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I have visited Paris 2 times. It is a beautiful country. I think you should visit it once in your life.

I know that the simple past is also correct as answer in this thread link. But, In this post, I will only talk about the present perfect "have visited".

Grammar books say that the two out of many uses of the present perfect are:

  • a. when we are talking about our experience up to the present.

    => He considers visiting Paris 2 times are his life experience up to the present.

  • b. for something that happened in the past but is important in the present.

    => He considers visiting Paris 2 times are past actions which are important in the present. That is why he now knows it is a beautiful country.

When hearing the original sentence, I don't know if the speaker wants to mean a or b.

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    Paris is a city. How can it be a beautiful country? Apr 25, 2023 at 7:37
  • It should be "It is a beautiful city" . My mistake.
    – LE HANH
    Apr 25, 2023 at 7:55

2 Answers 2

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I don't know which grammar books you've been reading, but the present perfect is often used for an event at an unspecified time before the present whereas the past perfect is preferred for an event at a specific time before the present. (I don't find your reason (b) to be useful for determining which tense to use.)

However, distinguishing between "unspecified" and "specific" can be difficult. Many situations are ambiguous, and reasonable people can differ over which verb form is preferred in a given situation.1 In your sentence, no particular time is mentioned explicitly, but the "two times" could be considered specific times. Therefore, either version (present perfect or simple past) is possible. (I find the present perfect to be more natural, though.)

Let's add a temporal adverbial phrase:

I [[have]] visited Paris two times in the past year.

"In the past year" is not specific, so the present perfect works better here also (in my opinion). However, some people might think that "two times" was still specific enough to justify the simple past, so they might omit "have".

Now let's add a different temporal adverbial phrase:

I visited Paris two times last year.

That phrase clearly denotes a particular time, so the present perfect would be unnatural here.


1 There may be differences among dialects, too, although I'm not aware of any. My description is true in general for American English.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer. Your answer is so informative and extremely useful for me in choosing the tense. In my first post, I also asked about the meaning of the present perfect in this sentence. Does it refer to the speaker's life experience or past actions which are important in the present?
    – LE HANH
    Apr 25, 2023 at 8:12
  • Here is the link of information about the present perfect:learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/…
    – LE HANH
    Apr 25, 2023 at 8:13
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    The reason (b) would be valid in British English - but we would say twice, never two times. Apr 25, 2023 at 8:27
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    In the case of your example, both reasons apply. It's just something that a native speaker doesn't need to think about. Apr 25, 2023 at 9:45
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    @LEHANH It clearly refers to an experience that the speaker has had in his or her life. I don't know whether the past actions are important in the present or not; that would depend on how you defined "important". Apr 25, 2023 at 18:34
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The meaning is "I already have visited Paris 2 times by now".

I don't know if the speaker wants to mean a or b.

Here it's actually both.

You can use the quiz we have on Present Perfect to get a better grasp of it.

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