1

*Situation 1: The action of fixing has happened 10 times until the present. I can use either tense :

a. I tried to fix it 10 times. But it is still not working. Could you help me fix it?

=> I am reporting/ narrating what I did before I asked you to help. The sentence put more emphasis on the past actions.

b. I have tried to fix it 10 times. But it is still not working. Could you help me fix it?

=> Now, In the present, there are total 10 times of me fixing the computer in total. The sentence put more emphasis on the the present.

*Situation 2: The action of visiting has happened 2 times until the present. I think I can use either tense.

a. I visited Thailand 2 times. It is a nice country. I think you should visit it once in your life.

=> I am reporting/ narrating my past visits before I gave you an advice. This sentence puts more emphasis on past actions.

b. I have visited Thailand 2 times. It is a nice country. I think you should visit it once in your life.

=> I want to say that now, in the present, I have 2 times of visiting Thailand in total. This sentence puts more emphasis on the present.

If so, when talking about repeated actions until now, I can use either tense. Are my opinions correct?

Thank you.

6
  • I don't understand what you mean when you mention "since" and "for". Please elaborate so I can understand what you are asking. Apr 16, 2023 at 16:38
  • @CharlesB.Cameron I just removed the sentence including “since” and “for” to avoid confusion.
    – LE HANH
    Apr 16, 2023 at 17:01
  • 2
    I visited Thailand twice. The difference in meaning is that Simple Past focuses on the action in the past (that's what I did), whereas Present Perfect draws more attention to the effect of past action on the present (I am a person who has done that). Apr 17, 2023 at 3:24
  • Almost my grammar books and English websites, they only say that learners should use the present perfect for repeated actions until now. They hardly mention to use the simple past in such situations. So, I am not confident when using the simple past for these situations.
    – LE HANH
    Apr 17, 2023 at 4:01
  • 1
    Up to this point (= “Now, in the present”) the total number of times (“there are total 10 times ") I've tried fixing the computer is ten. The sentence puts more emphasis on the present. (“on the the present”)
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 4, 2023 at 8:45

2 Answers 2

3

I would most likely use present perfect in both cases, but the past tense is equally valid. I detect very little difference in meaning.

I'd choose the present perfect since there is a clear connection to the present, in both cases you are really talking about the current situation. But I'm also aware of dialect variation.

0

All four of your sentences in those contexts are correct and natural in unprepared speech. However, in both cases, the present perfect is preferred, and it's strongly preferred in prepared speech and in writing. You may even be marked down for using simple past in a context like that in a standardized exam.

You're never better off using the simple past, and arguably you're always better off using the present perfect. This is why you might never see English teaching materials that include the simple past in contexts like that, even though it's still good grammar.

The reasoning is that the simple past focuses only on what happened in the past. It's used for narrating past stories or relating past events where giving information about the past is the entire goal.

Present simple is a present tense, so the focus is on the present. Present perfect uses past events to indirectly give information about the present.

So in Situation 1, if you say, "I tried to fix it ten times", you're telling a story about the past, unrelated to the future, so it's a bit odd that you then ask for help. The simple past "tried" makes it sound like you gave up. In that context, I would expect the speaker to ask the other person to do it themselves rather than ask for help doing it together.

If you say, "I have tried to fix it ten times", you are indirectly giving information about the present, maybe something like, "I don't think I can fix this myself", or "I'm too frustrated to keep trying to fix this" -- something that naturally leads them to ask for help.

And in Situation 2, if you say, "I visited Thailand two times", you are telling a story about your past. The focus is on what you did in the past, again with no connection to the present. So it's slightly odd to follow that with a recommendation to visit. It feels like a change of topic from "The story of my travels" to travel advice.

But in that context, if you say, "I have visited Thailand two times", you are again giving information about the present. In this case, you're saying, "I have the experience of two trips to Thailand." It makes sense then to move from experience-based knowledge to making travel recommendations.

6
  • Thank you for your detailed answer. I know that the present perfect is good to use in BrE. Because I sometimes hear on the US movie people use the simple past in these cases, so I think that in the US is normal to use the simple past here. But I am still not sure about this.
    – LE HANH
    May 4, 2023 at 3:23
  • 1
    I'm Canadian, BTW
    – gotube
    May 4, 2023 at 3:51
  • I seems that Canadian and British speaks have the same opinion on this matter. I also would like to hear American speaker's opinion.
    – LE HANH
    May 4, 2023 at 4:21
  • ...With no time reference, with this sentence, If I want to imply visiting Thailand twice is my life experience ( from I were born until now) , Can I use the simple past here? I am learning English through books, stories, movies, but most of the time, I hear people use present perfect, and grammar books and my friend also tell me use the present perfect. And let see, gotube and Jame K also prefer present perfect. This is the reason I am still confused about the use of simple past in this context.
    – LE HANH
    May 9, 2023 at 13:26
  • Even if a thing is "finished and over", we can still use present perfect if that finished thing is relevant to the present. For instance, I can say, "I too have been a teenager, so I know what it's like". Clearly my being a teenager is "finished and over", but the present perfect is correct and understood to mean "I, as an adult, have the experience of being a teenager".
    – gotube
    May 11, 2023 at 18:07

You must log in to answer this question.

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