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  1. #1
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    Arrow Simple Past vs Present Perfect


    hi!

    I never really understood the difference between Simple Past and Present Perfect.
    I, for myself, only use Present Perfect if I want to underline the result or the time spent on something (Present Perfect Progressive).

    I took the "Simple Past vs. Present Perfect" test in the testing section but i'm still not clear about it...

    "
    When you were living in London, have you ever tried jellied eels?" << Why is it wrong to say "have you ever tried" in that case?

    "This is the first time I tried it." << What's wrong about this sentence?

    and many others... as you can see, I don't get the whole system behind it (yet)...so plz help! :)

    thank you very much!

    PL

  2. #2
    CHOMAT is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    Whenever there is past location that is the event is located in the past( use of an explicit date in the past, or using past tense) . In your example , were living "sticks" the event to the past. The present perfect does not work when the event is located in the past. Its modal value entails a mental movement from the past to the present ( values such as result, report, explanation of some deed). Remember those temporal locators belong to the field of language and mental represention ( tense and time) .

    It is the first time + p. perfect : It is locates the utterance in the present . Unlikewise , here,preterit can't work. An other explanation: Present perfect enables the utterer to remember whether he/she has ever tried it sincehis birth/her birth ( for example) up to the moment he/she utters It is the first time...

  3. #3
    mochimochi is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    When we talk about the present, we use Present Perfect, to say nothing of Simple Present, Present progressive.
    When we talk about the past, we use Past.
    If you say "when you were living in London," you are talking about an event in the past. We use Past.

    If you say "This is the first time you have visited London."
    you are in London now. "This is" refers to the present. So you use Present Perfect.

    English is different in the usage of "Present Perfect" from German.

  4. #4
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    My two cents
    To put it simply, if somebody asks you, "Have you ever(=in your life) tried jellied eels?" without the time phrase "When you were living in London", then, a present perfect should be used. It conveys a sense of an "unfinished experience" from the past up to the moment you are asked.

    However, if the time phrase element is added, then, the past tense should be used in the main clause, as the event "tried jellied eels" has been completed after you left for some other places or returned to your home country from London.

    (a non-native-and-teacher helper)

  5. #5
    justinwschang is offline Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by powerlerner View Post
    hi!

    I never really understood the difference between Simple Past and Present Perfect.
    I, for myself, only use Present Perfect if I want to underline the result or the time spent on something (Present Perfect Progressive).

    I took the "Simple Past vs. Present Perfect" test in the testing section but i'm still not clear about it...

    "When you were living in London, had you ever tried jellied eels?" << Why is it wrong to say "have you ever tried" in that case? (past + past perfect)

    "This is the first time I have tried it." << What's wrong about this sentence?
    (= UP TO NOW, this is the first time....)
    and many others... as you can see, I don't get the whole system behind it (yet)...so plz help! :)

    thank you very much!

    PL
    The SIMPLE PAST expresses action that happened at a time that has gone by and finished, such as yesterday, just now, before this, two months ago:She was in a white skirt yesterday (not: She has been in a white skirt yesterday).

    The PRESENT PERFECT expresses: (a) Action completed as of now (vs. simple past, which expresses action that occurred in the past); or (b) Action continuing (from the past) up to now.

    Completed as of now: (i) He has eaten his lunch; (ii) Have they been to Toronto? (= so far/up till now, have they been to.....).

    Continuing up to now: (i) We have been here since yesterday (= still here); (ii) She has lived alone for five years (= still alone); (iii) They have been teachers for a year (= still teachers); (iv) I have lost my pen (= still not found) vs. I lost my pen (= lost, some time in the past, perhaps now found?).

    The simple past is NOT used for unfinished time, for which we use the present perfect: We have been here since yesterday (not: We were here since yesterday).

    The present perfect is NOT used for finished time, for which we use the simple past: He arrived yesterday (not: he has arrived yesterday).

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TENSES: The simple past expresses just the occurrence of an action in the past; the present perfect expresses the completion, or continuation, of that action as of the present moment.

    He has eaten lunch (= completed as of now, eaten as of now); He ate lunch (= occurred then, ate then); I have waited since noon (= continuing up to now, still waiting); I waited at noon (= occurred then, waiting then); He has been there all day (= continuing up to now, still there); He was there all day (occurred then, was being there then).

  6. #6
    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by justinwschang View Post
    The SIMPLE PAST expresses action that happened at a time that has gone by and finished, such as yesterday, just now, before this, two months ago:She was in a white skirt yesterday (not: She has been in a white skirt yesterday).

    The PRESENT PERFECT expresses: (a) Action completed as of now (vs. simple past, which expresses action that occurred in the past); or (b) Action continuing (from the past) up to now.

    Completed as of now: (i) He has eaten his lunch; (ii) Have they been to Toronto? (= so far/up till now, have they been to.....).

    Continuing up to now: (i) We have been here since yesterday (= still here); (ii) She has lived alone for five years (= still alone); (iii) They have been teachers for a year (= still teachers); (iv) I have lost my pen (= still not found) vs. I lost my pen (= lost, some time in the past, perhaps now found?).

    The simple past is NOT used for unfinished time, for which we use the present perfect: We have been here since yesterday (not: We were here since yesterday).

    The present perfect is NOT used for finished time, for which we use the simple past: He arrived yesterday (not: he has arrived yesterday).

    DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO TENSES: The simple past expresses just the occurrence of an action in the past; the present perfect expresses the completion, or continuation, of that action as of the present moment.

    He has eaten lunch (= completed as of now, eaten as of now); He ate lunch (= occurred then, ate then); I have waited since noon (= continuing up to now, still waiting); I waited at noon (= occurred then, waiting then); He has been there all day (= continuing up to now, still there); He was there all day (occurred then, was being there then).
    Yes, Justinwschang, you're right. I have made a mistake in using the past tense rather than the past perfect in "When you were living in London, have you ever tried jellied eels?" Thanks for pointing it out.

  7. #7
    justinwschang is offline Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    you're welcome.

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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    thank you very much to all, I really appreciate your help!
    I considered your advice and redid the test. I scored better than the first time but I still had 2 mistakes :

    i) "Did you finish yet?" - I thought that sentence is wrong because "yet" indicates Present Perfect. Why is this sentence correct?

    ii) "When you were living in London, did you ever try jellied eels?" - I voted for wrong. Because I thought u have to use the past perfect. But maybe the guy that did the quiz put it in wrong? I don't know. Anyhow, it says the sentence (as I quoted it above) is correct.

    Thanks!

    PL

  9. #9
    justinwschang is offline Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by powerlerner View Post
    thank you very much to all, I really appreciate your help!
    I considered your advice and redid the test. I scored better than the first time but I still had 2 mistakes :

    i) "Did you finish yet?" - I thought that sentence is wrong because "yet" indicates Present Perfect. Why is this sentence correct?

    ii) "When you were living in London, did you ever try jellied eels?" - I voted for wrong. Because I thought u have to use the past perfect. But maybe the guy that did the quiz put it in wrong? I don't know. Anyhow, it says the sentence (as I quoted it above) is correct.

    Thanks!

    PL
    (i) should be: Have you finished yet, or Have you done with it yet, or Have you finished already. "Did you finish yet" is incorrect.

    (ii) can be either: When you were living in London, did you ever try jellied eels; or: ....., had you ever tried jellied eels. So, I believe you were right.

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    albertino is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Simple Past vs Present Perfect

    Mochimochi, to get the problem straight, I think we have to consider this:
    (A) "Did you finish yet?" may be AE. They usually use "did" instead of "present perfect" in such cases, as opposed to BE.

    (B) "When you were living in London, did you ever try jellied eels"
    There might be two possibilities:
    (I)If it is BE, then
    (i) by using the past tense, it means that the action(tried the jellied eels) is done on a single occasion and completed in the past.
    (ii) by using the past perfect, it means that the action is a repetitive, unfinished one (tried the jellied eels on several occasions) from a point of time up to another in the past (while living in London).
    Hence, in either case it is correct, depending on what the meaning you want to convey.
    (II) If it is AE, then the explanation given above in (A) is also applied to here.

    (Please correct me if I am wrong, BE and AE teachers.)

    (not a teacher)
    Last edited by albertino; 17-Sep-2007 at 09:11.

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