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When asking a group of people about whether or not they've seen a certain movie, are there any arguments against using the following sentence:

"Who watched it?"

Using the past simple instead of the present perfect ("Who has watched it?" or "Who has seen it?") seems a bit incorrect, but I cannot explain why. When I try to google for examples, it seems like the past simple is commonly used by native speakers in this case.

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    The situation has current relevance, some kind of current relevance to the present, so the perfect tense is appropriate.
    – BillJ
    Nov 13, 2021 at 16:40
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    Idiomatically, it would often be more natural to use Present Perfect in contexts like Who has read this book? - but not if the question specifies an actual time (for example, Who watched this movie last night?, where imho it would be at the very least "strange" to use the Perfect verb form). Nov 13, 2021 at 16:41
  • @BillJ Yes, I would also use the present perfect in this case, but do you have any arguments against using the past simple, besides the present perfect being more appropriate?
    – user146636
    Nov 13, 2021 at 16:52
  • @FumbleFingers No moment has been specified.
    – user146636
    Nov 13, 2021 at 16:52
  • I can see that. BillJ already told you the Perfect verb form was appropriate. My comment was intended to show you a typical very similar context where the Perfect form isn't "appropriate". Nov 13, 2021 at 16:57

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The perfect from "Who has watched it?" would be normal. You are not concerned with the time when it was watched, only the the whether they now have the experience of seeing the film.

That doesn't make the past tense wrong. If you had already established that you were talking about a particular time in the past, you might choose the past tense:

Okay students, we're going to watch a film today and analyse the themes. The film is Jaws. Now, who has seen this film?

Okay students. Did you have a good weekend? I watched Jaws on TV on Saturday. How about you? Who saw this film?

American speakers are more likely to use past simple instead of perfect tense. British speakers are more likely to use perfect.

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  • Thank you for the clear answer, but I have one more question to clarify something about what you said at the end. Are American speakers more likely to use past simple, even when a particular time in the past hasn't been established yet?
    – user146636
    Nov 13, 2021 at 22:04
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    Yes, and it is only a tendancy, but in many context both present perfect and past tense are possible and mean roughly the same. American English tends to use past more often than British in these situtaions. But it isn't a rule and American speakers use perfect too.
    – James K
    Nov 13, 2021 at 22:13

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