Stella isn't here, did she tell you where she was going?

Stella isn't here, has she told you where she was going?

That is, should simple past or present perfect tense be used? It is an exercise from a grammar book and it seems to suggest (I don't have the answer key) that present perfect is the answer as it is also talking about the current status ("Stella isn't here"). But "did you tell" sounds better to me somehow. What do you native speakers think?


marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, David, Laurel, Davo, Chris H Aug 14 '17 at 14:27

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In this particular case, I think most people would say "did", as Dave says, because the telling would necessarily be in the past.

Often, the distinction is so fine that almost no one would actually think about the detailed grammar, and it's more to do with the habits of a person's dialect. In my experience Americans tend to favour more active phrasing, and British speakers more passive; where I would say "have you had an answer from Steve", Americans might say "did you get an answer".


Did she tell you where she was going? is best.

Because the rest of the sentence is "where she was going," it implies that the telling must have occurred at or before the time she left. Since the interval of time in which the telling could have occurred is bounded by a point in the past, only the past tense is possible.

On the other hand, if she had a phone, say, Has she told you where she went? would be fine. Has she told you where she was going? is strange not only because it implies she might have changed destinations after leaving, but also because the point in time to which the past tense verb was refers has not been mentioned and cannot be inferred from the situation.

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