What's the Difference Between Past Simple and Present Perfect?

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Amanda FischerEnglisch
28. März 2018
112
2 Minuten
Sometimes the myriad of verb tenses in English can be confusing. Today I'd like to help you understand the difference between the past simple tense and the present perfect tense.

Before we get into the details, let's do a quick review.
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What is the past simple tense?


The past simple tense is a conjugation of a verb that tells what happened in the past, usually at a specific time, but not always. It may be a regular or irregular conjugation, depending on the verb. Here's a few examples: <br>
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Regular Conjugation <br>

I walked to the park. <br>
You walked to the park yesterday. <br>
They called me on the phone to wish me a happy birthday. <br>
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Irregular Conjugation <br>

I sang my favorite song. <br>
He went to the store. <br>
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What is the present perfect tense?


The present perfect tense is a compound tense, which means it uses a form of the main verb (called a past participle) and another verb (known as a helping verb). The present perfect tense talks about an event that happened in the recent past or something that is still meaningful today. Here's a few examples: <br>
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Regular Conjugation <br>

I have walked here before. <br>
They have traveled to Europe. <br>
She has cooked pizza. <br>
He has gotten his money back. <br>
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Irregular Conjugation (of the past participle)

I have seen that movie. <br>
He has not seen that movie. <br>
They have gone to the training. <br>
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So what's the difference?


You may have already noticed some differences in the description of the tenses. I'll demonstrate these differences better with some comparisons and further explanation.

First, let's look at these two sentences:

I walked to school yesterday. <br>
I have walked to school before. <br>
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Can you spot the difference? The first sentence is in past simple. It gives a specific time the speaker walked to school: yesterday. The second sentence is written in present perfect. It does not give a specific time for the action; it just says "before"--meaning, sometime before now. <br>

In the first sentence, the speaker is emphasizing the time the action took place. In the second sentence, the speaker is emphasizing that the action definitely has happened. In context, you can probably see this more clearly:
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Scenario 1

Speaker 1: "How do you get to school?" <br>
Speaker 2: "Well, I usually ride the school bus. But I walked to school yesterday." <br>

Do you see how the speaker is clarifying when he or she walked to school? The time is very important in this case. So the past simple tense is used. <br>
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Scenario 2

Speaker 1: "Do you walk to school?" <br>
Speaker 2: "No, I ride the school bus. But I have walked to school before." <br>

In this example, Speaker 1 is asking about whether Speaker 2 usually walks to school. Speaker 2 needs to answer yes or no--the focus is on whether he or she does an action. The time is not important, so Speaker 2 uses the present perfect tense to communicate that even though he or she does not walk to school anymore, he or she did before. This is what it means when we say that the present perfect tense is used when an action in the past is still meaningful in the present. The action is done, but in this case, we still care about what happened.
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When should you use the past simple and when should you use the present perfect?


In summary, when you want to talk about an action in the past and time matters, use the past simple. <br>
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When you want to talk about something you did before, but don't do anymore, use the present perfect.


I hope this helps you know when to use these two tenses correctly! If you have any questions, feel free to write a comment. And please let me know if this helped you!

Englisch Tutor Amanda
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Amanda

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Flag
Englisch
globe
USA
time
11
Englisch
Muttersprachler
,
Niederländisch
B2
,
Spanisch
B2
,
Mandarin
A1
,
Amerikanische Zeichensprache
A1
Hello! I am a TEFL-certified American English teacher. I especially love working with intermediate students of all ages, and focusing on building fluency. In my own language learning experience, I always found it most difficult to get from A2 or B1 (being able to "get by" in the language) to B2 or C1 (being a fluent, confident, accurate user of the language). So I know what has helped me and other learners to bridge that gap, and my teaching passion is helping others cross over to the other side. I also have a lot of experience working with beginners--I am encouraging, patient, and enthusiastic to make those first stages of language learning relaxing and fun! (***See new student policy at the end***) I would love to help you by: 1) Identifying areas where you have room for improvement 2) Targeting specific challenges you have 3) Creating short and long term action plans to help you reach the next level! I speak Dutch quite well (though you'll have to pardon my word order), and I speak Spanish at a nearly fluent level. So if you find it beneficial, we can use your language for some explanations. Otherwise, if your goal is to speak better and more fluently, let's speak English as much as possible! I will cheer you on and you don't have to worry about uncertainty, we will get there together. :) Some activities I usually do in my lessons: 1) Pick a discussion topic with some opinion questions and have a conversation 2) Read and discuss an article or blog post 3) Watch a short video and discuss or explain concepts 4) Role-play script exercises to practice situations 5) Explain a tricky grammar topic with a whiteboard or PowerPoint ***NEW STUDENTS: I will be happy to have you book a class! Before you do, I need you to send me a message first with your approximate level and your goals to see if I'm the right teacher for you. Otherwise I will have to cancel your lesson until we can work out the details first. Thank you!*** //Late policy// I will wait 15 minutes for you to come to the lesson, then I will end the lesson.
Flag
Englisch
globe
USA
time
11
Englisch
Muttersprachler
,
Niederländisch
B2
,
Spanisch
B2
,
Mandarin
A1
,
Amerikanische Zeichensprache
A1
Hello! I am a TEFL-certified American English teacher. I especially love working with intermediate students of all ages, and focusing on building fluency. In my own language learning experience, I always found it most difficult to get from A2 or B1 (being able to "get by" in the language) to B2 or C1 (being a fluent, confident, accurate user of the language). So I know what has helped me and other learners to bridge that gap, and my teaching passion is helping others cross over to the other side. I also have a lot of experience working with beginners--I am encouraging, patient, and enthusiastic to make those first stages of language learning relaxing and fun! (***See new student policy at the end***) I would love to help you by: 1) Identifying areas where you have room for improvement 2) Targeting specific challenges you have 3) Creating short and long term action plans to help you reach the next level! I speak Dutch quite well (though you'll have to pardon my word order), and I speak Spanish at a nearly fluent level. So if you find it beneficial, we can use your language for some explanations. Otherwise, if your goal is to speak better and more fluently, let's speak English as much as possible! I will cheer you on and you don't have to worry about uncertainty, we will get there together. :) Some activities I usually do in my lessons: 1) Pick a discussion topic with some opinion questions and have a conversation 2) Read and discuss an article or blog post 3) Watch a short video and discuss or explain concepts 4) Role-play script exercises to practice situations 5) Explain a tricky grammar topic with a whiteboard or PowerPoint ***NEW STUDENTS: I will be happy to have you book a class! Before you do, I need you to send me a message first with your approximate level and your goals to see if I'm the right teacher for you. Otherwise I will have to cancel your lesson until we can work out the details first. Thank you!*** //Late policy// I will wait 15 minutes for you to come to the lesson, then I will end the lesson.

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