Present perfect vs. Simple past
Many English language learners can conjugate the Present Perfect form. However, far fewer can identify when this verb form should be used. Knowing when or in what context to use a verb form is just as important as conjugating it correctly. Here are the appropriate contexts to use the present perfect form.
1) Non-specific time (or never): Referring to the past without mentioning when something took place.
I have finished the project.
She has bought a dress.
They have never traveled outside the U.S.
2) Repeated events: Something that has happened repeatedly in the past (a few times, many times, etc.)
I have seen that movie at least ten times.
We have eaten at that restaurant many times.
3) Past to Present: Something that started in the past and continues into the present
He has been the president for 3 years.
You haven’t taken medicine since last week.
The simple past form is used when referring to a specific moment or event in the past.
*In conversation, the speaker may not refer to a specific moment when using the simple past because it is already understood.
I went to that concert last year.
She took the bus to work yesterday.
A: What did you do last weekend?
B: I bought a new car.*
Look at the following sentences and underline the correct verb form or auxiliary verb. Finally, indicate what the context is (NS-Non-specific moment, RE- Repeated events, PP-Past to present, or ST-Specific time (simple past)).
1. I have never (seen / saw) the Eiffel tower. ___
2. Our boss (has / have) given all of us a raise. ___
3. I (wore / have worn) glasses since I was in high school. ___
4. They (went / have gone) to that beach many times. ___
5. My doctor (has told / told) me last week that my condition was getting worse. ___
6. (Has/Did) your father (sell / sold) the car last weekend? ___ / ___
7. Where (did / have) you put your keys this morning? ___
8. I (have bought / bought) several cars in the past, but the one I ( bought / have bought) last month was the most expensive. ___ /___
9. I (have called / called) in sick several times this month. ___
10. A: Did you attend the conference last month?
B: Yes. I (have gone / went) with some of my colleagues. ___
Answers to last week’s Check Yourself
1. When _is / was_ she picking him up?
2. When _did_ you arrive home yesterday?
3. How much pizza _have_ you eaten?
4. When _does_ she leave for her vacation?
5. How many countries _have_ they seen?
6. When _do/did_ you have dance classes?
7. How long _have_ you been waiting here?
8. What time _did_ the flight arrive yesterday?
9. What _was_ she doing when you called yesterday?
10. How much detergent _have / did_ you put in the machine?