I'm writing a medical questionnaire in English. My doubt is related to the best type of past that I should use in the questions, I'll write an example and see if some native speaker can explain better.

Example 1:

  • How much energy did you have in the last month?
  • How engaged with your life were you in the last month?
  • How often did you experience remorse in the last month?

Example 2:

  • How much energy have you had in the last month?
  • How engaged with your life have you been in the last month?
  • How often have you experienced remorse in the last month?

Is it wrong to use the past of the example 1 or 2? Or just a matter of taste?

Thanks in advance for the help.

1 Answer 1


Example 2 is better, I think.

Example 1 asks, "How was it?" while Example 2 asks, "How has it been?" In Ex.1 that month is over and done with. In Ex.2 we are still at the end of it. Ex.1 is a little brusque in suggesting (slightly) that any problems belong to THAT month, not this. It's slightly more remote or detached than Ex.2.

Example 2 is somehow more gentle or comradely, acknowledging that the patient may still be feeling today as he or she has felt for the last month. It isn't closing the door on that month.

The language is sweeter in Ex.2. Ex.1 uses the words "Did you", which are percussive: school bullies and teachers ask "Did you?". "Were you" is more graceful and makes the English pleasanter in Ex.2.

  • Thanks a lot, that was really helpful and well explained. I'll definitely go with number 2 and try to avoid the percussive style. Have a nice day!
    – SirCharles
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 16:59

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