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Can you set the time frame of an event with present perfect? I'm wondering if you can refer to specific events (but without using actual time references like "yesterday") by using present perfect.

I have done these exercise routines before. And I always did them after I ate a light breakfast.

Does this make sense? Can I switch to simple past because I am referring to some events that must have happened at certain times? Or do I have to avoid being specific by using present perfect to explain everything related to these events?

I have done these exercise routines before. And I have always done them after I have eaten a light breakfast.

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Actually this sounds more natural to me when written as a statement of habit:

I have done these exercise routines before. I always do them after I eat a light breakfast.

You've done the exercises before, always after eating a light breakfast. You're discussing a habitual routine that you carry out. It makes perfect sense to discuss this as a habit; When I do them, I always do them after a light breakfast. In speaking, "I have done" is likely to be contracted to "I've done".

(Also notice that I removed the and from the beginning of the second sentence; you can either use a semicolon and join the two sentences into one with and, or if you want two sentences you must omit the and.)

  • OK, that does make sense! But what if I don't do these routines anymore or haven't done them in a while? I wouldn't explain them as a habit, would I? – jess Jul 31 '13 at 16:02
  • @jess Well, there's nothing in the context that says you don't do them anymore. If you wanted to say that, try tweaking the first sentence a bit as well: "I used to do these exercise routines. I always did them after I ate a light breakfast." Now you've made it clear that you don't do them any longer, and you did them in the past so simple past works just fine :) – WendiKidd Jul 31 '13 at 16:04
  • how tricky! Then would you say that my examples above are wrong? I just want to say that I have done something once before and how I did that something at the time, if that makes sense at all... – jess Jul 31 '13 at 16:11
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    There's nothing wrong with your first example; it's just not clear from the first sentence there whether or not you still do the exercises. – Peter Shor Jul 31 '13 at 16:15
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    @jess If you only did it once before, your sentences are misleading because they imply you did it more than once (the always). Try instead "I did these exercise routines (once) before. I did them after I ate a light breakfast." – WendiKidd Jul 31 '13 at 16:21
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I like @Wendikidd's answer, but I think you'll be even better off by referencing the other event with a straightforward gerund:

I have done these exercise routines before. And I always did them after eating a light breakfast.

It works in both cases:

I have done these exercises before. And I have always done them after eating a light breakfast.

You can even go so far as to leave any form of "eat" out entirely, since it's understood that that would be the action taken on a breakfast:

And I always did them after a light breakfast.

  • I see how the gerund does sound better. But just a quick question though--would the "I have eaten" part sound weird if I were to insust on not turning it into a gerind? – jess Jul 31 '13 at 18:54
  • I can't explain exactly why it sounds weird, but yes, "I have always done them after I have eaten a light breakfast" does indeed sound weird to me. – Hellion Jul 31 '13 at 21:23

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