- For Teachers
A and B are students. They worked things related to computer files together this morning and B was supposed to send those files to a professor.
five hours later, A called B to make sure whether B sent files.
A: (1) Hey B, did you send files?
(2) Hey B, have you sent files?
which one is correct? moreover, please let me know meanings conveyed by each one.
A related question:
I have lots of students and when I'm about to tell them another story or joke, I sometimes
feel I might have already told it. I tend to say 'Did I tell you about...', but always doubt whether or not it should be 'Have I told you'...
Thanks in advance
The present perfect ("Have you sent the files?") is used to connect a past action with a present situation: "Have you sent the files?" means the same as, "Does the professor have the files now?"
The past simple ("Did you send the files?") refers only to the action itself, and has no connection with the present at all.
With something as abstract as computer files, the difference is not clear, but consider this pair of sentences:
I wrote a letter.
I have written a letter.
The first sentence simply means that at some time in the past, I wrote a letter. Without any other context, it's not possible to say anything more than that.
The second sentence means that right now, there exists in my possession a completed letter, ready to be posted. The focus is on the result of the writing, not the writing itself.
Back to the original question, and in cases like this, where you are asking if somebody has recently performed a certain action, you can choose which tense you prefer to use. American speakers will prefer the past simple, while British speakers will usually use the present perfect.
Generally, if the connection with the present is clear from the context, or is made clear by a word like "already" or "just", Americans will use the past simple:
I just sent it. (American English)
I've just sent it. (British English)
I've noticed that voices from Canuckstan play a very special role in my online life!
Rewboss is right when he says that it is one of the greatest stumbling blocks for ESLs. But I have to agree with 2006 that his explanation was a little, hmmmmm, ... well, not perfectly clear.
Rewboss: The present perfect ("Have you sent the files?") is used to connect a past action with a present situation: "Have you sent the files?" means the same as, "Does the professor have the files now?"Of course, "Did you send the files?" connects this particular issue to the present as does the Present Perfect. The difference is that using the PP adds a degree of importance to a finished action; "Moooom, she's taken my sweater aaaaaagain!!2006: "Did you send the files?" and "Have you sent the files?" both only ask about the act of sending. ("past action") They have nothing to do with the "present situation".
it's used for "hot news" - The Prime Minister has been shot.
it's used for greater formality/to be more polite/more deferential, though this would hardly be noticed among close associates. - Yes, I've sent the files.
All illustrate that using the PP adds a measure of importance to a finished action that just isn't there with the simple past.
Last edited by riverkid; 24-Nov-2007 at 05:49.
Well, riverkid, you're Canadian, so your use of the present perfect reflects North American usage. And Americans do tend to reserve the present perfect to convey a sense of urgency. Generally, British speakers use the present perfect a lot more frequently than North American speakers.
So in British English, if there is any connection between past action and present state of affairs, even without a sense of urgency, the present perfect is usually preferred.
To British ears, the question "Did you send the files?" is usually reserved for recounting past events, such as when telling somebody an anecdote:
"So I prepared all the files, but it was all a waste of time."
"But did you send the files?"
"Yes, but then the professor said he didn't need them after all."
While the present perfect is used when a present state of affairs is referred to:
"OK, I think we're ready to leave now."
"Have you sent the files?" (Meaning: Are you sure there is no more to be done now, before we can leave?)
"Yes: the files are on their way to the professor right now."
An American would most likely use the past simple for this question, as it's clear from the context that the question relates to the present without needing a special tense.
In British English, the present simple does not imply any greater formality, or any sense of urgency.
Now that's much closer to perfection, Rewboss. Except, did you mean to say "present simple", blued above?
Of course, mine was also less than perfect as I failed to note the differences for BrE. I've read // I read somewhere that this aspect of the PP is changing in BrE, influenced as it is by NaE. I note that Rewboss mentioned that the PP is "usually preferred".
If it's not too much trouble, I'd really like to hear more from Rewboss and other speakers of BrE on this issue.