I have a few questions about simple situations.

  1. What should I say to another person right after falling?
    a) I fell
    b) I have fallen

  2. What should I say to another person right after throwing a ball?
    a) I threw the ball
    b) I have thrown the ball

  3. What should I say to another person right after taking something?
    a) I took
    b) I have taken

Please provide explanations for your answers.

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  • 1
    Ask your questions one at a time please. And you might be better off at English Language Learners. – curiousdannii Mar 11 '15 at 9:51
  • The difference between the two is not a difference of how long ago the event happened, it is a difference in aspect: you use the first form when you describe the event as part of an ongoing story, and the second form when you describe it as part of something that is finished. – reinierpost Mar 13 '15 at 16:03

In all those "immediate" situations, if you merely want to indicate an action completed you would use simple past:

I fell.
I threw the ball.
I took it.

To use the present perfect ("I have fallen," etc.) would seem overly dramatic or declamatory.

  • Perhaps this is yet another BrEng and AmEng difference, but in a similar situation I would nearly always opt for the present perfect tense (b). I would also prefer the contracted form "I've". – Mari-Lou A Mar 11 '15 at 10:54

Part of the problem here is that the situations are slightly distorted: we don't usually need to say

I have thrown the ball

Because the listener can see what we did. Let's assume a situation where it makes sense to describe an action, for some reason the listener cannot see the situation, perhaps we're having a phone conversation.

If we are giving a narrative then the simple past works well

I took the ball, then I threw the ball and as I did I slipped and I fell.

However, there is a style of narrative where we might use the present perfect, this is rather dramatic, we can imagine a reality radio show:

I have taken the ball, I have thrown the ball! Oh no, I slipped and I have fallen.

So I think that the present perfect works well when we want to convey immediacy. On the phone:

Are you ready?

Yes, I have taken the ball.

Feels like a better answer than

Yes, I took the ball.

I have taken feels positive and pro-active.

  • What if I am playing with my little child and he can barely speak. I teach him how to speak. I tell him about what happened or about what has happened. When I have fallen he sees that. What should I say him in that moment (after). How should I describe the situation using simple past or present perfect ? The same question about the situation when he is catching the boll that a have just thrown him. Thank you ! – chumakoff Mar 11 '15 at 11:54
  • I think you will use all the forms. Harry throw the ball to Daddy. Harry threw the ball! Daddy caught the ball! I have fallen over. Harry fell over. They are all grammatically correct, and the fine shade of meaning can emerge later. I'm no expert in child-education, but my guess is that the thing to avoid is bad grammar and baby talk. "Harry thrown ball" is bad. – djna Mar 11 '15 at 12:03
  • It seems rather confusing to me.... – user208217 Nov 29 '16 at 10:18

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