! My advice would be to use present simple + ‘today’:

  • Social media are today the most common media to be used to share information.

During a period of time

At the same time parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children take their gap year.

Indonesian flag Indonesians tend to translate selama as during, but then they run into this grammatical error.

In English, during requires the following grammar:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses during their children’s gap year.
    [signal + noun (period of time)]

Indonesian flag Indonesians might consider using while as a translation for selama, in which case they can follow up with a sentence:

  • ..parents spend lots of money on their children because they consider traveling costs and additional expenses while their children take their gap year.
    [signal + sentence]

Since I discovered present perfect

Since 2010, I am IT Specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

Here we need to think about (1) meaning and (2) form.

1. Meaning

The word since means from a time in the past up to and including now.

2. Form

If you mean up to and including now then you need one of these:

How do I know I mean up to and including now?!

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word since followed by a time expression describing a past point in time.

Since 2010 I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you use the word ‘for’ followed by a time expression describing a period of time that began in the past and includes now.

For 8 years I have been an IT specialist at Purwodadi Botanical Gardens.

  1. You mean up to and including now if you don’t use a signal (since, for) and you don’t use a time expression, but you do imply past time up to and including now.

I have repaired many computers.

In example (3) you are using present perfect to assure us that NOW (in the present) you are an experienced computer repair person, and we can trust you! We don’t need to know exactly when you did the repairs, or exactly how many computers you repaired – we just want to make sure that you are experienced!

Today shit happens/is happening!

Today, with the introduction of information technology, life becomes more complex.

Here you use a time expression – today – in order to provide your reader with time context, or a time frame. Unfortunately your verb and your time expression do not match.

Today can mean literally ‘today’, so if today is Thursday then today means Thursday. But today can also mean other things. In academic papers today often refers more generally to time around now.

Time around now began at some point in the past and is likely to continue until some point in the future. Exactly how far into the past and how far into the future does time around now extend? Well that depends on the topic. Since ‘information technology’ implies quite recent innovations, then we’re probably thinking – in this example – of a roughly twenty year period with ‘now’ somewhere in the middle.

Time around now can also refer to a recently new, more permanent condition, that may not be likely to change, at least not for a long time.

Depending on which verb tense we choose, we can communicate either new, permanent condition OR continuous action.

Since information technology is changing continuously – i.e. becoming more complex all the time – then we need present continuous tense.

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, life is becoming more complex.

Indonesian flag ‘Become’ always implies a change, unlike the Indonesian ‘menjadi’, which can communicate a permanent state: “Siti bilang bahwa rumahtangganya tidak bahagia, karena suami tak pernah memberikan nafkah batin yang menjadi haknya.”

If we want to describe a more permanent state in English, then present simple tense is used:

  • Today, with the introduction of information technology, people communicate more easily than they used to.

Remember that state verbs are never used in continuous form:

Today, with the introduction of information technology, people prefer to send emails rather than write letters.