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    #1

    subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    In the quest of finding out the fine distinctions between the present perfect and the simple past, I'd like to pose the following questions. Any help will be appreciated

    1- I ---- your wife in the shopping mall.
    A) saw B) have seen

    2- Who ---- you?
    A) has called B) called

    3- She ---- up with an interesting idea!
    A) came B) has come

    4- I ---- that.
    A) haven't known B) didn't know

    5- Well, many ESL learners find it difficult to choose which tense to use, simple past or present perfect. Apart from the general guidelines supplied in the coursebooks or grammars, how do you decide which tense to use? the past - present relation requiring the present perfect does not seem to be covering all of its usages. I did my math homework. I have done my math homework. In both cases, my homework is ready to inspection by the teacher, isn't it? Why do you use you one rather than the other? or "I would never treat my relatives in the way that Jim has treated his relatives." Why not "treated"? As you see, I wonder the real trick. or am I making it sound more difficult than it really is!

  1. rewboss's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    The present perfect connects the past to the present, while the simple past refers purely to the past.

    "I saw your wife..." -- at some specific time in the past (and we're talking about one specific occasion).
    "I have seen your wife..." -- during a period of time that started in the past and extends to the present, I have seen your wife at least once.

    What's the difference? Well, the first sentence simply talks about something that happened in the past. What a coincidence! I saw your wife at the shopping mall. The second sentence says something about your wife's habits. She sometimes goes to the shopping mall. I know this because I have seen her there. It's possible she may return to the shopping mall.

    In your homework example, the present perfect makes it clear that your homework is ready to be presented to the teacher. I have done my homework, and I have it here. The past simple doesn't make that clear at all. You might be talking about some homework you did last year. Or maybe you did it last night, but then the dog ate it.

  2. #3

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trex View Post
    As you see, I wonder the real trick. or am I making it sound more difficult than it really is!
    Yes and no . The truth is, there are numerous instances where both P.P and S.P can be used. Of course, often there is a difference in meaning.

    Consider:
    Who rearranged the furniture?
    vs
    Who's rearranged the furniture?

    The first example (S.P) focuses on "who did it". The second example (P.P) focuses on the changed observed (i.e. the rearranged furniture)

  3. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trex View Post
    In the quest of finding out the fine distinctions between the present perfect and the simple past, I'd like to pose the following questions. Any help will be appreciated

    1- I ---- your wife in the shopping mall.
    A) saw B) have seen

    2- Who ---- you?
    A) has called B) called

    3- She ---- up with an interesting idea!
    A) came B) has come

    4- I ---- that.
    A) haven't known B) didn't know

    5- Well, many ESL learners find it difficult to choose which tense to use, simple past or present perfect. Apart from the general guidelines supplied in the coursebooks or grammars, how do you decide which tense to use? the past - present relation requiring the present perfect does not seem to be covering all of its usages. I did my math homework. I have done my math homework. In both cases, my homework is ready to inspection by the teacher, isn't it? Why do you use you one rather than the other? or "I would never treat my relatives in the way that Jim has treated his relatives." Why not "treated"? As you see, I wonder the real trick. or am I making it sound more difficult than it really is!
    One could probably write a book about simple past versus present perfect. An exercise like the one in your question is useless, because both tenses are grammatical. It is context and the speaker's view of the event that lead to the choice of one tense or another. There is a large area of overlap between the two tenses, mostly because both deal with an event that was completed in the past. Additionally, AmE and BrE speakers often select different tenses for the same meaning. Learners get confused because they are led to believe that one tense is correct and the other is not. In many cases, either tense can be correct.
    Last edited by MikeNewYork; 15-Nov-2006 at 19:21.

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    #5

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    One could probably write a book about simple past versus present perfect. An exercise like the one in your question is useless, because both tense are grammatical. It is context and the speaker's view of the event that leads to the choice of one tense or another. There is a large area of overlap between the two tenses, mostly because both deal with an even that was completed in the past. Additionally, AmE and BrE speakers often select different tenses for the same meaning. Learners get confused because they are led to believe that one tense is correct and the other is not. In many cases, either tense can be correct.
    Hi, Mike, I don't know why you think that I posted those questions to learn the correct one. No! I just posted them because I want somebody, preferably a native , to explain the difference between them. You say in most cases either tense can be correct. That is exactly what I am after. Can you give a few examles where both would be equally correct? Yes, indeed we are led to believe that those two tenses differ! and they cite certain criteria to distinguish between them such as experiential present perfect, present perfect: past in relation to present, but they do not generally tell us whether both can be used to mean the same thing.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trex View Post
    Hi, Mike, I don't know why you think that I posted those questions to learn the correct one. No! I just posted them because I want somebody, preferably a native , to explain the difference between them. You say in most cases either tense can be correct. That is exactly what I am after. Can you give a few examles where both would be equally correct? Yes, indeed we are led to believe that those two tenses differ! and they cite certain criteria to distinguish between them such as experiential present perfect, present perfect: past in relation to present, but they do not generally tell us whether both can be used to mean the same thing.
    I wasn't criticizing your posting. That comment was for everyone who reads the threads.

    A man shows up at a house at 12 noon. The woman says:

    1. (present perfect)
    Have you had breakfast?
    Have you eaten breakfast?
    Have you eaten?

    2. (simple past)
    Did you have breakfast?
    Did you eat breakfast?
    Did you eat?

    Both groups deal with an event that is finished in the past, and all are correct.

    A boy comes in from outside. His father says "What about your chores?"

    1. I have mowed the lawn and I have washed the car. (focus on recency)
    2. I mowed the lawn and I washed the car. (focus on completion)

    Both are correct.

    A man is playing poker. His wife says "How are you doing?"

    1. I have won $400.
    2. I won $400.

    The problem here is that the man is still playing. That makes #2 incorrect in that circumstance.

    A man was playing poker, but is no longer at the table.

    1. I have won $400. (focus on recency)
    2. I won $400. (focus on completion)

    Both are correct.
    Last edited by MikeNewYork; 13-Nov-2006 at 14:08.

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    #7

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Thank you, Mike. You just illustrated the point.

  5. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trex View Post
    Thank you, Mike. You just illustrated the point.
    Thanks. I hoped it helped. This is a very tough part of English.

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    #9

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Thanks. I hoped it helped. This is a very tough part of English.
    Hi, Mike. Yes, it helped a lot. Thank you.

    PS 1: Is it "hope" or "hoped"?
    PS 2: Just out of curiosity, are you Caseopea


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    #10

    Re: subtle distinctions between the s.p. and the p.p.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    A man is playing poker. His wife says "How are you doing?"

    1. I have won $400.
    2. I won $400.

    The problem here is that the man is still playing. That makes #2 incorrect in that circumstance.
    If that man had won the $400 in a series of wins, then it's certainly possible, maybe even likely he would use the present perfect. That said, in casual speech, there is a pretty good chance that a person would/could still use, "I won $400."

    We also use the present perfect to add importance to past actions but speakers can choose to downplay the importance. Choosing the simple past makes the winning "no big deal"; "not really important" "something I do often"; "$400 bucks is just pocket change"; ...

    In another circumstance, if that win had come in one pot, one hand, then it would be very natural to use the past simple, though again, the PP is still a possibility.

    Context is everything. This is one of the major problems facing ESLs. They are taught these issues in a grammar desert. Native children of any language grasp these differences easily, because the language that surrounds them is so contextually rich.

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