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I know it is similar to Present perfect in a past-tense context.

However, I feel my question is valid because it is about grammatical correctness, not a literary choice or twist.

A: I have visited Thailand this vacation.
B: How did you get there ?
A: I took a flight. It took about 14 hours.

I think that it is quite clear that they are talking about something that happened in the past and the vacation is over.
But the textbook points that I use the present perfect to fill in the blanks.

What looks weird to me is the first sentence.
Shouldn't it be

I visited Thailand this vacation

because you can tell that the vacation is over now from the context ?

  • In American English, I went to Thailand this vacation or I visited Thailand this vacation (both with simple past) seems preferable. You can use the present perfect, even if the trip is entirely in the past, but there seems to reason to. Perhaps in British English, the present perfect is preferred. – user6951 Jun 3 '15 at 6:50
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    On the other hand, if your first sentence is an Answer to a Question, and if the question was asked in the present perfect (What have you done this vacation?) then it is natural, but not necessary to answer in the present perfect. – user6951 Jun 3 '15 at 6:52
  • @pazzo and you can use "What have you done this vacation" even if the vacation is over ? – Ascendant Jun 3 '15 at 7:00
  • @PerfectGundam Are the bolded words your choices, or the suggestions from your book? – Aaron Brown Jun 3 '15 at 7:49
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    In my experience as a teacher I've found that a lot of textbooks are a bit heavy-handed with the present perfect, which I've taken to be because a lot of students take a while to incorporate it into their knowledge. I know I've found a few exercises in publications just after the present perfect has been introduced, where the examples are often a little forced in terms of trying to get learners to use present perfect. (FWIW In the question, I think all bold instances can be filled with past simple, and only the first can take present perfect.) – JMB Jun 3 '15 at 9:11
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I have visited Thailand this vacation.

This is a correct and natural way to use the present perfect, assuming the vacation is still ongoing. If not, it would be more natural to use I visited Thailand.

Also be careful with using this to describe a past event. Normally one would say "I visited Thailand that vacation" if the vacation were not ongoing. You could use this here if you were talking about several vacations in one conversation, to indicate you are talking about the vacation currently being discussed.

How did you get there?
I took a flight. It took about 14 hours.

These are correct as well. Here the present perfect could actually change the meaning somewhat. "How have you gotten there?" implies you have gone more than once, and asks what your usual means of travel was. "It has taken about 14 hours" would imply the flight is ongoing.

Adding your additional example from your comments:

A: Where have you been for your last vacation?
B: I've been to Los Angeles.
A: What have you done there?
B: I've visited Universal Studios

These are all correct constructions of the present perfect, but all four sentences should replace the present perfect with the simple past: "Where did you go for your last vacation?" etc.

I think your intuition is generally good regarding the present perfect. In general if an event occurred in the past and you want to talk about it specifically, you should use the simple past, not the present perfect. Use the present perfect to talk about past events that continue in the present, or to talk about past events in a more general way.

All tenses of a verb can be grammatically correct in a simple sentence; the question is whether it makes sense in context. I think what JMB says in the comment is true: your textbook is probably just trying to drill you on present perfect without taking care to provide more contextually accurate examples

  • So in conclusion, the first sentence should use the simple past ? Because my understanding of the conversation is that the vacation seems to be over now ? – Ascendant Jun 9 '15 at 23:35
  • @PerfectGundam Correct. – Aaron Brown Jun 9 '15 at 23:39

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