The Simple Past VS The Present Perfect

What's the difference between the simple past and the present perfect?

Simple Past vs Present Perfect

The present perfect is used for actions that began in the past and have present consequences. The simple past tense, however, indicates that an action is completed at a specific time in the past.

Simple past vs present perfect

Simple past used... Present Perfect is used...

1. To talk about finished actions in the past with exact or specific details:


  • Ernest Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea.
  • Newton died in 1727.
1. To focus on the result of a past action without mentioning the actual time when it happened:


  • I have met him before.
  • I have called her a few times.

2. To talk about past habitual actions

  • I worked out every day for a year.
  • I drove to work every day when I worked with that company.
2. To talk about an action performed in a period that has not finished yet:


  • Have you met her this morning? (The morning is not over yet)
  • I have been to Paris three times this year. (This year has not finished yet.)

3. To talk about events that were true for some time in the past

  • He lived in Paris for 20 years.
  • They talked on the phone for ten minutes.

3. To show an action that started in the past and is still taking place till now. This is often used with

  • Since to indicate the beginning of the action.
  • For to indicate the duration of a certain action:


  • I have taught in Spain for three years (I am still a teacher in Spain.)
  • I have lived in this city for five years. (I still live here.) .

Time expressions used in simple past tense and present perfect

Simple Past Present Perfect
  • yesterday
  • last week
  • last Year
  • three minutes/hours ago
  • in January
  • in 1994
  • when I was...
  • at Christmas
  • yet
  • ever
  • just
  • recently
  • lately
  • already
  • so far
  • until now

How to form the simple past

The simple past is formed by adding ed to regular verbs.



  • I visited
  • I watched
  • I played

Irregular verbs don't follow the above rule. No rule shows how to form the irregular form of the simple past, we just have to learn these verbs and their past forms by heart.

Bare Infinitive Simple Past
be was/were
come came
go went
drive drove
speak spoke
write wrote

Here is a list of irregular verbs

How to form the present perfect

To form the present perfect, we use the verb have in the simple present form and we add the past participle form of the main verb.



  1. I have visited Paris twice this year.
  2. Have you finished the report yet?
  3. She has met him this morning.

Things to remember

  • The simple past is used to talk about events that finished before now. The time of the event is specified and the details are known.
    Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492.
  • The present perfect is generally indicates an action that started in the past and continued till the present or has some results in the present.
    I have studied linguistics for two years.
  • The simple past of regular verbs is formed by adding "ed" to the base form of the verb.
    Examples: visit → visited
  • The simple past of irregular verbs doesn't follow any rule. We have to learn them by heart.
    go → went
    write → wrote
  • The present perfect is formed by adding the past participle of the main verb to the auxiliary have/has.
    I have studied.
    I have written.

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