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If I say ‘It has been raining’, is it raining now? If I say ‘He has gone to the shops’, where is he now? If you’re not sure about your answers, then you need to watch this video because this is one the biggest reasons why students think that learning English is hard. Many students don’t know how to understand the meaning of basic English sentences.
But don’t worry because today we are going to fix that. In today’s English lesson, I am going to show you how to understand some common English sentence meanings. This will help you to understand English speaking and native English speakers when they are speaking to you. I am going to show you 10 common sentences in English. For each sentence, I will show you timelines, examples and questions to help you understand the meaning of these sentences. So if you’re ready to start understanding the meaning of sentences in English, let’s get started.
The first sentence is ‘It has been raining.’ If I say this, is it raining now? No. When did it rain? Past, present or future? In the past. Is it wet now? Yes it is. So this is the meaning of ‘It has been raining.’ It means in the past it was raining but it’s not raining now. The rain in the past affected the present because now everything is wet.
Another example with this structure could be ‘He has been running.’ This means he is not running now but he ran in the past. Because he ran in the past, this caused an effect to the present, to right now, because he is tired from his run.
Sentence number two. Joe Biden to go to Paris. What am I talking about here? Has Joe Biden gone to Paris yet? No. Is he going to Paris right now? No. Will he go to Paris in the future? Yes he will. So this is the meaning of when we use subject plus ‘to’ plus verb 1. It means something will happen in the future. Please note that this sentence structure is normally used in things like newspapers when journalists are writing headlines. A headline is the name or title of the article.
Another example sentence like this could be ‘John and Fred to sign a business deal.’ This means that John and Fred will sign a business deal in the future. The action hasn’t happened yet. But it will happen at sometime in the future.
The next sentence is ‘I came from England.’ What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? We are talking about the past. Is the action finished? Yes it is. How many times are we talking about? Just one time or more than one time? We are talking about just one time. Is the time specific? Do we know which time we are talking about? Yes we do.
So this is the meaning of ‘I came from England’ which is a past simple sentence. We use sentences like this to show that one action finished at a specific time in the past. Many students incorrectly use this phrase to talk about their country or their nationality. For example, if I say ‘Where are you from’, many students will say things like ‘I came from’ plus their country. For example, ‘I came from England.’ But this is incorrect because ‘came from’ is talking about just one time.
If you are talking about your country and your nationality, this is something that is not just true for one time. This is something that is always true. It is not one action that has finished already. So if you want to talk about your country and nationality, you need to say ‘I come from’ plus your country. On the screen now, you can see the difference between ‘I came from’ and ‘I come from’. These two sentences have very different meanings.
The next sentence is ‘Did you arrive before 8pm? Just.’ This question is asking did you arrive late or did you arrive early and the answer is ‘just’. So what does this mean? Did you arrive late or did you arrive early? This means that the person arrived early but just a little bit early. When we use ‘just’ like this to answer a question, it means the thing almost did not happen. So that means I almost did not arrive before 8pm.
Another example could be ‘Did he eat all of the cake? Just.’ This means he ate all of the cake but it almost did not happen.
The next sentence is ‘The man could have died in the accident.’ What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? We are talking about the past. Did the man die? No he didn’t. But was it possible for him to die in the accident? Yes it was. So that’s the meaning of ‘could have’. We use ‘could have’ to talk about something that did not happen in the past but it was possible in the past. If the accident was a little bit different, he may have died.
Another example could be ‘You could have bought a cheaper car.’ This means you did not buy a cheaper car but it was possible for you to buy a cheaper car at that time.
The next sentence is ‘He has gone to the shop.’ When did this action start? Past, present or future? In the past. Where is he now? Is he at the shop? Yes he is. So this is the main meaning of ‘gone’ to a place. It means the person has moved to that place and they are still at that place now. They are not at a different place.
Another example could be ‘He has gone to Japan.’ Where is he now? He is in Japan. He has gone to Japan. He is still there now and he has not come back. He is in Japan.
The next sentence is ‘He has been to the shop.’ When did this start? It started in the past. Is he at the shop now? No he isn’t. Do we know exactly where he is right now? No we don’t. Is the time when he went to the shops important to us? Does it matter? No it doesn’t. Do we know exactly when he went to the shop? No we don’t. So that’s the main meaning of ‘been’ to a place. It means the person has gone to that place and then they have left that place. It means they are not at that place now.
Another example could be ‘They have been to Canada.’ This means they are not in Canada now but they visited Canada in the past. We don’t know exactly what time or date they went to Canada and we don’t know how many times they went. But we know that they visited Canada at sometime in the past. When we use ‘been’ like this, we are normally talking about a person’s experience.
The next sentence is ‘He is nice.’ What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? Well we are actually talking about all three. This is what ‘He is nice’ means. We are talking about something that is normally true or something that is always true. We think that normally he is a nice person. That means in the past, around the present time and in the future.
Another example of a sentence like this could be ‘They are a very friendly couple.’ This means we think that they are normally very friendly. This is our opinion of them. We think that it’s normally true in the past, around the present time and into the future. It’s our opinion of them and it probably will never change.
The next sentence is ‘He has been nice.’ What is the difference between this sentence and the last sentence? Are we saying that we think he is normally nice? No. Are we saying that in the past he was nice one time or more than one time? Yes. Is the specific time when he was nice important? Does it matter? No it doesn’t. So that’s the meaning of ‘He has been nice.’ ‘He has been nice’ means in the past he was nice and this niceness has continued up until the present. Maybe it will continue into the future or maybe it will stop now. We don’t know.
Another example could be ‘The dog has been hungry since he came inside.’ This means the dog started being hungry in the past and the dog is still hungry now. This situation probably won’t change unless someone gives him some food. If no one gives the dog any food, then the dog’s hunger will continue into the future.
The next sentence is ‘He is being nice.’ What is the difference between this sentence and the last two sentences? With this sentence, what are we talking about? Past, present or future? We are talking about the present. How many times are we talking about? One or more than one? We are talking about one time. Is it happening now? Yes. Is the action finished? No. So this is the meaning of ‘He is being nice.’ It means that right now he is acting nicely. We are talking about one specific time right now. Not in the past and not in the future. We are talking about one time right now and it still hasn’t finished.
Another example could be ‘The boy is being annoying.’ This means we are talking about one time right now. It’s not finished and it’s still happening now.
On the screen right now, you can see the difference between ‘He is nice’, ‘He has been nice’ and ‘He is being nice’ These three sentences have very different meanings so make sure you use them correctly. You see? English is easy after you understand the basics.