For example, I break a pot. Should I say I broke or I break to tell someone immediately? Another example is the word remember. Should I say I remember it or I remembered when someone mentions something?

  • In footnote 38 on p.146 in The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Huddleston & Pullum (2002), the authors remark: "There are some relatively small-scale differences between AmE and BrE with respect to the choice between the present perfect and the simple preterite – cases where AmE may prefer a simple preterite where BrE prefers or requires a present perfect. One case concerns situations in the recent past, where I just saw them, for example, might be preferred in AmE, I’ve just seen them in BrE."
    – user3395
    Jun 14 '18 at 9:52
  1. You say "I broke a pot" because, obviously, you just did it.
  2. You say "I remember it" or "I remember when someone mentioned something" because you still do but the action that the person did was done (mentioning something).
  • Exactly my thought. When was it remembered? Now. When was it broken? In the past.
    – James
    May 15 '19 at 7:26

I would treat those verbs differently.

There is a specific moment in time when the pot breaks. That moment has been and gone.

I broke the pot a few seconds ago.

For an ongoing process I might use another form:

I am breaking up the clumps of flour with the spoon.

(There are many other forms of English verbs, which seem like present tense, for example

When I break rocks into gravel I make sure to wear protective glasses.

Memory is different. Five minutes ago I remembered where I put down my lost keys, but for a memory that is current in my mind it is most natural to say

I remember the words to the song.


Yes you can. But I don't recommand. It's overkilled.

I read many novels just tell the story in present tense.

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