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Good morning, I've been struggling with this doubt a long ago. On my usually spoken languages, we use a similar form of "have" when we speak, I think it's better use an example (it's spanish):

Yo he intentado hacer eso

There's when my problem appears, this means that "I have tried to do something" but I don't know how express it.

What would be correct?

I've tried to do this.

or

I tried to do this.

The thing is that as in my languages we use the verb "haber" (similar meaning as "have") for almost every sentence so when I write o speak in English I also put the "have" in everything, so I say/write:

I've tried, I've said, I've did

Then, I don't know if it's accepted or not, if it's grammatically incorrect or if it's just better to use "I tried", "I said" and "I did".

What is the correct way for all this? I feel really confused. Really thank you!

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Actually the English past tense and Spanish past tense are probably more similar than you think. The confusion arises from the two forms of past tense in English: The Present Perfect and the Simple Past. These are similar to the Present Perfect and Preterite found in Spanish (I don't speak Spanish so there may be errors here).

The problem in English is that the verb form in the present perfect and the simple past are very often exactly the same word. As with your example, you can say "I have tried" (present perfect) or "I tried" (simple past). It is only with irregular verbs, that we can begin to see that these are different forms. For example, let's take the verb "throw". The present perfect form would be:

"I have thrown." (Google translate to Spanish: "He tirado")

Whereas the simple past form would be:

"I threw." (Google translate to Spanish: "Tiré")

In fact, your example "I've did" is incorrect, as you're combining the two forms. You could either say:

"I've done." (Google translate to Spanish: "He hecho") - Present perfect

or

"I did." (Google translate to Spanish: "Hice") - Simple past

When choosing which form to use, you need to think about the meaning you are trying to convey. The present perfect is usually used to talk about events that have been completed, possibly very recently, with a focus on the result of the event.

e.g. - "Look, I've made you a new desk" - Present perfect

Simple past, on the other hand usually refers to an event that happened at a specific time in the past.

e.g. - "I made a desk for my friend last June" - Simple past

Here is a website with some more information: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/everyday-grammar-simple-past-and-present-perfect/2752310.html

  • Fantastic! There are a few questions that say more or less the same, but this one really made me understand this! Thank you, I think it's your first accepted answer. Congrats! – Juli15 Oct 31 '18 at 8:32
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No, the use of the perfect (form with "have") is not the same as in other languages - I don't know much Spanish, but it is certainly different from French.

Both forms - the simple past, and the perfect - are grammatical, and in many contexts either can be used; but there is a subtle difference in meaning. The difference is not in the objective events described, but in how the speaker is choosing to relate them to the present moment.

When we use the perfect ("I have done"), we are indicating that there is some present relevance to the past events: the precise meaning of this is variable. A common interpretation is that the events are very recent ("I have just seen him"), another is that the state resulting of the action is still continuing ("I have bought the book"). When we use the continuous as well as the perfect, the action started in the past and is still happening ("I have been working on it").

In all these cases, we have the option of using the simple past ("I saw him"; "I bought the book"; "I worked on it"): we are then regarding the event as a completed whole.

One correction to your question: the "have" form takes the past participle of the verb. For most verbs this is the same as the past ("said", "tried") but for some verbs it is different ("did/done", "saw/seen").

  • 1
    Spanish usage is actually quite similar to the English usage, unlike French, where it’s quite different. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 30 '18 at 12:06
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Whilst both “I tried” and “I’ve tried” are grammatically correct, they tend to be used in different contexts. Although the differences can be very ambiguous, one example is:

1. I tried to get his attention.

2. I’ve tried to get his attention.

3. I have tried to get his attention.

They all can convey the same meaning, but at they same time they can be slightly different. #3, for example, would usually either be used in a formal piece of writing, or if it is spoken, then chances are that the emphasis would be on the “have” which would mean the sentence is used as a contradiction to someone saying that you haven’t tried to get his attention.

Hope this helps!

Edit: A link to a similar question https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/9532/done-vs-have-done

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From the translation point of view, there is never going to be a direct link between tense usage between two languages, because they not only have their grammatical sense but also typical usages in certain situations. For example, my mother would sometimes say to me: 'Did you brush your hair?' and other times: 'Have you brushed your hair?'.

My advice for tenses is to always consider the simplest solution first, and then only choose a more complex form when the simpler form does not seem to express enough. So the default choice for English is Present Simple.

For example, my mother was attempting to convey my hair brushing as:

  • 'Did you brush your hair' - with a focus on the action of brushing
  • 'Have you brushed your hair' - with a focus on time: 'yet' or 'today'.

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