The Present Perfect Tense vs. the Simple Past Tense

Let’s take a look at the two most common past tenses in English: the present perfect tense
and the simple past tense.

Present Perfect Simple Past
I have spoken I spoke
you have spoken you spoke
he, she, it has spoken he, she, it spoke
we, they have spoken we, they spoke

As you can see, the present perfect tense is formed with the verb to have and the past participle of the main verb, in this case, spoken. The simple past tense is just the past form of the verb, which in this case is spoke. These tenses are used a bit differently.

The present perfect tense expresses an event that happened in the past when the exact time is not known, or when there’s a result or a connection being made to the present, or when the time reference is still unfinished, as in so far this week, or up to now, or during my entire life.

The simple past tense, on the other hand, expresses an action that happened when a specific finished time is given, such as yesterday or last week or in 1995. Sometimes these tenses are interchangeable, depending on what the speaker wishes to emphasize. Here are a few examples.

Example Explanation
Julia has returned from her trip. No specific time is given or is important, and the speaker is emphasizing that Julia is now home.
Julia returned from her trip. Perhaps this is part of a longer narration of events in the past.
I finished reading the novel last night. “Last night” indicates a specific time in the past.
Has Pam ever been to New York? “Ever” means “during her entire life.”
I worked five days last week. “Last week” is finished time.
So far this week I’ve worked three days. “This week” is unfinished time.

 

Now you do the quiz to practice what you have learnt

Lesson 3 - Practice Exercise 1

Let's start the quiz!

Complete each of the following sentences with either the present perfect or simple past tense.


You will be asked 10 questions

Questions