By Jacqueline Schaalje
In this article we’ll try to sort out present perfect and past simple.
You can use both present perfect and past simple to say something about the past:
- 1. I spoke with Barney last week. (past simple)
- 2. I’ve just spoken to my mother. (present perfect)
The Difference Between the Two
The difference is you use past simple when something is really in the past. There is no connection with today.
You should use present perfect when there is some connection with now. Something happens until now, or it’s happened just a moment ago, or you can see the result now.
So now we can explain the two sentences above:
1 is in past simple because it says I spoke to Barney last week. Last week is clearly in the past, and there is no connection with today.
2 is in the present perfect because I spoke with my mother just a moment ago. This is still connected to the present moment.
1 When did you cut your hair?
2 Shelly has had a new haircut and she looks great.
1 is in the past because this person cut his hair in the past. You can see the result now, but the question is asking about when this person had his haircut. So that should be in the past.
Sentence 2 is in the present perfect since we are talking about the result that Shelly looks great and this we can see now. This sentence is not about the activity of cutting her hair (which was in the past.)
And a last example:
I came back from my trip to Berlin yesterday. It was the best trip I’ve ever had.
Okay, so now we’ve used two verbs in the simple past (came and was) and one verb in the present perfect (have ever had).
Did you notice that? Good.
So now let’s explain why I used these tenses.
Came back = in the past simple because I came back yesterday, that is to say the action of coming back was yesterday so that should be in the past.
It was the best trip = in the past because the trip was in the past. (I came back yesterday, so the trip was before that.)
And have ever had = in the present perfect because from the time I was born and I went on trips until the present moment, this was my best trip ever. So the fact of having the best trip ever started in the past but it is connected to the present moment, hence (= therefore) it should be in the present perfect.
You can find more practice on past simple here.
Note: When you use past simple in questions or negatives, you use did + the regular verb (not a past form). Example: Did you eat curry yesterday? Not: Did you ate curry yesterday?
When you use present perfect in questions, you put the have or has first + the subject + the participle (the third form of the verb). Example: Have you seen my pink umbrella anywhere? For negatives, use the regular order + not after have/has.
Now you can check whether you’ve really got it with this quiz.
You can do this quiz online by clicking here.
Choose the correct answer.
|1. When ________________ that course?|
|a)||have you taken|
|b)||did you took|
|c)||did you take|
|d)||have you ever taken|
|2. ___________________ in England?|
|a)||Did you ever lived|
|b)||Have you ever lived|
|3. That’s the best song ______________.|
|a)||Davey never wrote|
|b)||Davey ever wrote|
|c)||Davey used to write|
|d)||Davey has ever written|
|4. He’s the strictest professor _____________________.|
|a)||I never dealt with.|
|b)||I never had to deal with.|
|c)||I’ve ever had to deal with.|
|d)||I’ve never had to deal with.|
|5. ___________________ to them last week.|
|a)||I didn’t speak|
|b)||I haven’t spoken|
|c)||I didn’t spoke|
|d)||Did I speak|
|6. ______________ an old laptop last year and it is still working.|
|a)||They have bought|
|c)||They haven’t bought|
|d)||They have buy|
|7. _______________ from a great trip to Costa Rica.|
|a)||I come back|
|b)||I came back|
|c)||I never came back|
|d)||I’ve just come back|
|8. Gasoline prices ________ in the autumn but then _____ again one month ago.|
|c)||have fallen, have risen|
|d)||have fallen, rose|
|9. I don’t think you ____________ to a word ____________.
|10. I can’t believe that ________________ that movie.|
|a)||you’ve never seen|
|b)||you never saw|
|c)||you don’t see|
|d)||you saw not|
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