I am a bit confused!

I am not sure whether the native English speakers choose to use "When did she move in?" or "When has she moved in?".

If we use simple past tense, we imply that the specific time in the past is important. For example, "She moved in 2 months ago"

If we use present perfect tense, we imply that the specific time in the past is not important or we don't need a specific time. For example, "She has moved in recently".

So, my question is

when you the native speakers say "When has she moved in?" meaning that you don't care about specific time or you don't need an answer with a specific time?

when you the native speakers say "When did she move in?" meaning that you care about specific time or you need an answer with a specific time?

  • @WS2, I am asking the question in simple past & in present perfect. What are the differences? – Tom Apr 9 '16 at 8:31

We rarely use the present perfect with when questions. As the Original Poster notes, the present perfect represents an indefinite time of an indefinite event. The word when conflicts with part of the meaning of present perfect constructions.The word when requires an indication of a specific time from the speaker. So, for this reason, we rarely use when and the present perfect in the same question.

The exception to this is when we are using the present perfect to indicate a time starting in the past and running up the the present moment. In such situations we might observe since when or when .... since type questions:

  • Since when have you been waiting?

We also sometimes use the present perfect with when if we want to imply that there there was no event or situation to assign a specific time to:

  • When has a woman (ever) been President of the USA?
  • 1
    I've deleted my off-topic comments. – Mari-Lou A Apr 10 '16 at 11:46

With 'when', you need Simple Past for this specific question: When did she move in? A week ago. / Yesterday.

Without a specific time, Present Perfect can be used : They've moved in, and are still in the process of unpacking.

'when' can be used with Present Perfect this way:

When have I ever insulted you? (Have I ever insulted you?)

  • Your last sentence isn't supported (assuming Gricean maxims are holding) by these Google Ngrams. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 9 '16 at 9:40
  • @EdwinAshworth What exactly are you saying here? (I don't know if it's just me, but on frequent occasions I don't understand your comments).*Moved in recently* would presumably include both present and perfect instances - e.g. (they) recently moved in and (they have) recently moved in. And I don't trust Google Ngrams. They can be affected by so many factors. This one, for example, is probably a reflection of nothing more than the fact of greatly increased housing mobility since the early 20th century. – WS2 Apr 9 '16 at 9:46
  • There are plenty of other ways you can use when with the perfect - When, in the last week, have I had the opportunity? – WS2 Apr 9 '16 at 11:44
  • @WS2 Right. I provided one example, to demonstrate. – Cathy Gartaganis Apr 9 '16 at 12:07
  • @WS2 The version I was addressing was 'Without a specific time, [when] is used with Present Perfect'. Gricean maxims indicate that this should be used to mean 'Without a specific time, [when] must be used with Present Perfect'. // Look at the flatline for 'has moved in recently'; differencing the graphs (easy when one's a flatline) gives in this case {uses of 'moved in recently' less uses of 'has moved in recently'}. I should have included 'have moved in recently', which is about 20% of the 'moved in recently' total in 2000. The simple past still seems to be favoured. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 9 '16 at 14:28

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