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Is there a difference between I noticed and I have noticed? What is the correct use of each of these?

Thanks

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  • note that "I just noticed that!" or "I already noticed that" or "I've only just now noticed that" (and similar concoctions) are probably more popular (where that's the meaning) than the bare forms, for the very reason that they clarify this difference.
    – Fattie
    Jun 29, 2015 at 3:45

3 Answers 3

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In principle, "I noticed" stresses the act of noticing and doesn't necessarily imply that the result of your noticing has a direct effect on the present. Maybe you noticed something a long time ago and it is no longer relevant. Or maybe you noticed something recently, but can't remember what it was. Or maybe it is still relevant, but you just want to stress the act of noticing rather than the effect.

By the same principle, "I have noticed" stresses the effect of noticing. You now know that something is the case because you (have) noticed it earlier, i.e. started to know it. Also, this didn't happen too long ago.

However, I think in practice we tend to use "I noticed" more than the above discussion would suggest. For me as a native German speaker this is particularly obvious. It seems to me that in English the default for this specific thought (when you don't want to think about what you want to stress) is simple past, whereas in German it is definitely the German analogue of present perfect. I guess this is an example of the well known principle that English prefers simple past for verbs of perception.

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    In speech the contraction "I've" will often be used and the 've' can be imperceptible. There may be times when someone is saying 'I've noticed' but it is heard as 'I noticed'.
    – Avon
    Jun 28, 2015 at 21:20
  • @Avon Yes, exactly right.
    – Jim
    Jun 29, 2015 at 2:26
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"I noticed" refers to a specific moment in time. "I have noticed" is over an extended amount of time.

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    That's often true, but it's probably just an inevitable corollary of the fact that present perfect implies a connection to the present (so the time-frame during which the noticing takes/took place extends from the past to the present). So you quite reasonably could say During my ten years working for X, I noticed that mistakes were often covered up, just as you could say Since I got up this morning I have noticed that my eyesight seems a bit blurry. It's really a matter of relevance to the present moment. Jun 28, 2015 at 21:21
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Past as in "I noticed" (1) and present perfect as in "I have noticed" (2) is a matter of farness and nearness in time. In 1 you speak of something in past time (maybe last week, last year). In 2 you don't speak of something in past time but of now. Of something that has happened and is imortant for the time of speaking.

The boss may say to an employee:

  • I have noticed that you use your office computer for private affairs. I won't have it.

Here something that happened recently in the past clearly has reference to the time of speaking. So present perfect is used for things past with reference to now.

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