# re: Simple Past Vs Present Perfect?page 2

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Congratualtions for your explanations. There are clear and the best i've found.

Vos explicatons sont les plus pédagogiques que j'ai pu trouver à ce jour et je tiens tout particulièrement à vous en rendre hommage.

Gérard.

Forum: New: Common English Questions and Answers - Archived Posts
Posted: Oct 6, 6:46 AM [GMT 1]
Post Subject: [url="/English/Post/krcr/Post.htm#49164"]Re: Simple past vs persent perfect[/url]
Post author: [url="/user/czbm/profile.htm"]CalifJim[/url]
There is more than one difference between the simple past and the present perfect. The simplest difference is the grammatical difference that the simple past can be used with expressions which signify a definite, particular time in the past.

I wrote a letter yesterday.
I wrote a letter at 7 o'clock.
I wrote a letter last Monday.
I wrote a letter several weeks ago.

The present perfect cannot be used with such expressions. (After all, it IS a "present" tense!)

I have written a letter yesterday. (wrong!)
I have written a letter at 7 o'clock. (wrong!)
I have written a letter last Monday. (wrong!)
I have written a letter several weeks ago. (wrong!)

Being a "present" tense, the present perfect can be used with "now":

I have now written a letter.

Another difference is the way the two tenses "cut through time". Imagine time as a very, very long loaf of bread extending into infinity from where you are located. As you look into the distance at this long loaf of bread, let's say that you are looking into the past. The loaf ends at your feet and this is the present moment.

When the simple past tense is used to report an event, it "cuts a slice out of time". To do this, somewhere along the bread loaf you make two cuts, fairly close together. The cuts represent the beginning and the end of the event or action. Suppose you wrote a letter. It took, let's say, an hour. Then the thickness of the bread slice represents one hour of writing. If that hour took place this morning, the slice is located quite close to you: "I wrote a letter this morning". If that hour took place yesterday, the slice is located farther from you: "I wrote a letter yesterday." If it took only 15 minutes to write the letter, the bread slice is much thinner, but again the slice may be closer to or farther from the present (e.g., this morning or yesterday).

When the present perfect tense is used to report an event, the "slicing" is different, because you don't know exactly where the slice is located along the loaf. If you say "I have written a letter", you know there were two cuts in the loaf to make the slice, but you don't know where. You only know that if you examine the loaf, you will discover a slice representing the letter writing somewhere along the loaf. Another feature of the present perfect is that you can limit how far back in time - how far back along the loaf - you want to go in your search. This is done with a "since" clause. In the sentence "Since Monday, I have written a letter", we know that the slice representing the letter writing will be found between the distance from us which represents Monday and the present moment (at our feet). But we still don't know exactly where within that more limited part of the loaf we will find the slice.

Another way to look at it is that the simple past "singularizes", "individuates", or "particularizes" an action by focusing on a specific time. Whether the specific time is mentioned or not, the simple past, when used to report an event, always implies "at a certain time". In fact, it is this implication that particularizes the event. Even if the implication is "when it happened", the implication is still there. "Did you see that?" implies "Did you see that when it happened?" Another example: "Did you notice that John got nervous when we mentioned the missing cash?" The noticing we are referring to is the noticing of that specific instance of nervousness that occurred at the time we mentioned the missing cash.

The present perfect, however, does not "singularize", "individuate" or "particularize" an action. With the present perfect, we don't even know exactly when the action happened! What is more important with the present perfect is that the action now has some felt effect on the present. When you say "I have written a letter", in a way you are pointing to that letter and saying, "And here it is. Here is the letter I have written" -- even though the pointing and saying may be only a mental pointing and saying! The important thing is having (hence the auxiliary "have") the letter now.

Another way to look at the present perfect is that it is the "diary tense". It is as if everyone has an imaginary diary where his life experiences are written. With "I have written a letter" we are saying that we will find in your "diary" today, - if we look now - the notation: "Letter - written!" on some page of the "diary", but we don't know or don't care which page that might be.

Becoming adept at the use of the simple past and the present perfect takes lots of practice. Don't be too disappointed if you find it difficult at first.
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Hi Barb

I've had some difficulties posting this morning, too. So far mainly just sluggishness, though.
I also noticed a thread in which mine was the only response, but the thread is listed as having 2 responses.
Maybe one or more of your lost posts is floating around in some as yet undiscovered dimension of cyberspace.
Like those socks that disappear from the dryer?
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YES! lol

Have you seen any of mine by any chance?
I tried to respond about five times, agreeing that in negation and in questions, we do use simple past, and that I was thinking of affirmative statements. I kept getting an error message and my original, better post was lost.

Did you try this yet?

Before hitting the post button.
1. Highlight and copy your post.
2. Hit POST.
3. If the system gives you "Unable to serve your request":
3a. Go back two screens to the post you were answering.
3b. Refresh the screen.
3c. Check to see if your post came through. (It may have in spite of the error.)
3d. If the post didn't come through:
3d3. Hit POST.

Repeat step 3 until you finally get through.

I have had to repeat this process regularly for years. I'm surprised that you seem to see this happen so seldom.

CJ
I have certainly started to highlight and copy before hitting post, but I have not gone back two screens to refresh. Good idea. I just go back one screen and paste and post. Sometimes it works and sometimes I get the message about not allowing duplicate posts.

Maybe it's only something that happens as you approach the five-digit mark
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YankeeHave you forgotten sentences such as "Jeet yet?"
I've seen that in the book I read, the one about American pronunciation. Ann Cook wrote: "Jeet yet?" - "No, nah chet"

PS: I usually have no problems when I post.
<<Do average Americans make a clear distinction between the simple past and present perfect Yes. or is it only for professors, teachers, journalists, and the like? No, not just for academics.
I know that they use simple past with YET and ALREADY...when they should use the present perfect. Am I missing something...Where language is concerned, we are all missing a lot most of the time. It's a very complex topic. Am I only seeing the tip of an iceberg? Like the rest of us, you probably are.>>

The tenses mean the same things whether it's British or American English. It's just that Americans (It may be a cultural difference) tend on average to see events as definitely past when the British may feel that they still have relevance for the present. The choice, remember, is often not a matter of "one is correct; the other incorrect", but "which tense communicates best what's in my mind at this moment of speaking?"

Nevertheless, there are many situations -- possibly the majority -- where the same tense (past or present perfect) is chosen by all speakers of English, regardless of which variety of English they speak.

CJ
Maybe it's only something that happens as you approach the five-digit mark
Surely you jest. You don't look a day over three digits!

CJ
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