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  1. #1
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Question Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Do you remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo was fighting with Morpheous? When Neo was on the ground, beaten by Morpheous, the latter asked, "How did I beat you?" Why not "How have I beaten you?"? Neo was gasping for breath, so you can say the action had been just finished. I suppose past simple just sounds better, but maybe some others would use present perfect?

    All the best,
    Nyggus

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Maybe it just emphasises how finished the fighting is and how complete the victory.

  3. #3
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Quote Originally Posted by nyggus View Post
    Do you remember the scene in The Matrix where Neo was fighting with Morpheous? When Neo was on the ground, beaten by Morpheous, the latter asked, "How did I beat you?" Why not "How have I beaten you?"? Neo was gasping for breath, so you can say the action had been just finished. I suppose past simple just sounds better, but maybe some others would use present perfect?

    All the best,
    Nyggus
    I don't know who wrote the dialogue, but IMO, an American would have used "How did I beat you". This didnt really have anything to do with when the fight ended, it focused on the techniques and strategies that had been employed.

  4. #4
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Thanks, guys. Sometimes I do think that grammar rules I learn apply to exams not to real language. So often I encounter a situation in which the basic rules do not apply (IMO). I think you just must feel it, and I have heard so many times, "It just sounds better." And here is the victory of native speakers over us, poor non-natives! Lucky you!

    Best wishes,
    Nyggus

  5. #5
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Quote Originally Posted by nyggus View Post
    Thanks, guys. Sometimes I do think that grammar rules I learn apply to exams not to real language. So often I encounter a situation in which the basic rules do not apply (IMO). I think you just must feel it, and I have heard so many times, "It just sounds better." And here is the victory of native speakers over us, poor non-natives! Lucky you!

    Best wishes,
    Nyggus
    The issue of present perfect vs. simple past is more confusing because of a distinct difference between AmE and BrE. There is a wide area in which either tense makes sense and is arguable. In those situations, BrE speakers choose the present perfect far more often than AmE speakers.

  6. #6
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Exclamation Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Then I think it does not matter which tense I will use. When I choose present perfect, the Americans would think I use BrE, and in the oposite situation (when I choose past simple) the British would think I use AmE. Am I right? So maybe my concerns are not necessary and I should use what in my opinion fits in a particular situation?

    Nyggus

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    As a BrE speaker, I would use the past tense there as it seems to fit the gloating context better, though often we use the present perfect where Americans use the past.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    The question to ask is this: Are we focused mainly on the event itself, or on how the event affects the present?

    The present perfect connects a past event with the present. "Have you written that letter?" is asking whether a letter, written by you, exists now; "Did you write that letter?" is a general question about whether the action took place, or whether you (as opposed to somebody else) wrote a specific letter.

    Sometimes a case can be made for using either, and in such cases British English usually opts for the present perfect, while American English often goes for the past simple.

    Now back to the Matrix. What is Morpheus asking? Is he asking about the connection between the action and the present? Or is he asking about the action itself?

    The answer is: he's asking about the action itself. He's asking about the manner in which the action took place. The fact that the action is mere seconds in the past is irrelevant; the connection with the present is still real, but that has nothing at all to do with the question.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    The question to ask is this: Are we focused mainly on the event itself, or on how the event affects the present?

    The present perfect connects a past event with the present. "Have you written that letter?" is asking whether a letter, written by you, exists now; "Did you write that letter?" is a general question about whether the action took place, or whether you (as opposed to somebody else) wrote a specific letter.

    Sometimes a case can be made for using either, and in such cases British English usually opts for the present perfect, while American English often goes for the past simple.

    Now back to the Matrix. What is Morpheus asking? Is he asking about the connection between the action and the present? Or is he asking about the action itself?

    The answer is: he's asking about the action itself. He's asking about the manner in which the action took place. The fact that the action is mere seconds in the past is irrelevant; the connection with the present is still real, but that has nothing at all to do with the question.
    Well stated.

  10. #10
    nyggus is offline Key Member
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    Thumbs up Re: Past simple vs. present perfect (The Matrix)

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Well stated.
    Indeed!

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