A: I have eaten them. B: I ate them.

Which answer is better to the question "Where are my cookies?"


They are both equally good.

A speaker who says "I have eaten them" is choosing to put some focus on the fact that the eating of the cookies has some present relevance: perhaps that they are are feeling full from the cookies, or perhaps just that the other person has seen that they have disappeared. A speaker who says "I ate them" is choosing not to put any focus on the present relevance. This might mean that they ate them a while ago, not just a moment ago; but it doesn't necessarily mean that.

Despite what some books tell you, the choice of simple past or present perfect is not necessarily about how recently the action happened: it is about whether the speaker is choosing to focus on the present relevance of the action; but the nature of that present relevance depends on the context.

  • thanks for the answer. I imagined it as: "I've eaten them and the plate is empty" , so in that case like as you said I've eaten is a better choice. – berkyykreb May 9 at 20:17

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