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John is an archaeologist. He's come to country X. He starts digging in the hope of finding things that will prove his theory. Bob calls him, and John tells him that he's now in country X. Bob asks him: "What are you doing there?" To which John replies with one of the following versions:

1. I've done some research, and some of my findings have led me here. I hope to find things here that will prove my theory.

2. I did some research, and some of my findings led me here. I hope to find things here that will prove my theory.

In version #1, the speaker does some research, the findings of that research lead him to country X. When he arrives there, he immediately starts looking for what he hopes will prove his theory.

In version #2, the speaker does some research, the findings of that research lead him to country X. When he arrives in country X, he takes a break for a couple of days. For example, he goes to the beach and drinks a lot. Then he gets back to what he originally came for to country X: he starts looking for things that will prove his theory.

Would that be correct for British English? Do I understand the tenses correctly? Thanks in advance.

EDIT:

I wonder if this combination of the present perfect continuous "have been doing" and the simple past "led" is correct:

3. I've been doing some research, and some of my findings led me here. I hope to find things here that will prove my theory.

I think it's correct and means that the research happened continually or continuously in the recent past and that its findings led the speaker where he is at the moment.

Is that correct? Thanks again.

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  • Further to James' excellent Answer, can you say where the idea of the break came from? Nov 20, 2023 at 14:08
  • @RobbieGoodwin, I thought that the break would make the research and its findings less connected to the present, in which case I thought it would be appropriate to use the simple past. Here's how I see it: Earlier, I did some research, and some of my findings led me here. When I arrived here, I decided to take a break for a couple of days, and so I stopped the research. Now that I've resumed my research, I hope to find things here that will prove my theory.
    – prof1589
    Nov 20, 2023 at 20:19
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    No, not at all. Please consider this conversation: 'What are you doing here? 'Archaeological research? 'Really? Then why are you sitting on the beach wearing only swimming trunks? 'Uh… Am I not allowed a break? Right now, I happen to be sitting on the beach in my trunks but that's no more why I'm here than, for instance, sleeping at night. What I'm really doing here is archaeological research and any or everything else is irrelevant. Nov 20, 2023 at 20:33
  • @RobbieGoodwin, is the combination of the present perfect continuous "have been doing" and the simple past "led" correct in my context: I've been doing some research, and some of my findings led me here. I hope to find things here that will prove my theory? Thanks in advance.
    – prof1589
    Nov 30, 2023 at 6:56
  • If that's your point, why did you leave it so long to introduce it, all these days after Posting the Question? If that's your point, please go back and Edit it into the original Question, and explain it in a fresh exposition. If you won't do that, please explain why not? Dec 1, 2023 at 20:29

1 Answer 1

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Both are correct English. There are two main ways of talking about the past in English, the past tense (or preterite) and the perfect (sometimes called an aspect).

In some contexts only the preterite is possible. In particular when you use an explicit time phrase like "yesterday" or "When I was at school". You must use the past tense.

Also when you make a link from your activity to the present time you use the perfect. The link might be that the activity continued until the present, or it might just be that the activity is affecting the present in some way.

But these differences are nuance. You can't tell if he "took a break of a couple of days". And a British speaker could use either expression, or a mixed form "I did some research and it has led me ...". You can use perfect tense to talk about things that don't continue until the present "I have seen Mt Fuji" doesn't mean "I continued looking at it until now"

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