1

First, I check that my native language is not English, and the problem described below met on one of the exams.

With this sentence:

"The most important news is that my parents [...] a new restaurant a few weeks ago."

Is the correct tense to use the Present Perfect (have opened) or Past Simple (opened)?

I know that the word "ago" but rather that time Past Simple, but is it also possible to use the present perfect in some cases?

I would be grateful for clarification.

  • 1
    If this is an exam, you should use the rule that "ago" triggers the past simple. – Peter Shor Apr 25 '14 at 12:09
  • I agree: The most important news is that my parents have openeed a new restaurant. vs The most important news is that my parents opened a new restaurant a few weeks ago – mplungjan Apr 25 '14 at 12:11
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Rosie F Apr 25 '18 at 17:34
1

The present perfect tense, as you asked about, is when Event 1 (your parents opening a restaurant) happened at an unspecified time before Event 2 (your present conversation).

The reason that there is obfuscation and confusion is because of "a few weeks ago".

If you had just stated "The most important news is that my parents have opened a restaurant.", it would be clear that the perfect tense is appropriate because Event 1 was completed at an undisclosed time before Event 2.

"a few weeks ago" adds definiteness, but not exactness. For example, if you stated "My parents opened a restaurant two weeks ago.", it is clear that you could not use the perfect tense with a definite time.

That being said, it is my opinion that you giving a time frame for when the restaurant opened has removed the indefiniteness of time, and you should not be using the perfect tense.

Have a nice day.

8

Speaking as a non-linguist with no education in the theory, but a native speaker with a lifetime of exposure to practice, my ear would expect you to say "The most important news is that my parents opened a new restaurant a few weeks ago."

If you said "have opened a restaurant a few weeks ago", it would sound really off. Additionally, "opened" implies "new", so "opened a new" feels a little redundant, or anyway, wouldn't be the way I'd expect someone to phrase it (this applies even if your parents took over an existing restaurant and opened it under a new name or with a new style).

2

If you use a when-indication with "ago" you clearly refer to an event in the past and you use the past tense. If you want to indicate that the opening of the new restaurant is an up-to-date fact you use the Perfect: "My parents have opened a new restaurant" without indicating a time in the past.

0

Date stated -> past simple

No date -> present perfect

“A few weeks ago” answers the question when -> date stated -> past simple

-3

I think it should be Present Perfect, because when you read the whole text (below) you notice strong connection to the present. My parent have opened a new restaurant (...)

The most important news is that my parents --- a new restaurant a few weeks ago. It is an English restaurant but there are also some specialities from other European countries on the menu. I’m sure you will like our fish and chips, but if you prefer Italian food, you can also have spaghetti(...)

So: because they have opened a restaurant, you can taste new dishes when you come.

But I think the examinators will take both answers as correct, because it's not really clear which tense it should be.

Forgive me any language mistakes.

  • You also thanks for the reply. Honestly writing exam, suggested exactly the same line of thought, a particular compound of the present. Although it all depends on the examiner, I hope that both answers deems correct. Regards. – Jake Apr 28 '14 at 14:39
  • 1
    The present perfect cannot be used with time expressions that exclude the present time. a few weeks ago does not include the present time and is not compatible with the present perfect. – Alan Carmack Nov 12 '16 at 0:22
-4

I'd say there is a difference beween the Spoken and the written language. In spoken English, we would use the past simple most of the time instaed of the presetn perfect tense.

Examples:

Spoken: what did you just say? written: What have you just said?

That's what I noticed according to my experience in English learning.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. How does this help with the question (which was about the word ago)? – Andrew Leach Oct 5 '15 at 9:47
  • Good question. I mean they are both possible the only difference is wether you are using it in speaking or writing, so , as far as i know, if you are speaking it's better to use the past simple instead of the present perfect tense and vice versa. – Ashraf Oct 5 '15 at 19:54
  • It doesnt have to do with spoken vs written or informal vs formal. The present perfect cannot be used with time expressions that exclude the present time. a few weeks ago does not include the present time and is not compatible with the present perfect. – Alan Carmack Nov 12 '16 at 0:21

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