Simple Past – Present Perfect Simple

Form

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple
irregular verbs: see 2nd column of irregular verbs

 

Example:

I spoke

irregular verbs: form of ‘have’ + 3rd column of irregular verbs

 

Example:

I / you / we / they have spoken

he / she / it has spoken

regular verbs: infinitive + ed

 

Example:

I worked

regular verbs: form of ‘have’ + infinitive + ed

 

Example:

I / you / we / they have worked

he / she / it has worked

Exceptions
Exceptions when adding ‘ed’:

 

a. when the final letter is e, only add d

Example:

love – loved

b. after a short, stressed vowel, the final consonant is doubled

Example:

admit – admitted

c. final l is always doubled in British English (not in American English)

Example:

travel – travelled

d. after a consonant, final y becomes i (but: not after a vowel)

Example:

worry – worried

but: play – played

Use

In British English, the use of Simple Past and Present Perfect is quite strict. As soon as a time expression in the past is given, you have to use Simple Past. If there are no signal words, you must decide if we just talk about an action in the past or if its consequence in the present is important.

Note that the following explanations and exercises refer to British English only. In American English, you can normally use Simple Past instead of Present Perfect. We cannot accept this in our exercises, however, as this would lead to confusions amongst those who have to learn the differences.

Certain time in the past or just / already / yet?

Do you want to express that an action happened at a certain time in the past (even if it was just a few seconds ago) or that an action has just / already / not yet happened?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple
certain time in the past

 

Example:

I phoned Mary 2 minutes ago.

just / already / not yet

 

Example:

I have just phoned Mary.

Certain event in the past or how often so far?

Do you want to express when a certain action took place or whether / how often an action has happened till now?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple
certain event in the past

 

Example:

He went to Canada last summer.

whether / how often till now

 

Example:

Have you ever been to Canada? / I have been to Canada twice.

Emphasis on action or result?

Do you just want to express what happened in the past? Or do you want to emphasise the result (a past action’s consequence in the present)?

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple
Emphasis on action

 

Example:

I bought a new bike. (just telling what I did in the past.)

Emphasis on result

 

Example:

I have bought a new bike. (With this sentence I actually want to express that I have a new bike now.)

Signal Words

Simple Past Present Perfect Simple
  • yesterday
  • … ago
  • in 1990
  • the other day
  • last …
  • just
  • already
  • up to now
  • until now / till now
  • ever
  • (not) yet
  • so far
  • lately / recently

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