I have some problems when I'm translating my language to english or english in to my language.

I sometimes watch videos with english subtitles, and I often see that they are using Present Perfect Simple or Past Simple interchangable. Even when there is a result of the past action I see that they are using Past Simple.

I went through many forums with similar topic. But the answear is (when the time appears, for example in 1998 somebody arrived in London)

It's just annoying that I don't know which one should I use or how should I interpret them.

I wanted to write something a had in my mind for a long time, but the problem appeared when I had to choose one of these tenses. Past Simple or Present Perfect Simple. Both with past times but one of them has a result in real time, so why they use Past Simple?

1 Answer 1


Roughly speaking, the past tense describes an action taking place in the past, while the present perfect describes the situation when an action (in the past) has been completed. As such, they can often be used to convey the same meaning but the present perfect has an implication that something has been resolved, or is being explained. For example:

1) I spoke to my teacher about my grades.

2) I have spoken to my teacher about my grades.

In 1) the emphasis is on the action, which took place in the past (so, past tense). In 2), the sentence describes the situation now (hence, present perfect) which is, that the discussion has taken place.

The meaning is nearly the same, but there is a difference in tone. In 2), it seems that there is some sense of completeness to the task and the sentence stands as a point of information. In 1), it is more likely that you will go on the say something about the discussion, or perhaps you will be going back to your teacher to talk further.

Remember the labels for these tenses; you could modify 1) into

1a) Yesterday, I spoke to my teacher about my grades.

but you cannot make the same change to 2) - it is a present tense. Rather you might say:

2a) Now I have spoken to my teacher about my grades, I can concentrate on my verb tenses.

If you compare these sentences, it might help clarify the difference between describing the action and its outcome?

  • your explanation is about the past perfect, the question is about the present perfect.
    – anouk
    Apr 24, 2019 at 19:32
  • Sorry - quite right!
    – Ian
    Apr 24, 2019 at 19:34
  • 1
    According to your post, Past Simple (past tenses) describes the action taking place in the past but it is also an completed action like in Present Perfect. It just confuses me when I did something in the past but I see the result, so it's kind a hard to discribe if I have to use 1) or 2) option Of course when I use now,already,years ago, since - it helps a lot with choosing a tense,
    – user94552
    Apr 25, 2019 at 14:59
  • I agree that " complete" is confusing. Past tense refers to complete actions in the past, present perfect concentrates on the present result of a past action: the difference between describing the action and its outcome. This sums it up perfectly I think. Remember, sometimes both can be used without much difference and British English uses the present perfect more than American English, so that can be confusing as well.
    – anouk
    Apr 25, 2019 at 15:14
  • You have stated the difference correctly and clearly. Well done! Also, I can't imagine such a change to a long answer. That was amazing too. Apr 26, 2019 at 5:18

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