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Present perfect Vs Past simple
As we saw a few weeks ago, the present perfect is a present time verb. The time expressed by this verb is the present, unfinished time. Sometimes people think it means past time, as in ‘I have been to America.’ ‘I have read that book 50 times at least.’ ‘I have seen that movie already.’ The reason why these sentences are in the present perfect, and the reason why these sentences mean present time, is because the speaker is still alive!!! (The time period is unfinished, even though the action is finished. Don’t confuse the action with the time period.) If the speaker was dead and was talking to God in heaven, he would say: ‘I went to America.’ ‘I read that book 50 times at least.’ ‘I saw that movie.’ because the time period (his life) is over. Alternatively, if the speaker is alive and is using specific past time words, then he would need to change the tense: ‘I went to America last week.’ ‘I read that book 50 times at least when I was a kid.’ ‘I saw that movie on Saturday.’
That’s why it’s wrong to combine a specific past time reference with the present perfect: ‘I have been to America last week.’ ‘I have read that book 50 times at least when I was a kid.’ ‘I have seen that movie already on Saturday.’ These are all frequent mistakes with English in Taiwan.
To help you consolidate your understanding of this, we’re going to do a reading task.
Task 1: Read this email, focus on all the verbs and complete the table below. What time was it when Jacky wrote the email?
Dear Mavis,
  Regarding the report you sent me a few days ago, I have sent it on to Jean. I have also arranged a meeting with the team to go through the report in detail. I have also set up the big meeting room for tomorrow afternoon and have repaired the projector –it was broken last week – so it should be working fine now.
  By the way, did you see June this morning? She came in to the office to say hi. It was really nice to see her: she looked really big and she said the baby is kicking a lot. So exciting!
  Anyway, let me know if you have any concerns about the meeting.

finished time verbs
unfinished time verbs


Task 1 Feedback: Present perfect Vs Past simple

finished time verbs
unfinished time verbs
 you sent me
 it was broken
 did you see
 June came in
 it was really nice
 she looked
 she said
 I have sent it on
 I have also arranged
 I have also set up
 have repaired

* Notice that the past simple verbs all refer to specific time which is finished: ‘a few days ago,’ ‘last week,’ ‘this morning.’
* Jacky wrote the email in the afternoon. June’s visit happened in the morning, which is now over. The other actions Jacky has carried out for arranging the meeting are all in the present perfect unfinished time because the working day is not yet over. If Jacky was writing the email from home and the working day was finished, then all the verb tenses would be in the past simple.
* Look back at the explanation and read through the email again if this is still unclear to you.
* As a practical summary, use the present perfect for actions which took place in a time period which is not finished, and the past simple for actions which took place in a period of time which is finished.


文章分類:Tense overview
上一篇:One essential verb for talking about change
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