I am a native English speaker who has just begun to tutor ESL students. I have found some exercise sheets on the internet and I disagree with some of the answers, I would appreciate some other opinions. The object of the exercises is to select which of the 2 verb tenses is correct.

  1. I ____ (drink) three cups of coffee this morning.

The answer given is "have drunk", but I believe it depends on when I am saying it. If it is already this afternoon, than "drank" is correct.

  1. Sorry, I ____ (miss) the bus, so I'm going to be late.

The answer given is "have missed", and this is fine, but I believe "missed" is also perfectly acceptable. Even though the consequences of the action are still palpable, the event itself is over.

To give an extreme example, "My great-great-grandfather blew up a mirror factory, so I still have 7736 years of bad luck coming". Although the consequences are still reverberating, it would be incorrect to use "has blown up".

  1. She ______ (play) hockey at school, but she ______ (not / like) it.

The answer given is "played / didn't like", which is fine. But wouldn't it also be grammatically acceptable to say "has played / hasn't liked"?

Furthermore, I feel it would also be fine to say "has played / didn't like". She has played several games, and may play more, so PP is fine for the first clause. Simple past for the second clause, because the games are over and she didn't enjoy it. Even if she plays more and enjoys future games, she still did not enjoy the first few games. If you claim that the "it" implies that there was only one game, I think that the "it" pronoun refers to the act of playing in games, not to the games themselves.

Link to questions

  • You need to include the link to the website and include the other options. Sometimes it's just a case of choosing the "best" answer supplied by the author, and not "all the possible alternatives and variants". E.g "I had drunk three cups of tea this morning" is acceptable depending on context
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:09
  • Sorry for the omission; link is perfect-english-grammar.com/past-simple-present-perfect-1.html
    – Pete
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:22
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    OK, in questions 19 and 20 the time expression is different. 19. has "today" (PP is "best") and 20. has "yesterday" (SP) I don't see a question with "this morning"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:28
  • 1
    This is always the problem with single-sentence grammar exercises. Sometimes a word in the sentence is sufficient to establish the context. For example, yesterday establishes that the action took place in finished time, so the past tense is used. But the expression at school does not tell us whether she is still at school or not. If she is, then it is fine to say: She has played hockey (on various occasions) at school, but hasn't liked it. Context is king!
    – Shoe
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:32
  • Please edit your question and include the actual link. Thanks. I should have mentioned that immediately.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29, 2018 at 9:59

2 Answers 2


OK, in questions 19 and 20 the time expressions are different. Present Perfect is the "best" solution for 19, but Simple Past could also be used.

19) I have drunk three cups of coffee today.

For question 20 the Simple Past is the only appropriate form given the choice between Present Perfect and Simple Past.

20) I drank three cups of coffee yesterday.

I don't see a question with "this morning".

There are also two questions about missing the bus.

9) Sorry, I (miss) the bus - I'm going to be late.

10) I (miss) the bus and then I (miss) the aeroplane as well!

The hockey sentences are the following

7) I (play) Hockey since I was a child - I'm pretty good!

8) She (play) hockey at school but she didn't like it.

For No.7 the learner is expected to write "have played" and for No.8 "played". They are not wrong and the majority of native British English speakers would give those answers too. But the simple past, played, could also be used in No.7. I would not use PP in No.8 because the next clause is "didn't like" and that is in the simple past tense. It's a matter of simple homogeneity.

As I see it, the aim of the exercise is for learners to practice the PP and SP. It is a very basic English exercise, appropriate for learners at the elementary, and pre-intermediate levels. And the answers supplied by the website are appropriate, but there is nothing to prevent the OP from giving more detailed explanations and alternative examples to their class. In fact, that is what teachers are for!

Baby steps, baby steps.

  • 1
    I think the since I was a child matches have played and not simply played. Just played would need when rather than since. Jan 29, 2018 at 12:02
  • Also +1 for the rest Jan 29, 2018 at 12:05
  • I agree that the answers given on the website are the ones that most native speakers would give, since in most cases the context is clear. I think, however, that it would have been helpful for the creator to make more explicit that in each case there are two sentences with the same verb, one of which requires the PS and the other the PP. And you are right about baby steps and the role of the teacher!
    – Shoe
    Jan 29, 2018 at 12:08

Pete, I agree completely with your analysis. I suspect the author of that worksheet was not a native speaker - or had not drunk coffee earlier that morning. :)
Without examining them closely, I suspect the present perfect is logically correct in all of their examples, but native speakers routinely use the simple past tense instead when they know the listener will understand their intended meaning.
You should probably anticipate similar nonsense when you get to their worksheet on the present progressive tense. When that is technically accurate, native speakers are just as inclined to substitute the simple present tense.
Obviously, you need to throw away the rubbish you found if you want to actually help your ESL pupils.

  • I have gone back and re-read your question carefully. I confirm that all versions you suggested were correct and sounded natural. In contrast, some of their "correct answers" make my brain hurt - whether or not they are technically correct. Jan 29, 2018 at 9:51
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    Are you seriously saying that "I have drunk 3 cups of coffee this morning" and "I have missed the bus...." are wrong, or could not have been written by a native speaker? I suggest that you reexamine the examples on the actual website more closely.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 29, 2018 at 10:03
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    I read Mari-Lou's answer after posting mine. She does make a good point about "baby steps". Somehow, you need to teach why the present perfect is correct in those sentences - but native speakers usually prefer the simple past instead. She was definitely correct in saying your change of "today" to "this morning" makes a big difference. I would only use "have drunk" in that sentence. Jan 29, 2018 at 10:06
  • @Mari-Lou. I concede there are circumstances when native speakers would use PP in those sentences. I think most would not unless the speaker had a specific reason for wanting to use a perfect tense. Also, it very much depends on the nature of the verb. The type of lazy speech patterns by native speakers I tried to describe occur most frequently with verbs that have a once-then-done nature, for example, 'to drink'. It's hard to pinpoint precisely when this happens, but the phenomenon is very real. Jan 29, 2018 at 10:16

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