Present Perfect Simple vs. Past Simple

The difference between the Present Perfect Simple and the Simple Past is one of the most difficult grammatical points for Spanish-speaking students of English.

When do we use each and what are their differences?

PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE

Meaning

We focus on the present consequence or result of a past action. We’re interested in how this action affects our present. This is why we use the Present Perfect Simple to describe experiences. The time period in which the action happened goes up to the present moment. Some examples of time expressions typically used with the present perfect are: recently, already, so far, this month/week/year, today, yet, still, up to now, lately, etc.

Form

Affirmative: subject + have/has + past participle (+ object)

Negative: subject + haven’t/hasn’t + past participle (+object)

Question: Has/Have + subject + past participle (+ object)?

Example sentences:

Have you ever been to India?

I’ve never worked for a multinational company.

She hasn’t finished the report yet.

PAST SIMPLE

Meaning

We use the Past Simple to describe actions in the past that took place in a finished time period. There is no connection with the present moment. The time expressions we typically used are: last month/year/week, yesterday, two months/weeks/years ago, etc.

Form

There are regular and irregular verbs. The regular verbs such as work, live, play, etc. end in -ed. Irregular verbs such as take, make, go, etc. vary their forms and they should be studied separately.

Affirmative: subject + regular/irregular verb (+ object)

Negative: subject + didn’t/did not + infinitive form (+ object)

Question: did + subject + infinitive form (+ object)?

Example sentences:

She didn’t go to the cinema last night.

I was tired yesterday.

Did you visit your parents last weekend?

Here’s an exercise to practise.

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