I'm writing my story in English and I still have a hard time with present perfect and past simple.
For instance in the sentences below I'm recounting something that happened in the past and ended in the past, but in the sentences there are no "finished time" words.

I’ve searched for answers in books, religions, psychology, spiritual groups. At first, some of the information I've found seemed to bring me a sense of relief, but it was only temporary.
But there was a feeling, a knowingness deep down that kept saying, "There's much more than what you've been taught. Look inside; the answer is within you." And so, It was this feeling that has led me here to this moment."

I'm guessing that the first two sentences in bold should be written in the past simple tense. And the last one should be in the present perfect because by "this moment" I really meant this present moment.

  • I would say knowledge or knowing and not knowingness. Beatriz, this is just about the same in Portuguese or Spanish....You would treat the tenses the same way.
    – Lambie
    Oct 31, 2023 at 15:59

1 Answer 1


The construction you've used is by far the most natural here.

Despite what the books may tell you, in most cases the choice of which construction to use is not rule-bound, but a choice that the speaker or writer can freely make, about how to refer to the events.

If the speaker is choosing to present the events as having relevance to the present, they will choose the present perfect; if they are choosing to present them as completed events, they will choose the simple past.

Here, in telling a story, you have a choice of relating the story as finished events, or as events relating to the present. Your choice of the perfect relates them to the present, and so gives a sense of immediacy to the story: it brings the reader into the narrator's "now". If you told them in the simple past, it would bring a picture of a narrator who is distancing themselves from the events.

  • 2
    I would use I found, because this sentence refers to something that finished in the past (it no longer gives a sense of relief). The past perfect would also be possible there. Oct 31, 2023 at 17:09
  • @KateBunting - on reflection, I agree with you.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 31, 2023 at 17:26
  • And I'd change "has led" to just "led". In American English, we tend to avoid past perfect when simple past works.
    – Barmar
    Oct 31, 2023 at 20:24
  • 'on reflection, I agree with you' ... an edit? Oct 31, 2023 at 20:38

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