Note: This post is not about the concept of present perfect. It's not about the general rules either. It is about real life context. I know the general rules I just don't know how do I use some of those in this particular situation. Telling the general rules again does not always help solve specific questions, right?

When describing something happened, people usually use "it's what happened" or "it's what has happened".

However, Google Ngram indicates the former is much more commonly used than the latter, why is that?

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Does they mean the same? Could someone please give a hint? Thanks in advance.


You will usually find that the simple past is used much more often than other past tenses in general. This is because the simple past can be used in most of the same places as other past-implying tenses, the other tenses just provide some additional information that the simple past doesn't necessarily provide by itself, so the other tenses are only for specific cases where you want to say that specific thing.

The simple past form:

It's what happened.

..just says that it happened, in the past, but really nothing else.

The use of the present perfect, on the other hand:

It's what has happened.

..also says that it happened, in the past, but what you're actually talking about is the present state that is the result of that having happened. (It has happened, so now we're in a situation where we have to deal with that)

Both can be used, but the present perfect says something more specific than the simple past does, so it doesn't make sense in as many situations.

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