Which tense should I use for actions which terminate exactly at the present time and the final point of the action is the present moment ? Can present perfect be used for this type of situation because I was told that simple past expresses an action which started in the past,lasted for some time and ended in the past.What about an action started in the past,lasted for some time,but ends exactly at the present time ?

Let's imagine a boy who left his house to take his grandmother some cookies.I consider the time when the boy was at the door of their home is the start point of this action and the first moment when the boy is at his grandmothers house (this is exactly the present moment for this situation) is the end point of the action because the action cannot be complete before this point.Can this boy say "I have brought you some cookies,grandma." when he enters the house at the present moment(the first time he be at his grandmothers house.)

I think using past tense is not appropriate here because the action includes the present moment and using past form requires the action to locate in some past section at the timeline.There must be a time point where the boy is at his grandmothers house in order to say bringing action is complete and this is the present time in our situation (before this time the boy wasn't at his grandmas house),but a past form cannot include the present moment.

  • You've been told "rules" for these matters that do not accurately reflect actual usage.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 2:03
  • It's not true that every sentence has exactly one tense that you "should use". In some sentences, more than one tense works. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 2:23
  • At least in British English "I've brought you some X, grandma" would be the natural thing to say. (Not wanting to get bogged down in discussion of the UK/US meaning of cookies!) Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 9:28
  • "Have" is the immediate/immediate past tense in the English language. Also @KateBunting -- yes, naturally.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 12:32
  • "Got" in this sense is seldom used in Non-AmE and even there it's not considered formally correct.
    – Kris
    Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 12:33

1 Answer 1


There is more than one use of the present perfect in English, but one use is exactly what you are talking about: to describe an action started in the past and completed just now or in the recent past.

I have got the cookies out of the oven

means that I just this instant finished the process of putting on oven mitts, opening the oven door, and pulling the cookie sheet out of the oven, or else it means that I completed the process relatively recently (in the context of this example relatively recently is more likely to refer to minutes than hours).

If the process is sttill on-going and not completed (perfected), say

I am getting the cookies out of the oven.

If the process was completed in the more distant past, use the simple past.

I got the cookies out of the oven over an hour ago.

  • A good outline of the rules, but the comments above challenge the broad unwavering application you seem to support. The “rules” you outline don’t reflect usage in real life situations. For example, I take the cookies from the oven and I yell up the hallway to my wife, “I got the cookies out!” and yet you would reserve this usage for the distant past. I rarely use “I have got...” in ordinary conversation or even in writing. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 3:40
  • I am not suggesting that deviations from what I said do not occur. What I am suggesting is that the OP will not blunder using the rules outlined in my answer. Notice that I was being prescriptive rather than descriptive. I do not see that it is helpful to say "more than one tense" works. First, what should be said is that in some situations more than one tense grammatically expresses the same meaning. Second, if no guidance is provided on such situations, the OP is provided with no information whatsoever on what tense or tenses are to be used in any situation. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 4:30
  • I think we are both talking at the extremes and the answer lies somewhere in between. Every learner of English must begin with the grammar rules and move from there to an understanding that they are “rules” to be frequently broken. HelpMe911 looks to have reached that stage. The deeper knowledge probably comes from conversation, reading and accumulated experience as a more English speaker, not just from someone just saying “more than one tense works” or giving an isolated example like I gave. Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 6:09
  • @OrbitalAussie You may rarely use I have got, but it's standard in British English to say something like "I've got the cookies out - they looked as if they were ready." Commented Feb 3, 2020 at 12:47
  • @kate bunting. Well in fact “rarely use” was overstatement - as I later implied. I see “I have got” as less likely than “I got” just in this context (these example sentences) in Australian English. Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 2:37

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