Author Topic: Present Perfect and Past Simple  (Read 690 times)

Offline Natalia

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Present Perfect and Past Simple
« on: June 07, 2019, 10:32:54 AM »
Can you tell me if there's any significant difference between using the present perfect in the first example and the past simple in the second? Which form would be more commonly used in everyday situation?

1. I haven’t travelled much so far. The thing is, travelling has never been my priortiy - there’ve always been more important things I've had to spend my money on.
2. I haven’t travelled much so far. The thing is, travelling has never been my priortiy - there’ve always been more important things I had to spend my money on.

Also, I'd like to make sure if it's correct to combine the present perfect and the past simple in one sentence, like:
3. I've watched the film you recommended, and I really liked it.

In this particular example, I introduced the topic of conversation in the present perfect and then switched to the past simple, which is right I suppose.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2019, 10:36:27 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2019, 03:48:20 AM »
Yes, it's generally fine to mix forms like that. Parallelism might be good sometimes, but native speakers aren't always consistent about that.

Some other complications here are:
1. Repetition of auxiliary and lexical 'have'. Because repetition is often avoided, "I've had to" might be less likely than, for example, "I've needed to".
2. Lexical aspect (Aktionsart). The perfective (and other aspects like progressive) are often more relevant for non-stative verbs. The difference between "I've had to" and "I had to" is minimal (and "*I was having to" is ungrammatical), but it's more different with lexical verbs like "eat", as in "I've eaten", "I ate", "I was eating".
3. There's also the issue of habituality: the simple past tends to (like the present) represent ongoing states or habits, rather than specific action events. The perfect is more likely with an action.

In the end, it's all flexible, and the differences are fairly small. But if you change the sentences or verbs you might find some of those differences become a little more important.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2019, 11:46:41 AM »
Thank your for your response. However, I have some questions.

1. Can you give me an example of what you said here? I'm not sure if I understand.
Quote
1. Repetition of auxiliary and lexical 'have'. Because repetition is often avoided, "I've had to" might be less likely than, for example, "I've needed to".

2. Can you tell me what this minimal difference between "I've had" and "had to" is in this particular context I provided? I'll be more aware of which form to use in the future.

3. So, I can introduce some new information in the present perfect (as in example 3), and then switch to the past tenses (e.g. simple or continuous), and it will be correct grammatically and semantically?
« Last Edit: June 07, 2019, 11:48:28 AM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2019, 12:42:18 PM »
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1. Can you give me an example of what you said here? I'm not sure if I understand.
Speakers are more likely to avoid saying something that has the same word repeated twice in a row. There's no rule here. It's just a tendency.

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2. Can you tell me what this minimal difference between "I've had" and "had to" is in this particular context I provided? I'll be more aware of which form to use in the future.
No, it really doesn't matter. But part of that is because of the particular verb you chose. It might matter a little more (and even then not very much) with another verb.
Roughly, I suppose you could say that the past tense describes the past, while the perfect expresses something about the results of the past. But that's basically the same thing. They're not really contrastive here. If you asked with sentences containing another verb, especially one that doesn't so easily permit a habitual reading, I might be able to say something else.

Quote
3. So, I can introduce some new information in the present perfect (as in example 3), and then switch to the past tenses (e.g. simple or continuous), and it will be correct grammatically and semantically?
Oh, I think I forgot to reply about that sentence above. My numbers 1, 2, 3 were NOT referring to your sentences, just general comments (three of them, about your first two sentences).

Regarding your third sentence:
Quote
Also, I'd like to make sure if it's correct to combine the present perfect and the past simple in one sentence, like:
3. I've watched the film you recommended, and I really liked it.
Yes, that is correct. It would be very strange sounding to say "I have really liked it". It's hard to explain why, but it has to do with the specific verb choice.

It's possible to say something like:
"I've enjoyed/liked going to movies, but now I don't like to do that anymore."
The emphasis here is on (1) how it is complete (perfective) with a change now; and (2) how it focuses on the resulting experience rather than the event itself (backgrounding).

But that kind of usage is very rare.

In short, perfect forms are often used to indicate something leading up to something else, and in that way they're often or usually mixed with simple tenses.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2019, 05:10:54 PM »
That’s really useful infromation. From what you’ve written here, I guess I can say it all depends on what we want to express, whether for example a certain past action has some present relevance.
Jus to be sure – I created the following sentences and I’d be very grateful for your feedback, whether I chose the proper grammar forms.

1. I've watched one episode of the TV show you told me about yesterday and I found it really amusing. I've even picked up some really nice English expressions.

2. Yesterday I watched one episode of the TV show you had told me about and I found it really amusing. I even picked up some really nice English expressions. (= the time is implied - I learnt them yesterday)

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2019, 07:30:11 PM »
Yes, that sounds about right.

In (1) you're saying that you now know things, and in (2) you're saying that you learned them (probably yesterday). Same effect, different focus. Sort of like passive vs. active sentences, but even more subtle.

By the way, from your questions here, if you want to know more about verbs, I really would recommend reading about "lexical aspect" (or Aktionsart):
http://www.glottopedia.org/index.php/Aktionsart
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexical_aspect

There's a lot to read about that, but when dealing with issues of (grammatical) aspect in usage, especially interaction between two verbs, and it's a complex topic that a lot of people have written about, but it's also relatively easy to follow if you understand the basics, and there's just a lot of information about specific details.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2019, 06:47:11 AM »
Hello again. I'm wondering if it'd be correct to start a sentence in the past tense and then switch to the present perfect (as I'd like to emphasise the present result)? Here's an example sentence: "I wanted to learn a little more about your country, so I did some research and found out some realy interesting facts. For example, I've learnt that..."

Or it'd be more accurate to say "I learnt..." to keep everything in the past tense?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2019, 12:55:46 PM »
Either way. There isn't anything "correct" or "incorrect" about that. It just frames it a little differently.
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2019, 07:44:56 AM »
All right, here's how I see it: if I wanted to stress that now I know something about the person's country, I'd use "I've learnt". By using the past simple tense I'm just focusing on the mere fact that I learnt something at a certain moment in the past. Is that correct?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2019, 08:21:44 PM »
Yes, that sounds accurate. (I would say that the past tense would be best for story telling, recounting events to someone, disconnected from the present, rather than, as you say, knowing something now.)
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2019, 05:37:33 AM »
Would it still be correct if I said, "I wanted to learn a little more about your country (= I wanted in the past, it's finished), so I've done some research and found out some interesting facts (= I've done research and now I know a lot)"?


Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2019, 10:48:07 AM »
Yes. (But again "correct" is the wrong word.)
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Offline Natalia

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2019, 03:10:13 PM »
Let me ask you another question in this thread: if I'm talking about the achievements of someone who is already dead, can I use the present perfect tense? E.g.

Sylvia Plath has left behind many great poems based on her own life and personal experiences.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2019, 03:13:30 PM by Natalia »

Offline Daniel

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Re: Present Perfect and Past Simple
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2019, 04:04:34 PM »
Yes, but only for someone who relevantly recently died, for example at a funeral.
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