PRESENT PERFECT vs. PAST SIMPLE1. THE PROBLEM
Ana is having a problem with English tenses. She decides to ask a teacher, Bob, if he can help her. Ana:Bob, I have a problem. Can you help me?Bob: Sure. What's the matter?Ana: I don't know when to use "I saw" and "I've seen." I know there's a difference, but I can't figure outwhat it is. Do you know?Bob: Oh, yes. That's really quite easy. Let me try to explain it.Ana: Great!Bob: OK. Have you studied this before?Ana: Yes, a little.Bob: When did you study it?Ana: Last week. Is that important?Bob: It's very important. My first question was a general one, so I used the Present Perfect, "have youstudied?" My second question was more specific, asking you WHEN, so I used the Past Simple, "when didyou study?"Ana: So the time is important?Bob: Yes. The time makes all the difference. When you're not interested in when something happened, or if you don't know, you use the Present Perfect. However, if the time is important, or if you know whensomething happened, use the Past Simple.Ana: Can you give me another example?Bob: Of course. Have you ever driven a bus?Ana: No, I haven't.Bob: Have you ever eaten pizza?Ana: Yes, I have.Bob: When did you last eat pizza?Ana: I ate pizza a few days ago.Bob: Now do you see the difference?Ana: Hmmm. Yes, I think I understand now.Bob: Either you're a very good student or I'm an excellent teacher!Ana: Maybe both….Bob: Thanks….I think!
2. THE EXPLANATION
Bob certainly IS a good teacher! His explanation was very clear. When the time of a past event or action isstated or understood, we use the Past Simple. When the past event or action is more important than the timewhen it happened, we use the Present Perfect. Look at these examples:a)
a plane. Do you know when? b) Ana
her exercise. Do we know when?c) Ivan
to a concert last night. Do we know when?d) My parents
a new house last year. Do we know when?e) Mike
this chapter three times. Do we know when?Answers:a) NO b) NOc) YESd) YESe) NOIn examples a) and b) the action or event is more important than the time when it happened. In c) and d) thetime is important (it must be important because it is stated in the sentence). In e) we only know that it hashappened three times, but we don't know exactly when those three times were.