Here is a situation.

Your phone rings and you answer the phone. And middle of the talk, you realize you don't have much time left. So you feel like needing to come down to the point. So you ask your friend on the phone by using one of these expressions:
"Why did you call me?" or
"Why have you called me?".

Which question sentence is more proper and why? One is simple past tense and the other is present perfect tense.

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    I'd say "why are you calling ?" because you are right in the middle of the conversation.
    – None
    Mar 14, 2017 at 7:40
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    If you want to use past tense and present perfect, those are fine, but I think what Laure had been suggesting was that her phrase is the more idiomatic, commonly-used one. But that's just my own take of her comment :). I am not presuming to speak for her. Mar 14, 2017 at 9:02
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    @TeacherKSHuang Aha, I have understood. Thanks. :) Mar 14, 2017 at 10:04
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    If I'd already been chatting away to someone for 5 minutes, I'd definitely say "Why did you call?" over "Why are you calling?" as in "Before we got diverted talking about X, why did you originally call me". Apr 27, 2021 at 12:32
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    @anotherdave Thank you for providing another essential aspect in understanding it. But there is something not yet concluded for me, as your logic, out of a first glimpse, seems to have some collision with others' explanations. I'd like to ask you whether the following interpretation is correct: the 1st scenario: If the talk on the phone is consistent in one story, which was initially dialed for by the caller, then after 5 or even 30 minutes of talk the state should still be to be calling, the 2nd scenario: The one you presented in your comment. Apr 28, 2021 at 7:45

1 Answer 1


The first meaning of the verb call is to use your voice to draw someone's attention. In relation to using the phone it can be used for the actual fact of dialling the number (and possibly not getting through...) as well as for the fact of having a conversation over the phone with someone whose number you have just dialled (you would not use it if you were on the receiving end).

In your example I personally think there are three possibilities.
If you want to refer to the actual fact of dialling the number then of course the choice has to refer to the past, by way of either using the past or the present perfect. I would use the present perfect because it is the tense that links a past action to the present, and the telephone call is still ongoing. But there might be local usages (US I think, but I'm not an expert on US English) that would tolerate the past.

I would use the present V-ing form because I consider that the act of calling covers the act of dialling the number + the act of talking to the recipient. Moreover in your particular example where you want the caller to come quickly to the point, using the present V-ing helps bring the caller back into the urgency of the action. So, I'd say :

Why are you calling?

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    A perfect answer I have never seen before. Thank you for the kind, best answer, the perfect Laure. Mar 14, 2017 at 10:02
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    @SmartHumanism, I would have said: A more perfect answer I have never seen (before). It's the "more" that makes this answer the most perfect answer that you have ever seen. Mar 14, 2017 at 10:08
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    @TeacherKSHuang: I was taught perfect had no comparative form. Either something is complete or not. If you want to compare, better use better. A better comment would be more modest. (I'm doing it myself you see, I have actual reason to complain).
    – Hector von
    Mar 14, 2017 at 18:35
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    @Hectorvon, sorry, I should have been more clear. I had been commenting on the idiom itself, which is "a more perfect (noun)." But yes, of course, you're right: Semantically, what could be more perfect than perfection itself :). Mar 15, 2017 at 8:03

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