I've received an email titled "Documents have been updated" informing me that some changes were introduced in some our documents (no surprise here of course). But I'd like to know if there is any difference between the sentence:

Documents have been updated.

and the sentences

Documents are updated.

Documents were updated.

They seem to mean the same thing (or very similar). Could there be any reason to use the present perfect in this email's title (instead of "Documents are updated" or Documents were updated)?

  • 1
    Documents are updated could introduce advice saying that Documents are updated daily indicating a continuing company practice. Documents have been updated daily would refer to a past practice that might or might not be continuing.**Documents were updated** is just a statement of a completed action. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 11:19
  • The purpose of that email was exactly a statement of a completed action. So I suppose it was just the wrong tense chosen (the author isn't a native speaker). But I'd like to know when it's appropriate to say "Documents have been updated", in what situation?
    – embedc
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 12:39
  • It would be appropriate to say Documents have been updated if you were reporting a recent action or responding to a question such as: Are the documents up to date? Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


Out of other context (other related verbs), the meaning of the three sentences is the same. Something happened in the past and the result is now available.

As a possible improvement, the meaning would be more clear if you say:

Documents are now updated.

  • Thanks. There is no other context - it's just an email's title.
    – embedc
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 9:00
  • I understand. But if you have different context - for example a longer explanation in the content of the e-mail (and the explanation contains these sentences), than the meaning will change "slightly" from case to case, in relation to the other verbs.
    – virolino
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 9:02

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