# The Bank Was Robbed?

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Hi,
Could someone comment on these? I don't understand the difference between present perfect and past simple in passive constructions. Can both of the tenses be used, even if something just happened? (for example, the bank was robbed 1 minute ago or later)

Holy cannoli! What a mess... You guys all seem pretty upset! What happened?
Oh, the bank's been robbed. They took about a million dollars

Holy cannoli! What a mess... You guys all seem pretty upset! What happened?
Oh, the bank was robbed. They took about a million dollars

I don't know why I'm having such doubts, but I feel I'd tend to use the present perfect in passive constructions, even though I usually only use the past simple in active constructions (you know I use American English).
Thanks
KooyeenHi,
Could someone comment on these? I don't understand the difference between present perfect and past simple in passive constructions. Can both of the tenses be used, even if something just happened? (for example, the bank was robbed 1 minute ago or later)

Holy cannoli! What a mess... You guys all seem pretty upset! What happened?
Oh, the bank's been robbed. They took about a million dollars

Holy cannoli! What a mess... You guys all seem pretty upset! What happened?
Oh, the bank was robbed. They took about a million dollars

I don't know why I'm having such doubts, but I feel I'd tend to use the present perfect in passive constructions, even though I usually only use the past simple in active constructions (you know I use American English).
Thanks

I think both are fine. Perhaps the first one is a little more recent. I'm sure you understand that 's = "has" rather than "is"
To Philip

Kooyeen wrote:
«What happened?
Oh, the bank's been robbed.»

Back in school I was tought to reply in the same tense as was used in the question. Now I have learnt most of the rules are not absolutely strict, so I'll word my question this way: Doesn't the Present Perfect cause in you a slightest doubt?
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No, not doubt. As Philip says, it makes it seem more recent.
Thanks a lot!
Yeah, it makes it seem more recent, because the other could be used even if the bank had been robbed 100 years ago. But what I really wanted to know was if the version with the simple past could be used anyway instead of the one with the present perfect, in every case, even if the bank was robbed 1 minute ago. I think I can always use the simple past...
Ant_222To Philip Kooyeen wrote: «What happened? Oh, the bank's been robbed.» Back in school I was tought to reply in the same tense as was used in the question. Now I have learnt most of the rules are not absolutely strict, so I'll word my question this way: Doesn't the Present Perfect cause in you a slightest doubt?
Ant222,

Theoretically, what you said is correct. If someone asked you: “have you eaten yet? “, the correct form is “yes, I have, thank you” or “no, I haven’t yet”. In this case, the only information available was the bank lost a large sum of money from a robbery sometime in the recent past.

So the query about what happened to the bank can be answered either in simple past which indicated that a robbery took place at the bank, or be more explicite about the time in present perfect which tells people that during a certain span of time in the recent past, a robbery had taken place before the bank discovered the robbery. How it's answered is relative to the perspective of the person.

The query "what happened" actually expressed interest to find out what took place rather than when it took place.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Goodman: «The query "what happened" actually expressed interest to find out what took place rather than when it took place.»

Yes, I knew that. And if the response is aimed at satisfying this query literally then it should use Simple Past, while Present Perfect may be resorted to to add some additional info — a feeling of recency/actuality — that's how I see it now, after your comment.
Ant222,

In natural English, there are unspoken rules which trigger certain repsonse when certain questions are asked.

If you apply the same question to a person in the following scenarios, this is probably what it will sound like:

Adam walked into the office area. He saw a bunch of co-workers hovering over a desk.

Adam: What happened! He leaned over the crowd.

John: Mary just passed out on her desk. I was jsut discussing the project with her on the phone in my office.

In this case, simple past is just fine.

Scenario 2

The same question applied to a situation or inanimate object:

You arrive the at the building where your office is located. A fire barricade has been set up and water is everywhere.

You asked the fireman: What happened!

Fireman responded: The offices on the entire 10th floor have been destroyed by a quickly moving fire and the building has been evacuted. Simple past will be understood, though not very idiomatic.

In this type of scenarios, present perfect is naturally preferred.