Simple Past or Present Perfect?


So should you use Simple Past or Present Perfect?

First of all, for the full explanations on these tenses visit:

When to Use:


How to Use (Rules):


Example Sentences:


Exercises:


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Main Difference Between
the Simple Past and the Present Perfect

We use the Simple Past when we simply want to say that something happened in the past.

We use the Present Perfect when we want to emphasize the result of a past action.

Examples:
  • "Lisa broke her leg yesterday, so we took her to the hospital."
    In this sentence I simply want to tell you what happened in the past.

  • "Lisa has broken her leg, and now she can't participate in the play."
    In this sentence I want to emphasize the result: now Lisa's leg is broken.

Now let's examine a few tips that will help you determine which of the two tenses you should use.

1. Did it just happen or is it older information?

The Simple Past is used when giving OLDER information:    
Janet and Mike broke up months ago.
We sold the house in 2001.
The Second World War ended in 1945.
(This is old information.)
   
The Present Perfect is often used when giving RECENT news:    
Janet and Mike have finally broken up.
We have just sold the house.
The war has ended, but the people still need to rebuild their lives.
(This is recent information.) 

2. Is there a specific time mentioned?

The Simple Past is used when the time is CLEAR:    
They met on Sunday.
My birthday was last week.
John started his business after he graduated.
(We know exactly when.)

The Present Perfect is used when the time is NOT SPECIFIC:    
They have met already.
I have celebrated my 20th birthday.
John has started his business.
(We don't know exactly when.)


3. Is the time period finished?

The Simple Past is used when the time period HAS finished:    
I bought 3 books last month.
(Last month is finished.)

She wrote me 5 letters last week.
(Last week is finished.)

Last month you passed 2 exams.
(Last month is finished.)


The Present Perfect is used when the time period has NOT finished:    
I've bought 3 books this month.
(This month has not finished.)

She's written me 5 letters this week.
(This week has not finished.)

This month you have passed 2 exams.
(This month has not finished.)


4. Is the action finished?

The Simple Past is used with for and since, when the actions have already finished:    
I worked in Australia for 6 years.
(I don't work in Australia now.)

She lived in Spain for 2 years.
(She doesn't live in Spain now.)

They helped me for a whole month.
(They don't help me now.)

The Present Perfect is used with for and since, when the actions have not finished yet:    
I have worked in Australia for 6 years.
(I still work in Australia.)
   
She has lived in Spain for 2 years.
(She still lives in Spain now.)

They have helped me for a whole month.
(They still help me now.)


There is one more important thing you must know.

There is a difference between British English and American English.

British English

In British English, when talking about an action that ended recently and has an effect on the present, you should use the Present Perfect.

Examples:
I've lost my wallet.
She has broken the glass.
They haven't bought a new house.
We've just had breakfast.
He's met Jane already.
Have you done your homework yet?

American English

In American English, you can use the Present Perfect OR the Simple Past.

Examples:
I've lost my wallet / I lost my wallet.
She has broken the glass / She broke the glass.
They haven't bought a new house / They didn't buy a new house.
We've just had breakfast / We just had breakfast.
He's met Jane already / He met Jane already.
Have you done your homework yet / Did you do your homework yet?

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