I would say British English seems to adhere to English grammar books that I learned in school more than American English.

For example, I was taught that we use present perfect with "ever" because the time is unspecified or something which happened in the past which is important now.

See the Cambridge Grammar say:

Present perfect simple: uses

We use the present perfect simple to refer to events in the past but which connect to the present.

We often use present perfect for talking about something which happened in the past which is important now.

we often use general time expressions like ever, never, before, in my life, so far, up until now with this use of the present perfect simple:

We often use ever, not … ever and never when we talk about experiences:

Have you ever tried to write your name and address with your left hand?

American English

In American English the past simple is often used instead of the present perfect simple, often with already and yet.

American English Did you eat (yet)? Did you finish (already)?

British English Have you eaten (yet)? Have you finished (already)?

Another source confirms this:

The Present Perfect Tense in British and American English

British and American grammar differences – present perfect vs. simple past

In American and British English, we can also use ‘just’ with the simple past to talk about recent events. So what’s the difference about the way American and British people use ‘just’? When we’re giving news in British English we generally use the present perfect.

Oh, your mother’s just called.

Oh, what did she want?

When we’re giving news in American English, we often use the simple past.

Your sister just called.

Oh really? What did she want?

So both these sentences are possible in both varieties. It’s just that we use the present perfect more frequently in British English.

The words ‘yet’ and ‘already’ indicate a time up to now or until now.

That relation to the present time means we commonly use them with the present perfect. That’s true in both British and American English. In American English, especially spoken English, you’ll often hear us use these words with the simple past, too.

I’m going outside to practice soccer.

Wait a sec.

Did you do your homework yet?

Yeah, I already did it.


In British English, these sentences would be unusual. With ‘yet’ and ‘already’ we usually use the present perfect, not the simple past. So when do Americans use the present perfect and when do they use the simple past? In written English and when we’re speaking carefully, we often use the present perfect with ‘yet’ and ‘already’. But when we’re speaking informally, we often use the simple past. ‘Did you do it yet?’ sounds a little more informal than ‘Have you done it yet?’, especially if we use the less careful pronunciation ‘Did ja do it yet?. And there’s something else. My theory is ‘Did you do it yet?’ can sound just a little more urgent in American English than ‘Have you done it yet?’

And I guess that usage may apply to "ever" as well

Have you ever watched the film? ( we use present perfect because we don't know the time the that person watched the film or the specific time that that action happened is not important or its result is important now, ie I just want to know if you have watched it, the time is not important)

But American people will say:

Did you ever watch the film? (I feel strange when hearing it, why would the asker want to know the specific time right at the beginning)

Is that how American people say daily? or American grammar is not as strict as British English?

  • So you'd never say "Did you watch the film"? – Hot Licks Jun 9 '19 at 3:05
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    There is no reason that either needs to be used over the other. Both are fine. (And did you is not asking for a specific time—simply for a positive or negative reply. I'm not sure where you got the idea of a specific time from.) – Jason Bassford Jun 9 '19 at 3:19
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    They are different questions. Please cite and link to some examples where the AmE expression “did you ever” is intended as “have you ever”. – Lawrence Jun 9 '19 at 4:52
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    @Lawrence, I have just added the reference – Tom Jun 9 '19 at 5:05
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    There are differences in the use of perfect tenses, for sure, but if BrE reflects what you were taught better, that just means that you were taught BrE. Essentially AmE permits the pp when a past event has current relevance, whereas BrE requires it... so if I order something from Amazon and get an email with the subject your order was dispatched it sounds wrong to me - but it's not wrong, it's just AmE. In one sense AmE is less strict - it permits rather than requires - but it's not as though AmE speakers are bending the rules when they use the simple past. They're just different rules. – user339660 Jun 9 '19 at 5:24

I can't speak for everybody, but for this American English speaker, "Have you ever watched the film?" and "Did you ever watch the film?" don't have exactly the same meaning.

"Did you ever watch the film" can and would be used in a situation where it's not possible to watch the film anymore. That is, if the period of time covered by an "ever" question doesn't extend up to the present, I would expect the question to use the simple past tense rather than the present perfect tense.

Here is another example I have come up with of a "did you ever" question:

Did you ever go to the swimming pool while you were staying at the hotel?"

(This kind of question would be asked after the person has finished staying at the hotel.)

"Have you ever watched the film" carries an implication that it would still be possible to watch the film right now.

To sum up, I don't think the premise of the question in the title of your post is true.

"Did you eat yet?" and "Did you finish already?" are more or less synonymous for me with "Have you eaten yet?" and "Have you finished already?", so I don't disagree with either of your quotes.

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  • Context specifics, not necessarily to do with time. More like generic or open vs particular instances. Have you ever built that gazebo (the one I'm showing you in the catalog) vs did you ever build that gazebo (the one you said you were going to build when we spoke last time.) Personally, I can't swap out either of these usages. YMMV. The line where we switch may vary among dialects. – Phil Sweet Jun 9 '19 at 15:15
  • Did you ever do your homework suggests yesterday's homework and that it wasn't done when we last discussed this. Have you ever done your homework asks if you have ever finished any homework assignment. – Phil Sweet Jun 9 '19 at 15:20
  • @PhilSweet - Did you ever do your homework could also be used when asking about your habits in school, now that we’re both out of school. – Jim Jun 10 '19 at 6:08

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