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Which of these phrases below is more correct? And if both are correct, which one sounds more natural?

If he has come today?

If he came today?

Thank you in advance!

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Centaurus, deadrat, Edwin Ashworth, Dan Bron Jul 22 '15 at 17:35

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They are both normal and natural sentences in English, but have different meanings.

The first one, in the perfect tense/aspect, draws attention to the continuing significance of his coming as at the time of the utterance. E.g. if he is a guest, then the questioner may also be interested in whether he is still here. If he is a plumber, the questioner may be interested in whether the taps are fixed.

The second one, in the simple past, refers only either to the instantaneous act of coming or to a duration of the time (earlier today) when he was here, but no interest is being expressed in the continued consequences of his coming.

I can probably illustrate this more easily with a different verb, and this is the example I find English learners most easily grasp:

"I fell over!" "Oh dear, well be more careful next time!"

"I have fallen over!" "Oh dear, let me help you up!"

  • So, in my situation i wanted to ask if my teacher has come/came today at the university. But i did not know if he was there at all. I used the present perfect tense, but according to your explanation i had to use past tense, right? – Trifon Getsov Jul 22 '15 at 1:10
  • It's fairer to say there's a continuum of meaning, from "come" referring to the teacher's arrival as a brief action or change of state, to a temporary visit with a start and and end both in the past, to the onset of a visit that is still in progress right now. Along the way, there's increasing likelihood that the sentence emphasises some present significant of the teacher's action and therefore more likelihood of using the present perfect rather than the simple past tense, but it's not absolute, and one speaker might express it one way one time and another way the next. – Karasinsky Jul 22 '15 at 14:37
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They are both in the past tense and both sound correct. The second one seems to sound more natural, less words are usually better when there is no loss of meaning.

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So, in my situation i wanted to ask if my teacher has come/came today at the university.

Has the teacher come today?

Did the teacher come today?

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