Which is a proper expression, "You have just dropped your key." or "You dropped your key." in a situation in which someone drops his or her key in front of you, and you have to tell him or her about the key?

If both of them are correct, what is the difference between them?

I'm glad if you will answer my question.

  • The main difference is that the first sentence has two unnecessary words in the situation you described. Both are grammatically correct.
    – alephzero
    Dec 31, 2020 at 15:14
  • I would say, "You dropped your key", or "You have dropped your key" (without 'just')
    – Ram Pillai
    Jan 1, 2021 at 18:29

3 Answers 3


Both are grammatically correct.

I would use the first one to inform somebody that they had lost their key, in a situation where I could not immediately retrieve it for them. It's present perfect, and describes something that happened in the past but has a lasting effect (the key is still dropped).

I would use the second one as I handed a key back to somebody, as an explanation of how I had come by the key. It's past simple, and explains something that happened in the past and is finished (the key was dropped, but I have recovered it).

  • Passive vs active sentences. Each has a place depending on what the writer wants.
    – JohnP
    Dec 31, 2020 at 14:39
  • 3
    @JohnP Both sentences are active verbs.
    – alephzero
    Dec 31, 2020 at 15:14
  • 4
    In the first case, I might omit the word "have". "You just dropped your key" is sufficient. Including "have" makes it sound overly formal, like the type of language you'd use to describe some monumental achievement (or failure). "You have just won the championship, congratulations!", or "You have just deleted the entire code repository, congratulations!" (The latter case is sarcasm, just in case it doesn't read.) Dec 31, 2020 at 15:19
  • 2
    To add onto @Darrel, the "have" makes it feel like formal narration, reminiscent of tabletop games: "You have just dropped your key. It clanks as it hits the ground. Roll a stealth check"
    – scohe001
    Dec 31, 2020 at 15:29
  • @DarrelHoffman As I mentioned, adding "have" makes it present perfect, "something that happened in the past but has a lasting effect". I agree that you might omit have, but if the key is still dropped,, I think present perfect is the better option. As for the formality issue, I think that you should write "you have" but say "you've", and that's quite informal.
    – JavaLatte
    Jan 12, 2021 at 9:36

As people have said, either sentence is fine - I'd say that you have just dropped your key might sound a little passive-aggressive though, almost as though you're narrating somebody making a mistake.

The present perfect has a sense of a past event that is still having an effect on the present, so you have just dropped your key implies that a mistake was made and hasn't been corrected yet. So it might sound a little like you're saying "didn't you notice?", "that's going to cause a problem" or "are you going to pick that up?"

I feel like this is definitely softened if you say you've just dropped your key in a more casual way, or if you omit just (which can sound like you're immediately pointing out a mistake as soon as it happens). This is all really subtle, so I think the best advice is to avoid you have just dropped your key because that's very formal and direct, and sounds the most like criticism.

  • 3
    I'd even go so far to say that the first one is something I'd expect Data from Star Trek or Enoch from Agents of Shield to say, as it's a stiff, formal version. A native English speaker would have at least used a contraction on "You have". Dec 31, 2020 at 19:02

Just means a moment ago or a short time before.

In a situation in which someone drops his or her key in front of you (the key is still dropped there), and you have to tell him or her about the key, you should say :

"You have just dropped your key·"

Here, the use of present perfect tense and the word 'just' indicates that it has happened a moment ago in front of you, and you want to tell him about the key. But if you use the simple past tense, it indicates that it was a past event (He lost the key, and you or someone else recovered it).

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