In almost all the English grammar books I have read so far, the past tense is defined as a tense that refers to a definite point in the past, which may be explicit through a time adverb or implicit trough the linguistic context or the situational context. However, I have come across many sentences where the past simple is used without an explicit or implicit indication of time whatsoever as in "A friend of mine sent me a box full of candies, so I think I will gain some weight in the near future". Could you please tell me when and when not the past simple requires an indication of time and how it is different from the experiential perfect?

2 Answers 2


That seems to be a misunderstanding -- simple past just means an action occurred, and is not continuing. There is no requirement of a time indicator.

  • Question: "Did you eat lunch?" Answer: "I ate." I.E., I had lunch and finished. "I ate at noon," would also be valid, but not required.
  • "She voted." I.E., she marked the ballot, and is finished. [As opposed to the phrase "Vote early and vote often," implying ongoing fraud.] One could say, "She voted yesterday," but that is not required in English, whether formal or colloquial.
  • "The lion roared. He ran!" There's no need to specify the time, and likely he is through running, i.e., escaped or devoured.

"a tense that refers to a definite point in the past, which may be explicit through a time adverb or implicit through the linguistic context"

So in "A friend sent me a box of chocolates". The "linguistic context" is simply the use of past tense. It means that this occurred at some point in the past.

You cannot infer when the friend sent you the chocolates, only that it was in the past. "A definite point in the past" does not mean "A determined point in the past"

In this example, the past tense could be replaced with the present perfect aspect. Since these are both ways to talk about past events. In this example, you could say "A friend has sent me a box of chocolates." You would use the present perfect if you wanted to draw a connection to the present, but the difference is a nuance.

There is no difference in meaning between "a definite but undetermined point in the past" and "an indefinite point in the past".

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