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I dropped something onto the floor just now. What verb tense would be appropriate to describe the situation right after falling?

  1. The ball fell down
  2. The ball has fallen down

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If you have it in mind to call attention to some effect of the ball's falling down, you'd use "has fallen", since this refers to the present end point of an interval of time during which an event occurred. If you simply want to report a past event, you'd use "fell".

  • That's it, in short. There are other uses, but every case in which one can truthfully say the ball fell is also a case in which one can truthfully say the ball has fallen, and vice versa. The real question isn't which one is correct, but why would you want to use one or the other in a given set of circumstances? – John Lawler Feb 2 '15 at 19:51
  • Thank you guys. And previsely, John, the question is why you want to use one or another. And the answer, the present end point of an interval of time, for me is too big to comprehend (even though I feel thankful to Greg for his help.) can someone describe these two terms with simple daily life examples, if I am not asking too much? – Joea Feb 2 '15 at 21:54
  • @Joea, "By 5 o'clock this afternoon, I will have eaten 200 of these sardines." The interval of time is the time when I'm eating the sardines (the "have" part). The end of that interval is 5 o'clock, and that time is in the future, so that gives the "will" part. – Greg Lee Feb 2 '15 at 22:09
  • @Greg, thank you again. Yes, this was the precise definition for present perfect for me sometime ago, but afterwards I see or hear many examples that do not seem to refect what you have in mind. But for now I will get back to this definition again. Thank you. – Joea Feb 2 '15 at 22:42
  • There are several different variations on this definition. McCawley's formulation covers most things. – John Lawler Feb 3 '15 at 16:08

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