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netxm's avatar

Present Perfect Simple?

Asked by netxm (288points) December 20th, 2008

English is a second language for me, please explain me Present Perfect Simple, I just don’t know when should I use I have done and I did. I can’t get it….

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33 Answers

St.George's avatar

um, @Gailcalled?

juniper's avatar

The present perfect and simple present are actually two different verb tenses, netxm. There’s no “present perfect simple.” “Present” relates to time, and it can be used with either the “perfect” or the “simple.” The thing that is the same about these two tenses is time: they both take place now (in the present) or are at least related to the present. But the uses of each tense are different.

Here’s an example of the present perfect: I have watched the movie “Titanic” 5 times.

And an example of simple present: I watch movies.

In the present perfect, you should use ‘have or has’ plus the past participle of the verb (watch out for irregular verbs!)

In the simple, you should use the present tense of the verb. No ‘have or has.’

There are some different reasons for using each verb tense. Usually we use the simple tense to talk about facts, people’s habits, and routines. We use the perfect when we want to show that an action started in the past but is still continuing (or is still important in) the present.

So, going back to the examples: When I say “I watch movies,” it just means that movies are one of my hobbies. I watch them every weekend, maybe. It’s a fact about my life.

But the perfect tense is a little more complicated:

When I say “I have watched the movie “Titanic” 5 times,” it means that I first watched Titanic five years ago, and then I watched it a few more times in in the past, but I expect that I will still watch it again. I choose the perfect tense to show that the action (watching Titanic) is still related to right now, even though it started five years ago.

There are more reasons for using the “perfect” instead of the “simple,” but these are the basic rules. Good luck!

Here’s a good website:

Check it out or let me know if you have more questions. :)

gailcalled's avatar

In English there is the present perfect tense ie. “I have watched the sun set often.”

In French there is a tense called “le passé simple.” It is a literary, archaic or formal version of the past tense…normally never used in spoken French, only when writing.

What is your native tongue?

gailcalled's avatar

“I did that yesterday” is signifying that you did it only once.

“I have done that a lot” means exactly that…you repeated the action.

I tease my cat a lot…you are regularly mean to him
I teased my cat yesterday…you tickled him only yesterday.
I have teased my cat often…You were a mean person in the past but you may be nice to him now.

netxm's avatar

Thank you, juniper!!! I’m checking the website… “is related to right now” GREAT!!!

netxm's avatar

Thank you, gailcalled !!! I appreciate your help

juniper's avatar

@netxm: Sorry, I forgot to respond to the other part of your question:

“I did” is simple past. It means that you completed an action in the past and it’s totally, 100% over. For example: “I did my homework.”

“I have done” is present perfect. It means that you’ve done something in the past, but it still affects you now. For example: “I have done well on my test so now my grade will increase.”

gailcalled's avatar

@Juniper: I would not assume that “I have watched the Titanic five times” means that I first watched it five years ago. I could have watched it five times yesterday or perhaps five times this morning.

I should have done my homework but I teased the cat instead. English does get complicated, doesn’t it?

juniper's avatar

@gailcalled: That’s true! The 5 years part was just an example to show that the action started in the past. I guess it just makes a little more sense to me to have watched the same movie with long periods of time in between. :)

gailcalled's avatar

True; but what if your native tongue were Bengali or Romanian?

gailcalled's avatar

netxm; I see that you are typing. Remember to tell us what your native language is, please.

netxm's avatar

Ok, so if I completed my job ( I did), If not completed (have done), if I tell my boss about project – I did it, if I ask him if he received my e-mail I ask Did you receive it?
If didn’t complete project ( just apart of it) I say I have done part of it…

netxm's avatar

Ukrainian, Russian

juniper's avatar

@gailcalled: Just an example!

seekingwolf's avatar


juniper explained everything nicely already so I have nothing to add to that.

I just wanted to say that understanding the present perfect vs present (simple) and learning to utilize it properly takes time, esp. for non-native English speakers. I even know some English-speaking people who don’t use it correctly (I know a woman who says “I seen her” instead of “I have seen her”)

Just make sure to practice and be patient with yourself. You’ll definitely master it if you put in the effort and time. :)

gailcalled's avatar

My grandparents spoke Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Russian and used Yiddish as the lingua franca. I tried to learn Russian but they all wanted to assimilate and spoke only English. My Ukrainian grandfather learned his from The New York Times and spoke elegantly although with a heavy accent.

Netxm; your English is depressingly good.

If you completed your project, “you did it.”

If you didn’t complete your project, “you didn’t do it.”

This is making my head spin. I have done and am going to bed.

netxm's avatar

I live in U.S.A since 2004, but I have began to work with Americans only 1 year ago, so I MUST speak English perfect…

juniper's avatar

@netxm: We could say “did you receive my email,” but we would probably say “have you received my email?” This is just because we are not sure if the action (getting the email) has been completed or not, so we use the perfect to be safe. Still, I hear some people say “did” in that case, although the meaning is less precise.

gailcalled's avatar

A perfect example, netxm. “I have lived in the USA since 2004.” English has those pesky articles(the, a, an) that Russian doesn’t.

However, I live in New York State, where I have lived for twenty years (or: since 1986).

netxm's avatar

juniper, you make it more and more clear to me, THANK YOU…..

netxm's avatar

these are perfect lessons for me…. =)

juniper's avatar

@netxm: I’m glad we helped you. :) Keep it up! This stuff is difficult, but you’ll get it!

asmonet's avatar

Aw, this thread made me feel warm and fuzzy for all the Flutherites. I love our jelly infested neighborhood.

Jack79's avatar

ok, just a small correction on an otherwise pretty good explanation above (juniper’s response).

It is in fact the “present perfect simple” tense. As opposed to the “present perfect continuous”. Not to be confused with “present simple” and “present continuous”.


PRESENT SIMPLE: I watch movies (every day)
PRESENT CONTINUOUS: I am watching a movie (right now)
PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE: I have watched Titanic (already, at least once, or in Juniper’s example 5 times). The important thing is that I have done it, but not WHEN.
SIMPLE PAST: I watched the Titanic last night (I said WHEN)
PRESENT PERFECT CONTINUOUS: I have been living here for 5 years/I have been working all day.
This is a combination tense that means that I have done something (PRESENT PERFECT SIMPLE) but also that I am still doing it (PRESENT CONTINUOUS). It is a luxury you do NOT need to communicate, as the alternatives “I have lived here for 5 years/I have worked all day” are just as good.

QUESTION:“Have you eaten yet?” (I don’t know if/when, I am interested in the result, ie whether you are hungry, because I want to ask you out for lunch).
ANSWER: “I had breakfast at 9”. (you know the time, and so you tell me WHEN. Even though my question is PR.PERF., your answer is in SIMPLE PAST)

Similarly: “Have you done your homework?” (the teacher wants to mark it, but doesn’t care WHEN, only that it is ready now).
“yes, I did it last night” (you know WHEN, you were up all night studying).

juniper's avatar

@jack: I’m pretty sure that “simple,” “perfect,” and “continuous” (sometimes called progressive) refer to aspect. Here are the possible combinations: simple, perfect, progressive, or perfect-progressive.

It’s impossible to combine the simple and the perfect. They both require different forms of the verb. The sentence would look like this: I have go to the store. (Or something). The sentence you cited above as “present perfect simple” is actually “present perfect” (constructed using “have” or “has” plus the past participle of the verb). Nothing simple (present tense of the verb) about it.

juniper's avatar

Also, some linguists do not refer to the “simple” as a type of aspect at all, but merely a marker to show that the verb does not carry one of the other types of aspect. (Though, even in this case, one would still not pair the word “simple” with “perfect.”) Perhaps this is the crux of our clash?

Jack79's avatar

I did not say anything about a “simple perfect” nor was I trying to disagree or confuse anyone. Netxm’s original question mentions it, exactly because I assume that is what his/her teacher calls it.

It is called “simple” only to mean that it is not “continuous” (or “progressive” if you may). Nothing to do with Present Simple.

juniper's avatar

@Sorry, I thought you used the phrase “Present Perfect Simple.” I was just trying to point out to netxm that that particular verb tense doesn’t exist, so that he wouldn’t be confused in trying to look it up.

Sorry if there was a misunderstanding. :)

Edit: With @jack’s help, I found out that this term does exist as another way to say “present perfect,” to emphasize that the verb is not continuous. I’d never heard it called that before and I didn’t realize that netxm was asking about the possibility of a continuous aspect. My mistake! Thanks for the correction.

Jack79's avatar

I did use it. So do many grammar books. But if you see the list, it’s quite clear that it is only a type of Present Perfect, not a different tense. When people say “present perfect” they mean the tense you (and everyone else) understood. But when you also have to teach Present Perfect Continuous, then you must find a name to explain what the OTHER one is called. It’s still confusing, which is why I made a list of different ones.

juniper's avatar

I see. When I teach it, I say “Present Perfect” because that already implies that it is not continuous.

I suppose we just use different terms for the same verb tense.

Got it!

Jack79's avatar

yes, to put it in your words, “it is a marker to show that the verb does not carry one of the other types of aspect”. There was nothing wrong with anything you said, I just think that the original question mentioned that term exactly because this is the term used by that person’s teacher, that’s all.

(and yes, when I teach it, I also say “Present Perfect”. In the same way that I introduce myself as Jack without explaining to everyone that I am a man and btw also have 10 fingers).

juniper's avatar

Thanks, @jack. I was really confused for a moment there. Thanks for bearing with me. :)

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