I've recently been told that Past Perfect and Past Simple tenses are interchangeable in AmE. I know that it is possible to use the Past Simple tense instead of the Present Perfect one in AmE but have never faced the use of the Past Simple tense instead of the Past Perfect one.

I've been provided with the following examples:

I have already typed 10 pages of my report (Present Perfect, typical for BrE)

I already typed 10 pages of my report (Past Simple, typical for AmE)

I had typed ten pages of my report by the time he returned. (Past Perfect, typical for BrE)

I typed ten pages of my report by the time he returned (Past Simple, typical for Ame).

Are these uses correct?

  • Can you elaborate on "who told you" they are interchangeable and based on what you are quoting those examples? Any grammar book?
    – user140086
    Oct 3, 2015 at 8:08
  • @Rathony A teacher of English who claims to have a CAE certificate and 5 years of experience. She told me that and provided the examples which I am quoting. Oct 3, 2015 at 8:13
  • 1
    You have been told a lie. They're definitely more interchangeable than they are in British English, but there are still some sentences that need the present perfect. For example: "I was sick for two weeks" implies that you are better now, and "I have been sick for two weeks" does not. Oct 3, 2015 at 12:17
  • To my ear, as a speaker of AmE, the last example sounds awkward. Use of the past perfect for that sentence is more natural sounding to me, although the example in the simple past would almost certainly be more commonly encountered in spoken (rather than written) AmE.
    – scottb
    Oct 7, 2015 at 21:14
  • Sentence 1: Past perfect, still typing.
    – Zan700
    Oct 2 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


As an American English speaker, all four examples seem correct.

The past perfect often seems to be used in American English to avoid confusion about the relationship between two past events. Where such confusion is impossible, the simple past is often used.

"I had typed ten pages when he returned." indicates typing before returning. "I typed ten pages when he returned." implies that returning is simultaneous or even before the typing.

In your examples, "by the time" serves this temporal ordering purpose, so the choice of verb tense is unnecessary.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.