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I know the basic rules about using PP and PS (like specified time in the past etc.) but in some cases, it is not clear to me:

I have finished painting. - present perfect, I just announce that.

I have finished painting for today - not sure here? I say that today I will not paint anymore but still I feel PP could be possible. What tense should be here?

marked as duplicate by MetaEd, tchrist, Kit Z. Fox Mar 13 '13 at 16:29

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  • Could you please clarify a bit on what your question is? Is it that you just don't understand your second construction? – simchona Mar 12 '13 at 15:15
  • I would say the title is clear - Present perfect or past simple? – John V Mar 12 '13 at 15:15
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    @TerryS It would help if you told us the basic rules for these tenses (so we can understand your understanding) and then why you think the second sentence can be written either way, given those rules. – Kit Z. Fox Mar 12 '13 at 15:42
  • Well it is kinda hard as past perfect is usually the most difficult tense for non native speakers as the rules are not perfect. But I know that e.g. if there is a precise time specification (week ago, on Monday) I must use past simple. Also if there is no connection to the present - I lost the key but she found it and returned to me. – John V Mar 12 '13 at 15:44
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    Didn't I just answer this yesterday for a similar question? The functions of the Perfect construction (not the "Present Perfect Tense", btw) are elucidated here. Unless these are what you mean by "the basic rules about using PP and PS", those "basic rules" are at best vague and hopeful approximations. They are not rules; rather, they're the sort of lies that one tells to children to stop them asking one questions that one doesn't know the right answers to. Generally, it's better to know the right answers to start with. – John Lawler Mar 12 '13 at 18:10

If the function is to identify when you finished painting then you might say
I finished painting today.
I finished painting for today at four.

But if the function is to identify the current state of the painting then you might say
I have finished painting.
I have finished painting for today.

These mean you are in one of the following (respective) states:
finished for good (for the indefinite future, for the current painting job)
finished for today

You could also say
I am finishing up painting for today.

Note that "painting for today" is the job in focus, not "painting (until completed)", so we are talking about entering the the state of "finished for today" rather than "completed painting".

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