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    #1

    Simple past or present perfect?

    Hello, everyone.

    A friend of mine recently returned from his hometown. I met him last Friday and promised that I would visit him this week. I was busy and presumed that he was busy too, for he'd only just come back and not phoned me. Then, I found out yesterday morning that my phone had been out of credit for three days. I am with China Mobile and they would text their customers under such circomstance. For some reason, I didn't receive the text message. I got on the internet and saw my sister's message. She was a bit annoyed for she had not been contact me for three days. I paid the money due and started to worry that maybe my friend did call me and simply couldn't get through. Then he called me shortly afterwards and we arranged to meet each other that afternoon.

    That's the background information. A question popped up when I was on my way to his place. I wanted to know whether he called me during the three days my phone service was stopped. Should I say Have you called me? or Did you call me?

    I understand people have different views as to whether it is correct to use simple past tense to talk about events that happened in the past and are related to the present. Let suppose we can only use present perfect tense in situations aforesaid. I feel uncomfortable to use either tense in finding out whether my friend called me or not.

    Did you call me? is convinently not proper, for I was more than ready to deliver my apologies if he really called me. I suppose that intention alone suffices to constitute the present element needed to rule out the use of the past simple tense. I wasn't merely going to make an enquirement. There might have been consequenses.

    On the other hand, present perfect tense equally doesn't seem to work well here. He did call me before we met last night. Have you called me? would make me sound rather silly, as if I all of a sudden forgot why I was at his place in the first place. Then how about Have you called me during the three days before tady? or even Have you called me before you called me a few hours ago? I would conconsider them wrong either. Because I have been strictly taught not to use expressions that indicate, be it expressly or implicitly, past time, and haven't so far read from any source information negeting so.

    What would you say if you were in my shoes? I would be glad to hear from every one of you here.

    Many thanks

    Richard

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Simple past or present perfect?

    The fact that your friend called you in the time between the re-starting of your phone-calling facilities and your visit to him, means that only did you call me [or better: try to call me] (during that three day period in the past)? is possible.

    If there had been no call in that period, then you would have been able to ask, "Have you tried to call me (in the period up to the present moment)"

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    #3

    Re: Simple past or present perfect?

    I thought of this issue again, after I put down the post this morning, and came to the same conclusion. However, I still feel a bit uncomfortable. Had my friend not phoned me, the use of present perfect would seem to be a natural choice, as least according to my grammar books. Because I was condisering to say sorry to him.

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    #4

    Re: Simple past or present perfect?

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    I thought of this issue again, after I put down the post this morning, and came to the same conclusion. However, I still feel a bit uncomfortable. Had my friend not phoned me, the use of present perfect would seem to be a natural choice, as least according to my grammar books. Because I was condisering to saysaying sorry to him.
    I think you may letting your worries about English language usage be influenced by your cultural background.

    My very limited experience of working with Chinese people in Liaoning Province eight years ago suggested to me that Chinese people try very hard not to give offence to others.

    If this is the case in your concern about the correct tense here, stop worrying. Choosing the wrong manner of expression in English can cause offence, but this does not normally happen when the 'mistake' is simply an inappropriate tense/aspect.

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    #5

    Re: Simple past or present perfect?

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    Hello, everyone....one of you here.
    You seem to be excessively worried by this point! Please note that:

    1) This is an issue that relates essentially only to British English. An AmE speaker would have no qualms about saying "Did you call me?" here, regardless of perceived present effects.

    2) The choice between present perfect and past simple is NOT an issue of grammar, except insofar as it concerns the combination of a present perfect with a definite (deictic) past time adverbial.

    Thus the only kind of locution that is genuinely 'ruled out', in strictly grammatical terms, is one such as

    *He has called me last night.

    Other cases can result, at worst, only in an unnatural/inappropriate utterance. If in doubt, therefore, my advice to you would be to follow the AmE model and use the past simple.

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