a) He has already sent me the book he has read.
b) He has already sent me the book he read.

I am still struggling with the differences between present perfect and past simple. I have the amazing Oxford's book 'Practical English Usage' near me and even so I cannot make a decision between the sentences above.

The first part of the sentence(s) is clear:
He has already sent me... - I use the present perfect because the book was recently received by me.

The second part is the problem. It seems that I could use both:
a)...the book he has read - The book was read by him before, until now - because of that could I use the present perfect?
b)...the book he read - The book was read by him a long time ago, during the 90's decade - because of that could I use the past simple?

Shall I use either one or the other? or shall I use whatever tense I want?

1 Answer 1


As you present these sentences, there is no reason for preferring the perfect to the simple past. That being the case, I recommend that you follow what I call FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism, which may be generalized as:

Don't use the Perfect unless you really have to.

It is however possible to imagine circumstances in which you should prefer the perfect:

A: Is Bob going to send you the two books he promised?
B: He has already sent me the book he has read, but he won't send the other one until has finished it.

Here you are speaking of the present result of his reading: having read it, he no longer needs it and therefore has sent it.

  • Thank you very much! I am ready to apply your advise for my way of thinking. However, I've just remembered that I read somewhere that the US use the present perfect less often than the British. Do you think the FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism can be applied to the UK usage?
    – viery365
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:29
  • @viery365 Yes, it can; in fact, the estimable FumbleFingers is English. The difference between US and UK usage is more evident in your first perfect: an American speaker would be far more likely to say "He already sent me the book." Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:34
  • Thank you! I think today I learned something very important with this post!
    – viery365
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 18:40

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