On this website, they say to use present perfect when the precise time of the action is not important or not known.

So, in the example below, should I use present perfect tense?

I have noticed that there is a scratch on my car, so I have painted my car.

To me the sentence sounds better with the second action being in simple past painted

  • It's better to read their explanation as "You can use" rather than just "use" or "to use", and definitely not "must use". I mentioned this kind of problem (relating to understanding grammar "rules") in my old answer once here: ell.stackexchange.com/a/100668/3281. Nov 29, 2016 at 4:57
  • So, are you saying it doesn't matter which tense I use as long as I get my point? I don't get what are you saying in your second point in your old answer.
    – English101
    Nov 29, 2016 at 5:20
  • It does matter. But one common misconception I found among learners is that after reading grammar rules in their grammar book, a learner may think that a grammatical pattern that is used in the situations laid out by the book must be used when they want to talk about such a situation. It's not so. It's "can be used" not "must be used". So, if you read the page you link to carefully, they don't tell us "to use present perfect when the precise time of the action is not important or not known". It's just one case under "The Present Perfect is used to describe". See the difference? Nov 29, 2016 at 5:32
  • Time markers that shows that the action is completed in the past: yestrrday, last week, last month forbid the usage of present perfect Nov 29, 2016 at 7:02

1 Answer 1


There are three fundamental uses of present perfect; Continuative, Existential and Resultative. The context in your example is regarding Resultative.

I have noticed that there is a scratch on my car, so I have painted my car.

Your example is correct. In this sentence, noticing a scratch on your car is the prior event that leads to the result in the current state; You have painted your car.

I have painted my car is also correct and resultative. The result is not mentioned, but it is inferred by the listener or reader. The result could be "The scratch is cleared".

I have noticed that there is a scratch on my car, so I painted my car.

This is also correct and prefered. Since the result is not mentioned, using simple past is a better option. However the usage of present perfect is depending on what you really want to say not how and when to use it.

  • Could you explain further on your last sentence and some examples?
    – English101
    Nov 29, 2016 at 13:47
  • @English101 You should only use the perfect tense to introduce a prior eventuality in the current state. If you want to emphasize the result of prior action in present(even though it's not mentioned), you use present perfect. For example, I've cut my hand. The prior event(you cut your hand) is not important but the effect(your hand bleeds). If you just want to tell your hand was cut. You just say I cut my hand. The link that I provided is very essential. Please read it. Nov 29, 2016 at 13:57
  • That link was helpful, but last half of it was too complex for me. Are continuative and existential somewhat same? ell.stackexchange.com/questions/8798/… If you look at this post, the same user who provided the fundamental uses of present perfect provides explanation why the present perfect in that case. Couldn't planting and founding be used as existential, thus we can use the present perfect tense? Doesn't over four hundred years ago mean more than four hundred years ago? Hence, it's unspecific time?
    – English101
    Nov 30, 2016 at 5:48
  • @English101 Continuative and existential arent the same. I've lived here for six years implies that he has been living there for six year. While thr exitential, Michaelis has written several papers about tense and aspect. means that Michealis has written them in the past, and thr existence of the sources is still in the present. The rule about the spesified time is no longer reliable. The adverbial "Over four hundred years ago" shows that the action is completed in the past and has nothing to relate in the present. Nov 30, 2016 at 6:16

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