Does this use of the present perfect tense sound off to American and British ears? Should it be replaced with the simple past?

"Lindsay's not answering. Maybe she left her phone at home." "Well, she's called me today, so I don't think that's the case."

To clarify the context, the speaker wants to say that Lindsay called him an unspecified number of times (could be more than once) today and could still call.

I'm primarily interested in American English, but answers from the UK are also welcome.


  • 1
    It sounds like a present perfect tense to both ears. There is no difference; a beginner learner might be confused when hearing a have shortened to ve and a has shortened to s. He's invited me to his party - They've done it before - What makes us not confuse "have/has" to "is" is the fact that the main verb comes in its participle form if the tense is is present perfect.
    – Davyd
    Dec 4, 2017 at 21:07

5 Answers 5


The present perfect doesn't sound off, but American speakers would be more likely to use the simple past in this context. However, the simple past is slightly more likely to imply that she called only once.

The present perfect might be used to give it slightly more emphasis. To specifically call out that she'd called more than once, we would usually say "she's been calling me today."

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    Well, that does sound more odd to my ears. But it's not grammatically or conceptually different in any way. The truly strange thing is that I'd be much, much more likely to use the present perfect in the first person: "Maybe she's not in town." "I've bumped into her today, so I don't think that's the case." I'm going to have to think about it for a while to figure out if I can see any rhyme or reason to these things, though! Dec 5, 2017 at 19:12
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    Your examples above are all fine in the present perfect because you're not pointing to a particular time of the day: "She has chewed me out today." versus "She chewed me out earlier today." In the second example, you're being more specific about the time, so it takes the simple past whereas, in the first example, it could have happened at any point today, but today is still going on. This differs if you were talking about another day in the past: "She chewed me out yesterday." (specific time) versus "She has chewed me out this week." (general time)
    – Nick
    Dec 5, 2017 at 20:51
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    First, as others have pointed out, I think that the present perfect may actually be more formally correct, but correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you are mostly interested in common usage, not technical correctness. That said, I think you may be onto something when you say recurrence has something to do with why we'd choose present perfect or simple past. For example, "she's chewed me out" sounds weirder than "she's smiled at me" because one would hope the smiling would be more likely to recur. But I think it's only one factor of many extremely subtle ones in this area. Dec 5, 2017 at 21:17
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    @joiedevivre Indeed, I'm interested in natural usage. Compare also: "I've seen Star Wars today" – why does that sound off, while "I've seen John today" sounds OK? Because you're not going to see Star Wars again today (it's a one-off event), but you might very well see John if he's for example your co-worker. But if John is a childhood friend whom you hadn't seen for 20 years and you just briefly saw him on the subway, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't say "I've seen John today". You would say "I saw John today". Dec 6, 2017 at 10:35
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    @TomaszP.Szynalski Yes, I agree! Dec 7, 2017 at 16:09

It sounds fine to my American ears although I would probably use the present perfect in the sentence prior as well:

"Lindsay's not answering. Maybe she has left her phone at home." (or she's left.)

"Well, she's called me today, so I don't think that's the case."

But I'd like to state that it is common for people to say it in the simple past as an informal way to say it; however, if one were writing a paper, it would probably not be written without being in the present perfect. The reason for this is that many natives of any language like shortcuts; we don't want to say all of those words if we can convey the information in a simpler form.

Despite the past tense being simpler in common parlance, most people would ask the statements above in a question form this way:

"Has she called you today?"

"Has she left her phone at home?"

The second example above may be commonly heard in the past simple (whereas the first one would probably not be heard as such), but, in that case, the speaker is usually omitting a clause that he deems implicit to the listener:

"Did she leave her phone at home (when she left for work today)?"

The above construction, however, does not suggest how many times she has called you. If you want to convey the meaning that she has called you a few times and may call again, I would write it and say it this way:

"Has she been calling you all day?"

"She has been calling me all day today." (or just all day)

  • Thanks! What if the exchange was "Maybe she's not in town." "She's bumped into me today, so I don't think that's the case." Is the present perfect less acceptable now? Dec 5, 2017 at 19:01
  • First off, it should be, "What if the exchange were..." because you should use the past subjunctive of "to be" there in proper English; second, the present perfect is fine in formal English: "Has she bumped into you today?" "Yes, she has bumped into me today. In fact, it was an hour ago that she bumped into me." or "I saw her earlier this morning, but I have seen her around today."
    – Nick
    Dec 5, 2017 at 20:36
  • The PP is fine in my sentence as well? You changed it by adding a question in the PP. Dec 6, 2017 at 10:11
  • Yes, your sentence is fine in the present perfect. I've changed it into a question to show you how it would be asked as a question. The present perfect in English is much easier to see in questions than statements: "Have you eaten dinner yet?" "Yes, I have eaten dinner. I ate it earlier." "Have you heard from Amy?" "Yes, I've heard from Amy." "Have you seen my shoes today?" "No, I haven't seen your shoes today." "Have you found your shoes yet?" "Yes, I've found my shoes." "Have you watched Star Wars today?" "Yes, I have watched Star Wars today. I actually watched it two hours ago."
    – Nick
    Dec 6, 2017 at 16:31

"She's called me today." implies the day is not yet over.

That is the implication if you use the present perfect here.

If you say: "She called me today.", the day is not over and it implies, even if it is not stated: earlier, at some time of the day, this morning, etc.

This would be true of AmE and BrE.

  • it would be hard to say "today" after the day was out
    – Deipatrous
    Dec 7, 2022 at 9:14
  • @Deipatrous You are missing the point. The point is present perfect versus simple past within a specified period of time. You can always use the simple past but you can only use the present perfect with a period of time that is not yet over.
    – Lambie
    Dec 7, 2022 at 17:21

"has called me today" doesn't really address the dramatic scenario you've presented, where you want the statement to say that she has not left her phone at home.

The past tense is idiomatic:

She had her phone with her when she called me earlier today.

She had her phone with her when she called me a short while ago.


It may be useful to remember that the perfect tense emphasises the result as it bears on the present - that present being associated with the tense of to have. So in she'd called me the "resultative present" is the point of time where that had is located. In she's called me the auxiliary has is in the present of the speaker.

Anyhoo, it sounds fine to my BrEng ears, and I "hear" the implication "so that's how I know" even before "...so I don't think" which reinforces the resultative aspect. It might sound off if the implication of that aspect were absent from the conversation.

she called me today is also perfectly fine.

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