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an idea

After I leave the box and step back into my cage, I get an idea, a good one.

I tell Bob he can sneak into my box with me and live at the zoo.

“Have you forgotten? I’m a wild beast, Ivan,” he says, sniffing the floor for crumbs. “I am untamed, undaunted.”

Bob samples a piece of celery and spits it out. “Besides, they’d notice. Humans are dumb, but they’re not that dumb.”

The above paragraph comes from the book The One and Only Ivan page 251. After reading this, I have a question: Can I change "Have you forgotten?" to "Did you forget?" or not?

I know both of them are grammatically correct. But are there any differences between them? When should I use simple past tense and when should I use present perfect tense?

  • Have you consulted this post? – Laure Apr 17 '17 at 6:24
  • I've seen it, but it doesn't help me on this question. – Henry Wang Apr 17 '17 at 6:32
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If one uses the simple past tense, there must be some reference to time whether covert or overt. When did the speaker forget? Did you forget this morning? Did you forget last night? We would have to ask a lot of questions to discover the answer.

Whereas, the present perfect refers to the past "in general". There is no need for a time reference as the "perfect" covers all time.

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