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I'm trying to gain the full understanding of perfect tenses. Are my explanations about the sentence and the difference between using the Present Perfect instead of the Simple Past correct?

It has been a tough day. [As opposed to "It was a tough day."]

This day still continues and new tough things may happen.

It has been on the news. [As opposed to "It was on the news."]

The story (that is on the news) is still developing; new facts may appear, and the whole thing is not yet over.

  • That's pretty much correct. – Daniel Jun 10 '13 at 16:47
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    The one adjustment I might make is that the second example (has been) does not necessarily mean it is ongoing. For example, if the word "before" were appended to the above sentence ("It has been on the news before"), the sentence would very clearly mean "It has been on the news at least once in the past, perhaps several times over a long period." In fact, the above sentence can take the same meaning, depending on context. E.g.: "This is a famous mansion." "How famous?" "Well, it has been on the news." (A little contrived, but you get the point.) – Ken Bellows Jun 10 '13 at 18:20
  • Also see an ELU chart of tense durations – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 10 '13 at 18:39
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The short answer is that your understanding is correct.

The simple past (in the case of your examples, was) is used to indicate a discrete event that occurred in the past and ended in the past.

The present perfect (has been in your examples) describes an event that occurred in the past and might continue to the present time.

Without more context or information concerning time, there is the potential for ambiguity:

She has flown to Europe.

It has been a wonderful party.

In the first sentence, we're referring to one or more distinct past occurrences. In the second, the speaker is most likely referring to an event that is still in progress.

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    It's not that present perfect carries any particular implication of something that "could very well occur again". What it does is imply a strong connection between the time of speaking and the time of the action in the past being reported. In the case of present perfect continuous that invariably means the action continued right up until now (though it might finish now, or it might continue into the future). – FumbleFingers Jun 10 '13 at 17:01
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    @FumbleFingers - You're right. I pared down the answer. – chb Jun 10 '13 at 17:30
  • Present perfect doesn't necessarily imply that the event continues to the present time. (I don't want to copy+paste my comment from the question, but it's relevant.) – Ken Bellows Jun 10 '13 at 18:22
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    @ chb: Definitely a case of "less is more"! I now completely agree with everything you say, and it's a better answer because it says everything that needs to be said using less words. Well, it won't stop me upvoting, but KenB is right that Present Perfect doesn't always mean the action continues up to the present - it might just be used to indicate that the "action in the past" has particular relevance to the present, in context. – FumbleFingers Jun 10 '13 at 18:23
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    @KenB - Agreed. Out of context, if the speaker/writer doesn't use the progressive aspect or a temporal reference to clarify what he/she wants to communicate, then I think there's the potential for ambiguity with the present perfect. – chb Jun 10 '13 at 21:46

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