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I still can't figure out why they use the simple past tense in this sentence:

'My sister went to New York for a week'

As far as i know, the present perfect is normally used when there's 'for + a period of time'.

Can someone please explain this for me ? I truly appreciate your help.

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    If you say my sister has gone to New York for a week, it means she is still there. If a British English speaker says my sister went to New York for a week, you can be sure that she is no longer there. If an American English speaker says my sister went to New York for a week, it is possible she is still there. – JD2000 Jan 13 at 7:07
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Firstly, it is certainly the case that the present perfect (simple or continuous aspect) is normally used when there's 'for + a period of time' - but only if that period of time extends up to the present. For example:

  • My sister has gone to New York for a week. (she is still there)
  • I've been playing golf for 25 years and I'm still no good.

But the past tense is the appropriate tense with expressions of finished time starting with for:

  • My sister went to New York for a week. (she is no longer there)
  • I played golf for 25 years but never got any good.

The issue is complicated however (as @JD2000 indicates in the comment) by the fact some Americans may use the past tense where Britons would typically use the present perfect.

Swan, in the section about the grammar differences between American and British English (Practical English Usage - page 51), has the example:

American English: He just went home. (Or He's just gone home.)

British English: He's just gone home.

As Swan says:

In many cases, two different forms are possible in one variety of English, while only one of the forms is possible or normal in the other variety.

It's worth noting that the addition of the word just makes the past tense version somewhat more acceptable to me as a British native speaker who would normally use the present perfect in this context:

  • My sister just went to New York for a week. (i.e. she is still there)
  • The sentence 'My sister has gone to New York for a week.' is incorrect. 'go' is a non-durative verb and it cannot be used with a period of time. The following sentences are grammatically acceptable: 1. My sister went to New York a week ago. 2. It is/has been a week since my sister went to New York. 3. My sister has stayed in New York for a week. – Anshan Today Jan 13 at 13:35
  • @AnshanToday No, it certainly is not “incorrect”. Shoe is a native speaker. – tchrist Jan 13 at 17:57
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    @AnshanToday. I agree that the for + time expression can be not be used sensibly with punctual verbs in any tense. For example, ?The bomb exploded for 2 minutes. ?She has realized her mistake for 10 seconds. But it is not the going that lasts for a week in this context. The sentence can be understood as: She went/has gone to New York and spent/will spend a week there. – Shoe Jan 13 at 18:22

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