Can anyone please tell me if I should use "past tense" or "present perfect" in an response to the given question asked in present perfect?

Here's the context: 

Mom: Subha, I am sorry. Someone has broken your watch. Me: What!! who did/has done that?

I think simple past sounds better.


My grammar book(Practical English Usage written Michael Swan) says that simple past tense is preferable. Look at the third example.

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2 Answers 2


Follow your book in this case. I would say, with my intuition as a native speaker, that in simple past tense the emphasis is on the action itself, whereas the present perfect emphasizes that the action was done in the past, or something that you have now because you've done it before.

For an example of present perfect, if you were going skydiving, you might be asked have you gone skydiving before? so that they know if they need to go over the basics, or if you already know them since you've done it before.

In short, the emphasis is on whatever tense you're using. Present circumstance because of a past event used present perfect, something in the past uses past perfect.

  • Thank you. Would you prefer "simple past tense" in my example too?
    – user254288
    Jun 7, 2018 at 3:19
  • @user254288 definitely simple past tense. You're asking about what happened in the past, not about what's going on now. Jun 7, 2018 at 3:21

Either would be correct, but because you would probably be stomping around yelling at everyone, the more straightforward simple past is a better stylistic choice. “WHO DID THIS? WHO BROKE MY WATCH!”

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