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We use the Present Perfect to talk about experiences we've had in our life without specifying the exact time.

It's easy for me to follow this rule when I want just to state that I've done something in my life. However, it becomes confusing if I want to go into detail after stating the fact. If I want to tell a story about something that has happened to me, should I use the Past Simple after the Present Perfect?

A couple of confusing examples I can think of:

I’ve heard other foreigners speak English whose accent was(?) much thicker than mine.

I've met a Japanese man once, we were(?) at a conference together.

Are these correct or not? I will appreciate it if you give me more relevant examples.

  • I'd probably say, "I've heard other non-native English speakers whose accents were much thicker than mine." or perhaps English speaking foreigners if I wanted to use the word foreigner. I think accent is countable. As for the other sentence, I might say, "I met a Japanese man once. We were at a conference together." --Disclaimer: I'm a non-native speaker too. – Damkerng T. Feb 2 '14 at 14:36
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    The discussion here may be of value to you, particularly §4 (but this depends to some extent on §§3.1 and 3.2). – StoneyB Feb 2 '14 at 16:41
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I don't think there is a rule prescribing you should use the simple past after a present perfect or not.

However, the normal rules apply for the second (part of your) sentence in your examples.

If you take the second parts of your examples and make them independent:

Some people's accent was much thicker than mine.

I was at a conference together with a Japanese guy at the time.

You will notice that the meaning of the sentences changes if you would use a present perfect.

Some people's accents have been much thicker than mine.

This could be a correct phrase, I guess, if you are talking about the people you have met in your life. It is not a construction you will encounter often though. As having an accent is a continuous property, and it certainly was an ongoing thing at the time you met them, I see no reason not to use the simple past.

The same goes more or less for your Japanese man:

I have been to a congress with that guy.

Is a perfectly acceptable phrase, but it does not convey the same meaning. If you say you were at a congress at the time you met the man, simply use the simple past again.

  • oerkelens, thanks for showing me how the meaning of the second parts would change with a present perfect. So my way is correct then? 1) Say that you've experienced something in present perfect; 2) add details about the particular past event in simple past. – Andy K. Feb 2 '14 at 19:46

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