In such a question, what is most commonly done by native speakers of English:

focus on the past action of you putting the car keys somewhere – somewhere not-too-logical-seeming?

Where did you put the car keys?


focus on the present result of me not knowing where the car keys are, of the car keys having disappeared from sight?

Where have you put the car keys?

Do the two questions differ in the degree of annoyance they might express?

(No grammar book or website I know of, and I know quite a few, is detailed enough to deal with such a point – apart from this website, that is! Flatter than flatter? Flatterer?!)

  • 1
    Never really thought about it. Whatever instinctively feels more appropriate, I guess... Apr 2, 2017 at 8:42
  • 1
    @marcellothearcane: The only trouble is that, to learners of English, even advanced ones, the instinct might be found lacking, so there has to be some kind of rule, to be discarded later on, when the instinct has developed further!
    – user58319
    Apr 2, 2017 at 8:46
  • It should be less annoying to ask if he would help you find the car keys; or to ask if he knows where they are or might be, instead of asking where he put them.
    – Xanne
    Apr 2, 2017 at 9:17
  • @Xanne: Where the heck did you put the car keys? or Where the heck have you put the car keys? Which collocates better with 'where the heck'?
    – user58319
    Apr 2, 2017 at 11:25
  • @user58319 yes, i understand that. I suppose since the difference is so slight it wouldn't really matter which one is used Apr 2, 2017 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


Which expresses more annoyance:

  1. "Where did you put the car keys?" or

  2. "Where have you put the car keys?"

The annoyance is going to be delivered by the tone of voice and body language. However, I can say that Question #1 sounds a bit more accusatory, and is more likely to get the other person on the defensive, and that Question #2 comes across as intrinsically more low key.

I'm sorry, but I can't think of any way of documenting this. If someone else thinks of something, he is welcome to add it to my answer, or write an answer from scratch (and I'll delete mine).

  • A friend has put my car key somewhere, is it rude to ask him "where have you put the car keys?" Jun 24, 2021 at 10:39

Your Answer

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

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