Are there any instances in which the use of "ago" in Present Perfect Simple Tense would be deemed correct? For example:

I've (just) finished reading 5 minutes ago.

From my perspective, the adverbial phrase "five minutes ago" suggests that the action is recent, and, thus, it wouldn't make sense to use past tense simple. What's your opinion on this?


One of the main rules of tense usage is that the simple past is used for finished actions and especially also with specific expressions of time/in time that point to a specific occasion.

  • Five minutes ago
  • Ten years ago
  • Last week, month, year, yesterday etc.
  • Specific dates: October 1st, etc.

For example. There is zero continuity of any kind with the simple past.

Without getting into all the complexity of the present perfect, it is much easier to know, generally speaking, when to use the simple past.

Five minutes ago calls for the simple past. All expressions with ago and time (five months ago, etc.) call for simple past.

Of course, you can also use: I've just finished my work, but not with five minutes ago.

I sincerely hope this simple rule is clear. When I say rule, I am not talking about standard or non-standard. Even uneducated native English speakers would not mix these up.


If you have been told that recency is incompatible with past simple, you have been told wrong.

I finished it five minutes ago

is perfectly grammatical and normal.

I find

I've finished it five minutes ago

to be less natural, though still possible.

The significance of a perfect construction is present relevance: recency is one manifestation of that, but not the only one.

In most cases, the choice of whether to use a perfect construction or not is not constrained by the objective circumstances (eg by whether an action is recent or not), but is a choice that the speaker can freely make in how they wish to present the temporal relationships. If the speaker uses a present perfect, they are choosing to represent the events described as having a present relevance; if they use a simple past, they are choosing to represent the events as completed.

But some expressions of time influence this choice. In British English, just used to strongly prefer the perfect to the simple past (when I was young I just saw him was an Americanism, and we would say I've just seen him; though I think both possibilities are available now). And to my ear ago prefers a simple past, though it doesn't rule out a perfect.

  • Are you sure? I think five minutes ago anchors the action firmly in the past. You finished it 5 minutes ago. If you accept I've finished it five minutes ago, you also accept I've finished it at 8.04.
    – user3395
    Nov 9 '19 at 19:09

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