He ... out 5 minutes ago


a)went b)has gone c)had gone


I choose has gone because it expresses an action that was completed very recent past i.e just 5 minutes ago although the word "just" is not mentioned.

Am i right in my approach? Please correct me if I am wrong?

  • 3
    When we use a specific time marker like "5 minutes ago" we usually don't use Present Perfect, so I'd pick option (a). This test question is probably designed with this 'rule' in mind. Oct 5, 2015 at 13:35

3 Answers 3


He went out five minutes ago - is definitely better than using "has gone".

You can also say:

He stepped out five minutes ago. - if you know that this person is coming back soon


He left 5 minutes ago.


One of the {unwritten} rules is, if you don't need Perfect Tense, don't use it.

Given that you have a very specific moment in time associated with the event, in the overwhelming majority of cases you should use Past Indefinite:

He went out five minutes ago.

Since the event time is in the past, you can't use Present tense at all. The other option is Past Perfect ("had gone"), but you only use that if there is also a reference time in your statement, and it's in the past as well. For instance, "I found out three minutes ago that he had gone" (Reference time is "three minutes ago", and event time is in the past relative to that).

  • Your unwritten rules can be used when we use word "just".This is what i pointed out. Oct 5, 2015 at 13:48
  • Did you ask to start an argument? Count me out. Oct 5, 2015 at 13:52

A "rule" pretty strictly adhered to in formal diction, and mostly adhered to in speech, is that we do not employ the present perfect with time adverbials which do not include the present. Under this rule, b (He has gone out five minutes ago) is excluded, because any point in time designated with the preposition ago, no matter how recent, excludes the present.

  • However, if the time adverbial is marked as a "supplement", something not integrated into the main clause but tacked on as an afterthought, the sentence would be acceptable: He has gone out—five minutes ago.

c, He had gone out five minutes ago, is also excluded, because ago in ordinary speech establishes a point in time relative to 'Speech Time', the time at which the sentence is spoken; but the past perfect locates an event as past relative to a different time which you are talking about, your 'Reference Time'.

  • However, this sentence would be acceptable in certain literary uses. Virginia Woolf, for instance, was very fond of reporting her characters' thoughts and words with past tenses, in the same timeframe as her narrative, but leaving the incidental adverbials in a present timeframe to preserve immediacy and colloquiality:

    It was terribly dangerous work for a one-armed man, she exclaimed, to stand on top of a ladder like that — his left arm had been cut off in a reaping machine two years ago.

That leaves only a, He went out five minutes ago, which is the natural way of expressing this thought.

  • Your explanation is to be printed and framed. Superb, thank you.
    – andreszs
    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:54

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