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My grammar book suggests that when using words like just, that you should “always” use present perfect. So the correct form should be I've just arrived according to my book.

Is this true?

I ask because I see a whole lot of people using I just arrived all over the place. I therefore cannot help but wonder whether this is an incorrect form that is somehow nonetheless in wide use by native speakers, or whether it's also a correct form just with a subtly different meaning.

marked as duplicate by tchrist Sep 14 at 16:58

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  • Out of curiosity, what are some other "words like just"? Did the book say anything further than just "just"? Is it adverbs in general, or those that indicate that the action is complete? – JeffSahol May 18 '12 at 16:49
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    @JeffSahol already comes to mind :) – Emiliano May 18 '12 at 16:59
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Neither. This is a case (one of many) in which the two forms are equivalent in meaning.

This is aided by the fact that in English the two sentences are pronounced identically, since the /vdʒ/ cluster in /ayvdʒəstə'rayvd/ I've just arrived is very difficult to pronounce, and is normally shortened to just /dʒ/, which makes it indistinguishable from I just arrived.

Since people hear them identically, they are apt to spell them identically, especially if they mistakenly believe, as many do, that English spelling represents English pronunciation.

The same phenomenon is responsible for such confusions as I would of gone vs I would have gone, I got a cold vs I've got a cold, etc.

  • What if there is today at the end of the sentence? Maybe arrived is not a good candidate for such an example, however if the time period is not finished then the present perfect should be the only correct form, right? – Emiliano May 21 '12 at 12:51
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    They're both still good, and one is still harder to pronounce. Finicky details like this aren't the reason why people use idioms and fast speech rules. Statistically, there might be a difference in how people interpret them with or without today; it'd only take a half-million dollars or so to find out definitively about those two sentences. But then you'd have to repeat the tests for all other pairs :-) – John Lawler May 21 '12 at 12:57
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I suspect that the OP's grammar book has a European publisher or author. In British English the present perfect is the most usual tense with adverbs such as just, already, yet. In American English, however, the past simple is common in the same contexts.

There's another discussion of this here: "I just ate them" and "I've just eaten them" — What's the difference in American and in British?.

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I'm a native speaker, and I disagree with your grammar book, though I might be wrong. For one thing, I'm fairly confident you can use the past perfect tense:

"He had just arrived when suddenly gunshots were heard in the crowd."

Or the past continuous tense:

"He was just arriving as the gates were being opened to let in patrons."

I also say "I just ate there last week," and similar, which is past simple, and "I've just been talking to Alice," which is present perfect continuous.

Heck, you can even say, "I will have just landed when the call is scheduled to begin," which is future perfect.

If your question is pertaining to casual speech and writing, I'd say you are more than safe to use 'just' in any of these contexts. A grammarian may be able to give you a more technical answer.

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