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  1. #1
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    Default Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Could you help me resolve an issue with Past Simple or Present Perfect or is it present perfect simple

    The lights WERE switched on today...Past simple

    The lights HAVE BEEN switched on today...Present perfect

    Could you please tell me which version is grammatically correct or are both correct for British English and why. Thank you

  2. #2
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    Smile Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Could you help me resolve an issue with Past Simple or Present Perfect or is it present perfect simple

    The lights WERE switched on today...Past simple This tells you that the lights were on, but they may not be on while talking about them now.

    The lights HAVE BEEN switched on today...Present perfect The lights are still on at the moment of speaking about them.

    Could you please tell me which version is grammatically correct or are both correct for British English and why. Thank you

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    Default Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    The lights HAVE BEEN switched on today...Present perfect The lights are still on at the moment of speaking about them.
    Not necessarily. This simply implies that at some time today, the lights were switched on.

    Father (home from work): I told you kids you couldn't watch TV until your homework was done!
    Kids: We weren't watching TV!
    Father (feeling the TV): It's still warm. This TV has been switched on today.

    To the original poster: They are both correct, and they can both mean several things.

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    Thumbs up Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Not necessarily. This simply implies that at some time today, the lights were switched on.
    That is obviously another possible interpretation.

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    Default Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Dear Engee20 and Raymott,

    From the above two interpretations, it tells me that both the sentences could give the same meaning in one or the another interpretation. Then, that does mean that, here, the essence of keeping the sentence in simple past or in present perfect is immaterial? Please explicate.

    Thanks,

    Kiran

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by kiranlegend View Post
    Dear Engee20 and Raymott,

    From the above two interpretations, it tells me that both the sentences could give the same meaning in one or the another interpretation. Then, that does mean that, here, the essence of keeping the sentence in simple past or in present perfect is immaterial? Please explicate.

    Thanks,

    Kiran
    Yes, except that you could extend the sentence in past simple with, 'at 10 o'clock', for example. In the sentence in present perfect you can't have a time reference.

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    Default Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Thank you for your comments thus far.

    I was under the impression like Kiran, that the time element in the statement dictated the tense to be used.

    ‘today’, ‘this week’, ‘this year’…are all present
    ‘at 5pm’, ‘last week’, ‘last year’…are all past

    With British English the rules are stricter, if an action in the past is relevant now then present perfect. Is it not true that present perfect focuses on the result of the action and not the action per se?

    The action of SWITCHED and the lights ON are still relevant now ‘today’.

    I accept that both are correct under the American English not so strict a rule but what of British English.

    Does this then mean I can say?

    We have not been told that the lights have been turned off.
    We have not been told that the lights were turned off.
    We were not told that the lights have been turned off.
    We were not told that the lights were turned off.

    If you then accept that, the lights being on, is a result of the action, which is relevant and they continue to be on, is this not present perfect continuous.

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    Default Re: Past Simple or Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by UsernameIsValid View Post
    Thank you for your comments thus far.

    I was under the impression like Kiran, that the time element in the statement dictated the tense to be used.

    ‘today’, ‘this week’, ‘this year’…are all present
    ‘at 5pm’, ‘last week’, ‘last year’…are all past
    No, this is a wrong understanding. It is not the whether a 'present' or 'past' adverb is used (using your terms). It is whether an adverb of specific time is used. (See below)

    With British English the rules are stricter, if an action in the past is relevant now then present perfect.
    I don't think we need to get into BrE, AmE or AusE differences - they are irrelevant to this point.

    Is it not true that present perfect focuses on the result of the action and not the action per se?

    Hmm. It focuses on the present completed state (or not) of the action mentioned, not the result. The result may be implied though, and the result of the action could be the concern of the speaker, given that he is asking the question for a reason.
    "Have you hit the dog?" does not primarily focus on the result (Is the dog hurt?), although it might be a preliminary question in finding out whether the dog has been hurt.
    "Have you had breakfast yet" might be asked to ascertain whether the hearer is hungry at the moment or not (result), or whether the speaker should start making breakfast, or should wash the dishes ... but it's not the primary meaning.

    The action of SWITCHED and the lights ON are still relevant now ‘today’.
    Yes, but 'today' does not function as a specific time reference. It merely confines the time domain of interest to within that day (See below).

    Does this then mean I can say?

    We have not been told that the lights have been turned off.
    We have not been told that the lights were turned off.
    We were not told that the lights have been turned off.
    We were not told that the lights were turned off.
    Yes, you can say all of those, although the first would usually be expressed as one of the simpler versions.

    If you then accept that, the lights being on, is a result of the action, which is relevant and they continue to be on, is this not present perfect continuous.
    That's a difficult question because you're asking whether a state of affairs is a grammatical tense. (No, it isn't)
    There may be several choices of grammatical tense to describe (or ask about) a situation even though the state of affairs is the same - it depends on what you are trying to communicate; what your focus is.
    If the lights are on, that implies that the lights were switched on (at some specific time), and that the light have been switched on, and that the lights are on, and that the lights had been switched on before you asked about them; and that in the future, the lights will have been switched on.

    An important note about present perfect and time adverbials.
    You can use adverbs of time with the present perfect tense - just not
    adverbs which give a specific time that the event occurred. The focus of the present perfect is on the present.

    'Today' (in this case) does not specify the time the lights were switched on. What it does is specify the time period (the domain) over which the whole sentence is to be considered.

    For example, consider this conversation:
    A: Have you had breakfast? (Present perfect, since the time of having breakfast is not relevant)
    B: Yes
    A: Are you sure? Where are the plates, and why is the kettle cold?
    B: Oh, I haven't had breakfast today. I meant I had breakfast yesterday.
    Now, B is being perverse. B is not following normal pragmatic discourse conventions. A means today because people normal have breakfast every day. B should have understood that the domain of the question was 'today', or 'this morning'. You should be able to see the two different types of time adverb.
    A cannot say "Have you had breakfast at 7.23 am"? (Specifying a time)
    A can say "Have you had breakfast yet this morning?" (Limiting the time domain under question).

    Similarly, you can say "Have you been to London in the past 10 years?"
    But you can't say: "Have you been to London on 23rd August last year?"



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