Is the use of the past simple correct in the following context?

Person A: Have you ever argued with your girlfriend?

Person B: Yes, I have.

Person A: what did you argue about?

Should have I used the present perfect as well in the second question.

2 Answers 2


That example is precisely right.

Here's another:

Q: Have you ever ridden a bike?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: When did you last ride a bike?
A: I last rode a bike yesterday.

It is very common to move from a present perfect that signals the past without being specific to a past event that is specific. This happens all the time in English. In fact, this is one way the past perfect versus the simple past is taught to ELLers.

Q: Have you understood what I am saying?
A: Yes, I have.
Q: How did you understand it?
A: I understood it because your explanation is [or was] pretty clear.


When you use the past simple: "what did you argue about", you are thinking of that specific occasion in the past when the argument took place and what you argued about.

If you use present perfect: "what have you argued about?", I would expect a number of different arguments, happening at different occasions over a period of time until now. "we have argued about lots of things".

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