I'm really having hard time determining whether a verb/s should be present perfect or simple past. Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? answer provided by StoneyB in this post was useful and at the same time it made me more confused. It says the present perfect tense has three uses continuative, existential, and resultative, but couldn't all past tense be categorized into one of this, thus making it present perfect?

For example, I found five errors using the information you have given us. Couldn't found be categorized into existential, thus, I have found five errors using the information you have given us.

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    I've said this a few times on our site: don't let the event force your choice of tense; let your thought guide you. I think this is one of the biggest misconceptions most learners from languages that don't use tense like English does have. Once we start to learn about tense, we tend to think, if it's like this (i.e., the situation is like this), I have to use this tense. But it's not always like that. A lot of times we can look at the same situation from different perspectives, and each perspective will influence the choice of tense. I hope this comment is a bit helpful. Dec 14, 2016 at 8:12

1 Answer 1


The general rule is: use the simplest form that says what you mean. If simple past conveys your meaning, simple past is what you should use even if you could also use a participial construction.

The example in your question is a case of this rule. You could express the given idea three different ways, two of which you illustrate. But the best choice of the three would be "I found five errors using the information you gave us": 2 simple pasts. There's no additional information provided by the "have found" / "have given" constructions, so they should be avoided.

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