Unit 1.2

Present Perfect vs Past Simple


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Introduction

The present perfect is used to express completed actions which have occurred in the past, but are connected to the present and still have effects on it.

The past simple is used to express situations that occurred and concluded in the past.

Present perfect and past simple are different in form and meaning.

Form

Present perfect and past simple have different structures for the three forms: affirmative, negative and interrogative.

Affirmative forms

  • Present perfect: Subject + have/has + past participle + …
  • Past simple: Subject + [past form of the verb] + …

Negative forms

  • Present perfect: Subject + have/has + not + past participle + …
  • Past simple: Subject + did + not + verb + …

Interrogative forms

  • Present perfect: Have/has + subject + past participle + …?
  • Past simple: Did + subject + verb + …?

Example

Present perfect:

  • have lived in Chicago for 10 years. 
  • She hasn’t played the piano in 3 years.
  • Have they lived together for a year?

Past simple:

  • lived in Chicago for 10 years but now I live in San Diego.
  • She didn’t play the piano for 3 years, but she started playing again this week.
  • Did they live together for a year?

Use

We use present perfect to express short/long unfinished actions and events, past situations with results in the present, with unfinished time expressions (this month, today, this year…).

We use past simple to express short/long finished actions and events, repeated events and habits which occurred in the past, with finished time expressions (two weeks ago, last year, in 2010, yesterday…).

Summary

The present perfect and past simple differ in meaning and form.

For example:
— “I have been to the cinema four times this month.” = We use the present perfect of to be to express that the speaker started the action in a period of time which hasn’t finished yet (this month).
— “I went to the cinema four times last month.” = We use the past simple of to go to express that the speaker finished the action in a past moment (last month).

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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