Which is preferable, simple past or present perfect, in situations like this one: I had a conversation with my friend and we planned to do something; shortly afterwards I call him back to announce the accomplishments. My biggest doubt about simple past is that perfect aspect is used to indicate past action (accomplishment) with current relevance, at the same time I'm not sure if I'm allowed to use present perfect, because there's a gap between accomplishing and the current moment, which is a characteristic of simple past.

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    There is always a gap between accomplishing something (e.g. buying a new iPad) and the current moment when you report that accomplishment. So this is not relevant to determining which tense you need. Both I bought a new iPad and I've bought a new iPad are possible. Which one is the correct choice will depend on other details of the context and what you want to convey to your listener. I suggest you rewrite the question with a specific example or two. – Shoe Mar 24 '12 at 16:56
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    I can't understand what you're asking. It might help if you gave us two alternative example sentences to choose from. – Peter Shor Mar 24 '12 at 16:56
  • Sorry, I got confused. Shoe's comment has clarified the situation, thanks. – midnight Mar 24 '12 at 17:40

Look at the following sentences:

(a) Past simple: I lived in Florence for five years ... but I do not live there anymore.

(b) Present perfect: I have lived in Florence for five years ... and I still live there now.

(c) Past simple: I broke my glasses ... but it does not matter. I repaired them.

(d) Present perfect: I have broken my glasses ... and so I can't see properly now.

You probably learned the difference between (a) and (b) years ago: that one of differences between past simple and past perfect is the 'time' of the verb, i.e. when it happened. The difference between (c) and (d) is harder to understand.

In (c) and (d), 'time', i.e. when the verb happened, is not really what separates the two sentences; it is possible that both (c) and (d) happened last month, this morning, or one second ago. What is important is that the event in (d) is considered more relevant to the situation now than the event in (c), which is why it is given in the present perfect.

  • What????? Do you think "Are you hungry?" "No, I ate dinner." is correct, while "Are you hungry?" "No, I've eaten dinner." is wrong? If so, you are not a native English speaker. If not, you should revise your answer. – Peter Shor Mar 24 '12 at 21:39
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    You're correct, but your explanation is quite confusing. – Peter Shor Mar 24 '12 at 22:14
  • @Peter Shor: thanks for the suggest. I hope that the revision can clarify the sense of the answer. – user19148 Mar 24 '12 at 22:48
  • This "answer" has been duplicated several times on EL&U see this answer and this answer too. – Mari-Lou A Feb 26 '15 at 15:48
  • @Mari-LouA Thank you for pointing out the other site. I believe they are stealing from us, not the other way around! – Matt E. Эллен Feb 26 '15 at 18:19

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