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  1. #1
    belly_ttt is offline Senior Member
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    Default Past vs Present perfect

    I have some sentences here used in both past and present perfect tense, could you tell me the differences in meanings (meaning or meanings?) of them?
    ex:
    The sky is still dark though the rain has stopped
    The sky is still dark though the rain stopped

    I have heard that you have rooms to let
    I heard that you have rooms to let

    Has John phoned?
    Did John phone?

    I've given your old radio to Philip
    I gave your old radio to Philip

    Thanks in advance

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Past vs Present perfect

    The difference is very small in these sentences.

    The past tense is used to talk about an action in the past, while the present perfect is used to talk about a present situation as a result of an action in the past. In these cases, you could use either; British speakers prefer to use the present perfect, while American speakers prefer to use the past tense.

    Quote Originally Posted by belly_ttt View Post
    The sky is still dark though the rain has stopped
    The sky is still dark though the rain stopped
    "the rain has stopped" means that "it is not raining now"; while "the rain stopped" simply means that it stopped raining at some point in the past. British speakers would use the first sentence (because the sky is dark now and it is not raining now), and Americans would use the second sentence (because it stopped raining in the past).

    I have heard that you have rooms to let
    I heard that you have rooms to let
    The first sentence means I now believe that you have rooms to let, while the second sentence means that at some time in the past, somebody told me that you have rooms to let. Again, the first sentence is more British, and the second sentence is more American (although an American would probably say "for rent" instead of "to let").

    Has John phoned?
    Did John phone?
    The first sentence is asking if John called at any time between the last time I was here and now; in other words, "Do you have a message from John?" The second sentence is asking if John called at some time in the past. Yet again, British speakers prefer the first sentence, and American speakers prefer the second sentence.

    Note that you cannot use the present perfect even in British English if the period of time you are thinking about is completely in the past. For example, you would ask "Has John phoned?" when you come into the office and expect to be given a message from John; but you would ask "Did John phone?" the next day, or the next week:

    "...so I told John to phone me on Monday."
    "And did he phone?" [Did he phone you on Monday?]
    "No; and he still hasn't phoned." [He didn't phone on Monday, and he hasn't phoned between Monday and now.]

    I've given your old radio to Philip
    I gave your old radio to Philip
    The first sentence means "I no longer have your old radio, because I gave it to Philip, and now he has it." The second sentence means "At some time in the past, I gave your old radio to Philip." Yet again, British speakers prefer the first sentence, and American speakers prefer the second.

    In sentences like these, there is very little difference (especially in American English), and you can choose either version.

    However, you have to know that the present perfect focuses on the present, not the past, and this means that if you mention a definite time in the past when the action took place, you cannot use the present perfect, even if you're speaking British English. The following sentences are all incorrect:

    The rain has stopped half an hour ago.
    I have heard yesterday that you have rooms to let.
    Has John phoned on Monday?
    I've given your old radio to Philip in 2003.

  3. #3
    jctgf is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: Past vs Present perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    The difference is very small in these sentences.

    The past tense is used to talk about an action in the past, while the present perfect is used to talk about a present situation as a result of an action in the past. In these cases, you could use either; British speakers prefer to use the present perfect, while American speakers prefer to use the past tense.


    "the rain has stopped" means that "it is not raining now"; while "the rain stopped" simply means that it stopped raining at some point in the past. British speakers would use the first sentence (because the sky is dark now and it is not raining now), and Americans would use the second sentence (because it stopped raining in the past).


    The first sentence means I now believe that you have rooms to let, while the second sentence means that at some time in the past, somebody told me that you have rooms to let. Again, the first sentence is more British, and the second sentence is more American (although an American would probably say "for rent" instead of "to let").


    The first sentence is asking if John called at any time between the last time I was here and now; in other words, "Do you have a message from John?" The second sentence is asking if John called at some time in the past. Yet again, British speakers prefer the first sentence, and American speakers prefer the second sentence.

    Note that you cannot use the present perfect even in British English if the period of time you are thinking about is completely in the past. For example, you would ask "Has John phoned?" when you come into the office and expect to be given a message from John; but you would ask "Did John phone?" the next day, or the next week:

    "...so I told John to phone me on Monday."
    "And did he phone?" [Did he phone you on Monday?]
    "No; and he still hasn't phoned." [He didn't phone on Monday, and he hasn't phoned between Monday and now.]


    The first sentence means "I no longer have your old radio, because I gave it to Philip, and now he has it." The second sentence means "At some time in the past, I gave your old radio to Philip." Yet again, British speakers prefer the first sentence, and American speakers prefer the second.

    In sentences like these, there is very little difference (especially in American English), and you can choose either version.

    However, you have to know that the present perfect focuses on the present, not the past, and this means that if you mention a definite time in the past when the action took place, you cannot use the present perfect, even if you're speaking British English. The following sentences are all incorrect:

    The rain has stopped half an hour ago.
    I have heard yesterday that you have rooms to let.
    Has John phoned on Monday?
    I've given your old radio to Philip in 2003.
    Hi,

    Congratulations, your explanation is simply awesome.

    I posted (have posted?) a topic in this forum about how hard it is to me to understand the past perfect.

    In that topic, I present a few other situations in which the present perfect is the "right" option, according to my British grammar and many teachersí answers from this site.

    Given the fact that I am a foreigner and that I will never speak a perfect English, I would be very happy if I could, at least, not to speak a stupid English.

    So, in order to stay in a safe zone, may I simply choose the American English? Itís not because I have any particular preference by the USA. Itís just because the present perfect, as spoken by the British, is simply very hard for me to understand and to put into practice.

    If I want to limit the usage of the present perfect to the least, which are the situations that the only way possible is the present perfect?

    Thanks a lot,

    JC

  4. #4
    belly_ttt is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Past vs Present perfect

    Your answer is flawless, rewboss. In my country, though people love American accent but they prefer British English since most of the English books in Viet Nam come from Britain (Oxford, Cambridge, Longman etc.).

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