I have an extremely stupid question about present perfect vs past simple. Imagine the following situation:

I want to take a shower, but the water is cold, so I want to postpone it then until the water gets warm. I then text right in that moment to someone saying "the water is cold, I'm going to wash myself later" or maybe I could text someone like 10 minutes later and saying "the water was cold so I couldn't take a shower". I'm using here both simple present or simple past (because it's natural to me).

Following this link however it sounds to me that if I said "the water has been cold" would be "correct" (but not natural actually). Am I right? If I'm wrong why am I wrong?

2 Answers 2


The water was cold when you went to take a shower.

That was a one-time event in the past, and so the simple past is appropriate.

But if the water is normally warm and you don't have to wait for it to warm up, and this is not the first time in the past week or two that you have had to wait, you could say

The water has been cold lately when I go to take my morning shower. There must be something wrong with the water heater, or someone is using up all the hot water.

  • Other than the fact in my "present perfect" construction there's a lack of mentioning a period of time (your adverb "lately", or anything else), is the construction itself correct? If yes they basically suggests different things, is that right? Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:17
  • At this point to me, the error is that the two sentences don't match what I wanted to describe. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:24
  • has been cold would be understood to mean "cold during recent times" or "cold in recent memory" or "cold recently" or "cold at least once in the past, possibly more than once". Context is needed.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:49

You're not right. Actually, your natural feeling is right. Try to follow your natural feeling more as that's the best way to speak English is how it feels, rather than what's correct, chances are that if you're starting to be able to speak fluently you're probably right when it comes to what feels natural.

the water has been cold

Is actually incorrect because you use was when it's the main verb of the sentence, and you use has been when it is not the main verb of the sentence.

The water was cold

In this case was is the main verb

The water has become cold

In this case become is the main verb

See here for more examples

  • I'm not sure I understand your point about something being a main verb or not. I did get my instinct was right (thankfully), can you elaborate a bit more? Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:40
  • If you look at the second answer in the site I linked: italki.com/question/102161, you will find a much clearer explanation. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 12:57
  • I've just read through your link. I'm still not sure about the issue of being a main verb or not. Are you basically saying that the sentence is incorrect because it does have an auxiliary verb, which is "to have" but it lacks a main verb? Isn't the main verb in such a case the participle of "to be"? Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:15
  • Maybe I used a bad example here. My mistake. I've edited the answer. to make it more clear. become is the main verb now. To make it more clear, been was not the main verb because it is used with getting. Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 13:24

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