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To help my students get ready for RSE in English, I go to the official site of the exam and take some materials from there.

Here's a grammar task that makes my feel at a loss.

The story goes about a seagull that was adopted by a man...

He slept in a cat’s basket, from which he acquired a taste for Whiskas. Since then, Mr. Pooh has learned the sound of the fridge door opening.

He __________________ (LEAVE) the family home, but he can’t resist returning three times a day for his favourite food, announcing his arrival by tapping on the door.

The answer is Past Simple, that is LEFT, but to me there should be Present Perfect. I think so because the actions in the sentence are related to the present.

Would it be relevant to use Present Perfect to underline that eventually the seagull has left the family, but (now) he can't resist visiting the family and (still) sees them for his favourite food?

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    Has left would seem perfectly acceptable to me. – Kate Bunting Apr 10 '20 at 13:54
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Do you go there (the official site) everyday? :)

I will tell you why the present perfect is better here.

Compare:

He has left the family home, but he can’t resist returning three times a day for his favourite food, announcing his arrival by tapping on the door. [the speaker is speaking at the present time or in the present]

To:

He left the family home, but returned yesterday for his favourite food, announcing his arrival by tapping on the door. [the speaker is describing two finished events]

The simple past would be definitive in this type of sentence. Since the seagull continues to return, the past perfect shows he is no longer living at home but is not showing he left home definitively as the simple past would, for example, on Tuesday, last week, yesterday, at midnight. The point is not when he left, the point is he is no longer at home at the time of speaking.

Compare those to:

He left last May but has been returning everyday since September. [it is now December].

There, he left is definitive. It is also specific. Phrases like last May require simple past.

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  • Well, not every day, but whenever I need to help my students with the exam, I go there. Just a fact about my teaching experience:) Yes, I understand that Past Perfect would be even better, but 'left' is given in the key. Are they mistaken? – Vladimir Nazarenko Apr 10 '20 at 15:08
  • Thta's the present perfect. Past perfect would be had left. – Colin Fine Apr 10 '20 at 15:54
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    @VladimirNazarenko I think I have answered your question. I wrote past instead of present and have corrected it. In terms of what is called pragmatics, I think they are wrong in formal grammar terms. [The correction I made to your question is that you should have written: To help my students, I go etc. and not: Helping my students, I go.] – Lambie Apr 10 '20 at 16:48
  • Oh, thanks for clarification:) Being a non-native speaker is not an easy job! I got very confused because of that typo and thought that I had missed something in terms of basic grammar. Now everything is clear! You're very helpful. – Vladimir Nazarenko Apr 10 '20 at 16:52
  • @VladimirNazarenko No worries. Stay safe. :) Teachers understand each other. – Lambie Apr 10 '20 at 16:59

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