If I have been in hospital for 2 weeks and I have just returned home, I say "I have been in hospital for 2 weeks". It is a recent event. After I have been home for a few days I will probably say "I was in hospital for 2 weeks", because some time has passed, those 2 weeks are in the past. My question is: how much time should pass before you switch from present perfect to past simple? This is a grey area I find quite difficult.

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    Language doesn't work like that. There isn't a number which is the answer to your question. As with many questions about tense and aspect, the difference is in how the speaker is choosing to view the temporal relationships of events. You are right that as time passes the speaker is more likely to shift from regarding the stay with present relevance and using the perfect to regarding it without present relevance and using the past; but either is possible at any times if the speaker wants to express certain relationships. – Colin Fine Jul 2 '18 at 9:35
  • @colin fine so even the "for two weeks" doesn't make a difference and can be used at a later time? – anouk Jul 2 '18 at 10:01
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    in certain contexts, yes. For example "Have you ever been in hospital overnight?" "Yes, I have been in hospital for two weeks. It happened three years ago when ... " The 'present relevance' here (which is what the perfect indicates) is that the question and answer relates to the person's whole life up to now. The perfect probably wouldn't be used if the topic of the dialogue was a specific non-recent stay in hospital – Colin Fine Jul 2 '18 at 17:16

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