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Hi everybody,

I am an English learner.

I realize that American prefer using simple past over present perfect in daily conversations

For example, in this content:

I just lost my key, so i don't have my key now, and I cannot get in my house

An American will say:

(1). I lost my key. I cant not get in my house.

(2). I have lost my key. I can not get in my house

Is that (1) and (2) used interchangeable in daily conversations in US with no difference in meaning in that case?

If so, I would like to ask if it is correct to use simple past for a post on newspaper:

The scientist created/ have created COVID-19 vaccine.

For actions with its results are still true or important on the present. I see that American use Simple past and Present perfect interchangeably. This make me confused in choosing which tense to use in case like this.


Many thanks in advance for your help.

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LE HANH 2383

Hi everybody,

I am an English learner.

I realize that American prefer using simple past over present perfect in daily conversations.

For example, in this context:

I just lost my key, so I don't have my key now, and I cannot get in my house.

An American will say:

(1). I lost my key. I cant not can't get in my house.

(2). I have lost my key. I cannot ['cannot' is one word.] get in my house.
Is that Are (1) and (2) used interchangeably in daily conversations in US with no difference in meaning in that case? Yes. That sentence can be said either way.

If so, I would like to ask if it is correct to use simple past for a post for an article? on in a newspaper: [Yes, it's correct to use any tense that is appropriate in journalistic style in a newspaper.]

The Scientists created / have created a COVID-19 vaccine.
[ For this particular sentence, "have created" is more usual in a newspaper. Journalists sometimes even seem to overuse the present perfect.]
For actions with its results are still true or important on in the present, I see that Americans use simple past and present perfect interchangeably. [No, no, no. Not always. See the notes below.] This makes me confused in choosing which tense to use in case like this. [If the two tenses are interchangeable, it means both are correct. You can choose either one in such cases, and you will be correct, so there is really no reason to be confused. Instead, maybe you should be relieved. Choose the one you like better.]


Many thanks in advance for your help.

I take it you are learning American English.

I assure you that we Americans understand you whether you use the simple past or the present perfect, so this is not something that should be high on your priority list of things to learn.

Besides, the greater difficulty comes if you are learning British English. Americans often accept both the simple past and the present perfect in cases where the simple past would sound strange to British ears. So I suppose you have less of a chance of saying something that sounds wrong if you are speaking to an American.

One of the main ideas that is usually promoted with regard to the present perfect is that of 'current relevance', a concept that is not easy to define. Here's what British linguist F. R. Palmer says about that (The English Verb):

British speakers seem to use the perfect whenever there seems to be any kind of relevance, but some Americans, at least, use it more sparingly.  For a British speaker it would not be normal to ask a child coming to the table:
Did you wash your hands?
But for many, if not most, Americans, this is quite acceptable. There is no reason to suppose that the function of [the perfect aspect] is different in American speech, only that the interpretation of relevance is stricter.

I think you believe that the differences between British and American English with regard to this point are much more dramatic than they really are. In fact, the differences are so slight that most people don't even notice them when speaking to someone who speaks the "other" variety of English.

CJ

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Comments  

In the US you'd hear: "I lost (past) my key. I can't get in my house."


"I've lost (present perfect) my key. I can't get in my house." is correct and has the same meaning as the previous sentence, but this is considered more formal English and is not often heard in everyday conversation.


"This scientist created (past) the COVID-19 vaccine." is correct, and what you'd typically hear in the US.


"This scientist has created (pres. perf.) the COVID-19 vaccine." is correct and has the same meaning as the previous sentence, but this is more formal and is not usually heard in the US.

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 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.

Hi CalifJim

Thanks so much for carefully correcting my mistakes.
As your explanations, No need to pay much attention to which tense to use in cases like this. I just need to choose what ever I feel like better.


I have another example, Would you please give me some advice?

In this context:
I am famous singer now. I am being interviewed on a TV show.
I would say:


(1) Passion for music drove me to be a singer, a successful singer today.

(2) Passion for music has driven me to be a singer, a successful singer today.

Both sound correct, and I can use either?

LE HANH 2383Both sound correct, and I can use either?

Yes. Both are correct.

(1) emphasizes the past — the time when you were becoming a singer and then became a singer.

(2) emphasizes the whole journey from past to present, suggesting you continue to be driven toward success.

It all depends on whether, at the moment you say it, you are thinking of what happened from one point of view or the other. But if your native language doesn't naturally direct you to think from these two points of view, it may take some time to catch on to how it works. In the meantime, as I said before, just choose whichever one sounds best to you if you come across one of these sentences that can go either way.

CJ

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Hi CalifJim

Thanks so much for your help

I get it

Hi anonymous

Thanks for your help

Dear Califjim

Could you pls help me explain the different on the emphasis of these sentences .


The context is that I haven’t seen my friend for a long time . I just met him at the airport to pick him up. I will say to him when I first see him


1. I missed you so much. Finally, You are back

2. I have missed you so much. Finally, You are back

As you said on above comments, both would be true, I can use either. But I think there must be a different on emphasis, but I can’t figure out.



**** The 2nd context:

I am making a statement that I will quit smoking from now on. I would say to my daughter

1. I smoked for 2 years. I promise to quit smoking from now on

2. I have smoked for 2 years. I promise to quit smoking from now on

Both are fine?


Many thanks in advance.

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Here's another way to decide between the simple past and the present perfect.

If there is a significant time gap between when the action happened and the moment of utterance, use the simple past. Otherwise, use the present perfect.

(The moment of utterance is the moment the speaker says the sentence. The gap is a period of time when the action is not happening.)


Time - - - - - - - - - > > >

X is the moment of utterance, the time you mention that the action occurred.

.......... [ - - action occurs - - ] .......gap...... X ....... simple past
......................... [ - - - - action occurs - - - X ....... present perfect


.......... [ - - smoked for two years - - ] .......gap........X ....... simple past
......................... [- - have smoked for two years - - X ....... present perfect

.......... [ - - missed you - - ] .........gap...... X ............. simple past
................. [ - - - - have missed you - - - X ............. present perfect

The difference is a little more obvious in the first example above. The two-year period is earlier and doesn't reach as far as the moment of utterance when you use the simple past, but that two-year period is just ending at the moment of utterance when you use the present perfect.

The problem for learners is that they don't have the native speaker's intuitive feel for whether the gap is significant or not, or even what counts as a gap. And each speaker judges these things and decides them for himself.

I can see the 'missed you' sentence going either way, but in the 'smoked' case, it doesn't make sense to quit smoking if the two-year period of smoking ended in the past, forming a gap between the smoking and the moment of utterance, so that has to be the present perfect (showing there's no gap).

CJ

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