I am learning english, an I am wondering if I would be "correct" in using only the past tense and never using the present perfect tense. I might be over-simplifying the english grammar ...

So, are there some situations where it would be incorrect using the past tense instead of present pefect ?

(the following link gives some axample where past tense shall be used instead of present perfect, but no example where present perfect shall be used instead of past tense: Present perfect for past action with present effect)

Many thanks for your replies, Thierry

  • Yes, there are quite a few. – Centaurus Nov 13 '16 at 12:50
  • I don't see this question as a duplicate. In the link above, some examples are given using the present perfect: I've bought an iPhone (want to see it?) I've lost my keys (can you help me look for them?) I've made a cake (would you like a piece?. But would 'I bought an iPhone" or "I lost my keys" or "I made a cake" be wrong ? – Thierry-fr Nov 13 '16 at 17:47

If you use the simple past where native speakers would use a perfect, it will mark you out as a non-native speaker, but in most circumstances where people would still understand what you meant.

One case where the meaning does change a bit is with 'be': if you say "I have been here for a month", a native speaker will understand that you are talking about your present visit here, that it has lasted for a month and is still going on. If you say "I was here for a month", a native speaker will understand you to be talking about a visit that has finished


How long were you here? asking the length of a previous visit.

How long have you been here? asking the length of your current visit, up to now.

How long are you here? Not directly relevant to your question, but worth mentioning for contrast: this is not asking about the time from when you arrived to now, but asking about the time from now to when you leave, or possibly about the whole length of your visit from start to finish.

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  • Hello Colin, Thanks for your reply, but could you please give me some examples where using the present perfect instead of past would be incorrect ? – Thierry-fr Nov 13 '16 at 14:09
  • I never said anything was incorrect. I don't use the terms "correct" and "incorrect". In a lot of cases, both are possible but have different meanings. But when you are talking about an event that has unequivocally finished, it would be odd to use the perfect:; so "I have seen him last year" would be very unusual. – Colin Fine Nov 15 '16 at 17:59

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