When it is a statement about a habit, a regular event, or things like that, what tense do we use in a noun clause: simple past or present perfect?


Whenever I go out, I have to check multiple times whether I have locked the door or not.


Whenever I go out, I have to check multiple times whether I locked the door or not.

In my view:

Using simple past here is weird because it sounds like a specific event that happened in the past.

Using present perfect is ok to my ears, but I don't know why.

Can you tell me why?

  • 3
    As a British English speaker, I would always use your first version. May 11, 2021 at 7:58
  • @KateBunting Do you have a reason or mindset for your choice? Like, why do you not use the second version (past tense)? Is it because the past tense version sounds like a specific event to you? Sorry for asking so many questions. I also prefer the first version, but I don't know why because I didn't grow up in an English-speaking environment.
    – vincentlin
    May 11, 2021 at 9:24
  • 3
    I would use the present perfect for a recent action which affects the present situation. I hesitate to be too prescriptive about this because I know it isn't necessarily the same for Americans; they may say "Did you have lunch?" when I would say "Have you had lunch?" (speaking in the early afternoon). So, yes - "I locked the door" sounds to me like a single action in the past. May 11, 2021 at 9:38
  • 1
    I would say that using version 2, I am conceptualising "whenever I go out" to mean "every individual time I go out", so that sentence 2 is an elided version of "Every time I go out, I have to check multiple times whether I locked the door when I exited". This is why it feels acceptable to use the simple past: because I am thinking of a single instance which is a model for the repetition. Whereas if I use version 1, I'm conceiving of the whole process in an abstract, general way, which would preclude using the simple past.
    – PoolOfPeas
    May 19, 2022 at 3:45
  • There is a difference here and it's regional. I'm from the UK. For BrEng speakers (probably all British dialects even), there is definitely a preference for using the present perfect in your first example. The second example sounds distinctly like colloquial AmEng to my British ears. It's not wrong or anything, just different. I am not saying that no Brits would ever utter these words, but yes they probably wouldn't. Vive la différence, I suppose!
    – Billy Kerr
    Jun 25, 2022 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


i would say “ Whenever I go out, I have to check multiple times whether I locked the door or not.” or “Whenever I go out, I have to check multiple times if I locked the door or not.”

  • Thank you for your answer. Are (1) and (2) both acceptable? I was told that Americans and British people have different opinions.
    – vincentlin
    May 17, 2021 at 10:56
  • 1
    @vincentlin no problem! i’m american and honestly either way is fine. sentence 2 just sounds more natural and fluid to me, but both are all good :)
    – user136000
    May 18, 2021 at 0:28
  • 2
    I'm British and 2) sounds odd verging on wrong to me, so whoever said that there was a difference was right.
    – A. B.
    May 19, 2021 at 4:56

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