Today we are going to talk about a grammar point that is usually quite a pickle for students up to Upper-Intermediate level: Present Perfect vs Past Simple.
Let’s start thinking about TIME, not about tenses, but about time. There are only 3 times: PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE
In this way, we hardly ever doubt when we need to use Past Simple. We simply use it to talk about an action that started in the past and finished in the past.
E.g: “What did you do last weekend?”
We use the Past Simple because the weekend started and finished in the past time.
So, when do we use the Present Perfect tense?
The present perfect is a tense that connects past time and present time.
E.g: When we ask ‘Have you been to Paris?’ what we mean is ‘Have you been to Paris at any time from the moment you were born until now?’
In this way, we can learn a lot about the time we are talking about if the person we are talking to uses the correct tense. We can use Past Simple or Present Perfect in the same sentence, depending on when we are saying it.
Let’s take a look at these sentences as an example:
a) ‘Did you see Mary this morning?’
As we can see, part of today is in the past time, so when I say ‘Did you see Mary this morning?’, I am doing it because it’s either the afternoon, evening or night of the same day, so the morning already belongs to the past time. You can see it better in the following timeline:
This is today:
Let’s imagine that it’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon and you will see how part of the day belongs to the past, other part to the future and how the present is just 17’00h:
b) ‘Have you seen Mary this morning?’
If I use the Present Perfect tense in this sentence is because the morning is not over, so it started in the past but continues in the present.
To review all past tenses, we recommend you check the following podcast: ‘The mystery story’, it’s great practice and great fun!!!
I hope this post has helped you to clarify the use of these tenses and remember: everything’s about time! 😉
Have a great week! 😀