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My friend asked me, "Why don't you drive your car?"

Should I answer with "I have had a car accident." or "I had a car accident."?

1

You should say, "I had a car accident."

The present perfect tense is used in sentences like the following ones.

Mario has arrived home.

Michelle has shopped at that store since she was a child.

She has walked downtown everyday for a week.

The first sentence means that Mario arrived home, and he still is at home at the present time. (Suppose I say that sentence to a person who is listening me, now.)
The second sentence describes an action that started in the past, and continued into the present.
The third sentence describes an action that happened in the past, and that was repeated.

Since having an accident is an event that happened in the past, but that didn't continue into the present, nor is it an event that was repeated in the past, you should not use the present perfect.

Notice that British English and American English use the present perfect differently; in some cases, British English would use the present perfect tense where American English would use the simple past tense.

  • 3
    I agree partially. Though, I think it is fine to say "I've had a car accident" if this car accident is the reason for not driving the car. Reasons could be that injuries still prevent me from driving, the car is not repaired yet, or that I fear another accident could happen again (sorry, I don't know the technical term for this mental issue.) Having said that, I think I would tend to use present perfect in OP's sentence. – Em1 Mar 25 '13 at 13:02
  • 2
    The present perfect can be used to describe a past event that has current relevance. That could be the case here. It would depend on what had occurred previously in the conversation. – Barrie England Mar 25 '13 at 13:56

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