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I've finished my work.
I finished my work.

When do I use one or the other?

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3 Answers 3

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It's a subtle distinction. The present perfect describes the present ... right now, you can be described as having finished your work. The past describes an action that took place in the past ... five minutes ago, you finished your work.

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  • But, they both occurred in the past, meaning the work is finished in both sentences. I understand the definition of present perfect and the fact that present perfect is used for an undefined time but I'm having a hell of a time explaining this to my foreign friend.
    – J82
    Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 23:10
  • In general we use I've finished (present perfect) when the current time of the utterance is somehow relevant to the ongoing conversation. We use I finished when we're really just talking about something in the past. Commented Mar 22, 2011 at 23:25
  • The distinction has very little to do with how long ago the action happened, and indeed very often both expressions are possible about the same action. The difference is whether or not you are relating the action to the present state of things.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Mar 23, 2011 at 11:52
  • Perhaps a longer example: 1) I spilled water on my pants twice today, so I changed them. Now, I have on dry pants. 2) I've spilled water on my pants twice today, so I need to change them. They are still soaking wet. | You can also say: 3) I spilled water on my pants twice today, so I need to change them. They are soaking wet. | But it doesn't make (a lot of) sense to say: 4) I've spilled water on my pants twice today, so I changed them. Now, they are dry.
    – Rachel
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 18:51
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I've finished makes a more important connection between the action of finishing and the situation the speaker is in.

For example: I've finished my work so we can now go to the park.

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When there is a mention of time use the simple past, e.g:

I arrived to the library 20 minutes ago.

But when time is absent from a sentence, use the present perfect, because it's meant to focus on the action, not the time.

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