In the following paragraph, simple past has been used, rather than present perfect. I fail to understand why present perfect was not used. When we say 'over the past decade', it means the time extends upto present, but still present perfect was not used and I have seen many examples of present perfect being used on the internet with 'over the last' decade.

Over the past decade, India witnessed widespread economic growth as well as faster and more widespread poverty reduction. However, some states did not benefit as much as others. The seven ‘low-income states’ (LIS) in particular — Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

Why has simple past been used instead of present perfect? In my opinion "present perfect" should be as Over the past decade extends to present. How would the use of present perfect be different than simple past?

  • 2
    Check out this question of ELU and check out the results in googlebooks for "over the past decade," and you will come to find that Present Perfect is not always used.
    – Usernew
    Jun 7, 2016 at 13:36
  • "over the past decade" does not necessarily include the present year. It is a rather fuzzy time phrase. Decade=ten-year period. I would say that it's more likely not to include the present (not-yet-complete) year.
    – TimR
    Jun 7, 2016 at 13:52
  • But TRomano sir I have seen many explanations which say over the last year/decade include the present year/decade. In what conditions is it likely to in include the present decade? and in what it is not likely to include? Or can we interpret it as depending on how the writer is viewing the past decade. Here, he is looking back on it as something finished and complete in itself?
    – shikha ji
    Jun 8, 2016 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


You're correct. The writer should have used the present perfect for the reasons you have highlighted. I've picked up one of your comments here, where I think you were trying to be open-minded:

Can we interpret it as depending on how the writer is viewing the past decade? Is he looking back on it as something finished and complete in itself?

There is no changing the fact that the writer began using a phrase suggestive of the present imperfect, and then followed it with the simple past tense. It's grammatically incorrect to say 'Over the past years' straight before the word 'witnessed'.

His "intentions" don't make the grammar work any differently.


Rule #1: never trust an article to be 100% grammatically and syntactically correct, wherever it might come from. People are human, and with the number of articles getting published each day (both on paper and on the Web), mistakes are bound to appear.

You're correct in your understanding of the Present perfect: since the article talks about something that has been occuring up until now (past being the keyword for that in over the past decade) and draws conclusions from that, the present perfect would seem to be a more suited tense here.

In my humble opinion, this is more a mistake than an intended use of the simple past. Then again, I'm human too, and I could be wrong, but to me the use of the expression over the past decade makes using the simple past quite difficult.

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