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Woman: You already did me.

Man: That’s what she said.

It has been taken from the TV show "The Office": https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/66c0aa66-00e0-4512-8845-52abaac9ffb0

Why is she using past simple tense whereas "already" refers to present perfect tense? Would there be a mistake if she said "You have already done me"?

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    That's a typical example of a context where many native speakers would use Simple Past (did) rather than Present Perfect (have done) - but many learners would mistakenly think they must use the Perfect. This is because the only reason for mentioning that past action at all is that it's extremely relevant to "time of utterance", which makes it a very typical example of a context where Present Perfect can be used (but doesn't have to be used). Both versions are fine. Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:45
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    (imho the Simple Past is actually better in the cited context. Because it's relatively "short and snappy" compared to the slightly more formal Perfect form, it better conveys an element of "sullenness" or "grudging cooperation".) Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:49
  • To my ears, already with a simple past still sounds American, (though I know that it has been infiltrating the UK for fifty years). I simply wouldn't say already did it.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 22:09

1 Answer 1

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The difference between past simple and present perfect is the latter emphasizes that the action is now complete.

We don’t see in that clip what action “did” stands for, but if it’s one understood to be an inherently non-continuous action, then there is no need to emphasize that it is complete, so past simple is enough.

This form also helps the writers deliver the joke that follows, which is that “to do someone” is slang for having sex with them, an inherently non-continuous act. So, even if it wasn’t the right tense for the original action, it makes the joke work better.

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  • I don't like the idea that present perfect emphasises that the action is complete. The past tense works fine for completed actions "I played tennis (yesterday)" whereas present perfect is "about" the present: "I've got a present for you" I think you might be confusing the English with the similarly named, but different in meaning, tenses in French and other Romance languages.#
    – James K
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 19:26
  • @JamesK How would you explain it? I don’t see a significant difference between “You did it” and “You’ve done it” aside from completeness of the doing.
    – StephenS
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 19:45
  • Present perfect is about the current state resulting from an event in the past. If you say "you've done it" You mean "you are currently in a state resulting from the doing of it". It is a statement about the present.
    – James K
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 20:12
  • @JamesK That’s what I was trying to say; I’ll reword my answer. Thanks!
    – StephenS
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 20:55

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