If I am doing a work on a simulation, and this simulation is working but after some times it does not work anymore and I say that to the colleague. What should he say between "what have you done?" or "what did you do?"

  • I know that "what have you been doing" is wrong because it was not continuous.

  • To me, "what have you done?" is the correct auswer but I do not know really...

  • 1
    There are lots and lots of questions and answers about past tense v. present perfect. In many cases (including this) both are possible. The idea that there is one and only one correct tense is because a result of learning English to pass a test. Please take a little time to explore the "related" questions on the right.
    – James K
    Jul 31, 2022 at 11:35
  • 1
    Neither of these are wrong. However, to be honest with you "What have you done?" sounds quite impolite and aggressive in this context, almost an accusation. Might be better to say "What were you doing when this happened?"
    – Billy Kerr
    Jul 31, 2022 at 11:56
  • The use of the present perfect continuous in "what have you been doing" isn't wrong. We use it to say that something is still continuing in the present. Your work on the simulation is still continuing, I think. Jul 31, 2022 at 11:57
  • @Old Brixtonian The continuous can also be used when the action has recently stopped but its effects are important in the present, in this case the simulation that isn't working, because of an action done in the recent past.
    – anouk
    Jul 31, 2022 at 12:47
  • @anouk: I think that's present perfect without the continuous isn't it? Jul 31, 2022 at 12:58

2 Answers 2


Both are perfectly fine:

What have you done?

What did you do?

What have you done will almost always be interpreted as an accusation that the person has done something wrong.

In both cases, the speaker is aware of what the person has been doing or has done or at least what the outcome was, so the question is somewhat rhetorical.

What have you been doing is not grammatically incorrect, it just has a different meaning that doesn't really fit your context. In this case, the speaker probably doesn't know what the person has been doing and is unaware of anything that has happened as a result. It's not accusatory, it's a question by someone who doesn't know what the person has been doing. It can also be used as a general greeting, similar to "What's up?"

  • Could you please explain the different meaning of " what have you been doing" ?
    – anouk
    May 14, 2023 at 13:52
  • I modified my answer to include that May 15, 2023 at 15:20

What have you done? What did you do? Both are possible. Both the actions have ended.

What have you done?- present perfect tense

What did you do?- simple past tense

But 'What have you been doing' is in the present perfect tense. The action is still continuing. It has not ended.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .