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The New Headway Intermediate Student's Book, fourth edition, page 141 7.3, 2 says:

The Present Perfect refers to indefinite time. The Past Simple refers to definite time. Notice the time expressions used with the two tenses.

Present Perfect - indefinite

I've done it for a long time/since July/before/recently.


Past Simple - definite

I did it yesterday/last week/two days ago/at eight o'clock/in 1987/when I was young/for a long time.

I am very very very confused because the words 'for a long time' are in both lists. How is this possible???!!!!

Is the book wrong? Please help me!

Thank you very much

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car pen 112Is the book wrong?

No, but the explanation is quite poor/incomplete. The phrase "for a long time" can be used with both those tenses, and so can "before" and "recently".


I've lived in Birmingham for a long time. [ applies up to, and possibly including, the present]

I lived in Birmingham for a long time. [ in the past]

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car pen 112I am very very very confused because the words 'for a long time' are in both lists. How is this possible???!!!!

The long time happens at different times.

With the present perfect the long time starts in the past and continues into present time.

With the past simple the long time starts in the past, continues, then stops in the past, never continuing into present time. In this case the past is interpreted as a state or activity, not an action or event, so it's similar to 'used to'.

I have received letters from her for a long time. (From some time in the past until now — I still receive letters from her.)

I received letters from her for a long time. (From a time in the past to another time in the past. I stopped receiving letters from her. This one is somewhat like "I used to receive letters from her", which indicates that you are no longer receiving letters from her.)

CJ

Oops! I didn't even see that there was already an answer when I opened the thread.

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Comments  

Thank you very much. I'm surprised that a Headway explanation is quite poor, as I thought that they were meant to be a good organisation. Your reply is very helpful and I understand this better now, so thank you.

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I'm happy to have 2 answers, so I'm glad you replied too. I'm writing bilingual worksheets for my students and became very confused with the Headway explanation. Your combined explanations have helped me enormously and I feel relieved to know that I understand this issue now and that I'll be able to continue writing my worksheets with some confidence, rather than get stuck in confusion! Thank you very much.