Hi, I'm Rebecca. In this lesson, you will learn the difference between two very popular
English tenses, and they are the past simple, which is a basic tense, and the present perfect,
which is a more advanced tense. This lesson is part of a series of classes on English
verb tenses, created by www.engvid.com , to help you master all of the English verb tenses,
step by step. So, I do have individual classes on each of these tenses, and if you've already
watched them, that's great. You can watch this lesson, and it will help you to review
and deepen your understanding of the difference between these two important and commonly used
tenses. And, if you haven't watched the separate lessons, you can still watch this lesson and
use it as a kind of introduction and overview of these two tenses, and then you can go and
watch the individual lessons. Alright? So, are you ready to start? Let's go.
So, the past simple talks about what? The past! Yes. It talks about an action that started
and ended in the past. That's basically it. For example, "I worked yesterday." Okay? It's
just telling you about something that I did in the past. It's finished, it's over. The
present perfect is a little bit different. It connects the past and the present. For
example, "I have worked all day, so I'm tired." Now, it's saying, "I have worked", I did something
all day and as a result, there is some effect now. And that effect is that I'm tired. Okay?
So, there is a connection between the past and the present. Something that you did in
the past has a result or effect now. Whereas here, you're just saying, you know, that thing
happened. That's it, okay?
For example, "They forgot my birthday." Okay? They forgot my birthday last week, alright?
To be more specific, a time in the past. It's finished, it's over, they forgot it, it's
over, alright? Here, I could have said, "They have forgotten my birthday many times." Alright?
So, it's in the past until now, they've forgotten it and they still forget it, so it's connecting
the past and the present, whereas here, it's just talking about the past. Alright? See
that difference? That's important to understand.
Here, we could say, "He lost his bag last week." Okay? But, when we say, "He lost his
bag", it just tells us what happened last week. We don't know what the situation is
now. Here, we say, "He has lost his bag." When we say, "He has lost his bag", you know
right away and immediately that he lost it, and it's still lost. It's still true. This
sentence is still true. Here, maybe he lost it on Monday and he found it on Tuesday. So,
we don't know 100% that that bag is still lost, we just know it happened. We don't know
if its still true. But as soon as you say, "He has lost", see the difference here, "He
has lost", versus just, "He lost", here we know it's still true. And whatever happened
before is still true now, it has an effect now which means that he doesn't have his bag
now. But here, maybe he found it, maybe he didn't. We don't know, okay? So, that's one
important difference. This is just about the past, and this connects the past and the present.
Let's move on.
So, the past simple talks about an action in the past, and the focus is also on the
past. For example, "She did her homework.", okay? We're just talking about what she did.
She ate dinner, she did her homework, these are things that happened and they happened
then and they're finished and they're over, right? But this one, present perfect, there's
an action in the past, but the focus is on now. For example, if we say instead of, "She
did", we say "She has done her homework", it means she's free now. She can do other
things now. That's what we're sort of suggesting. Or here, we just say, "She ate dinner", okay?
She did this, she did that, that's it, its finished. But here, if we say, "She has eaten
dinner", what does that mean? Okay, she's not hungry now. We don't have to give her
anything to eat now, okay? So, there is something that has an effect in the present, because
of something that was done in the past. So, the focus - the action was in the past, but
the focus is really on something now.
Next, here with the past simple, we talk about definite times. We say when something happened.
For example, "I visited New York in 2012.", okay? Visited, and we say when. We have a
definite time. Here, with present perfect, we can't use a definite time. We actually
cannot use it. We're not allowed to use it with this tense. So here, you will see sentences
like this, "I have visited", okay, "I have visited New York". It means in my life, but
I'm not saying when. I'm just saying that I have done that. But here, I'm saying that
I did it and I'm saying when I did it. So here, the time is definite, and here it's
indefinite. Let's look at some more differences between these very commonly used tenses.
Another very important difference is that we use the past simple to talk about a finished
time. And we use the present perfect to talk about an unfinished time. Now, in the sentences
themselves, we might mention a time marker, which tells us that something is finished
or unfinished, or we might not. Let's look at some examples and then you'll understand
exactly how it works.
So, in this one, "She lived in London from 2015 to 2018." So, what's the past simple?
"She lived", right? And "from 2015-2018" is the finished time. This time is over, it's
finished. So, that's fine. We can use it in past simple. But here, we say, "She's lived",
which means she has lived, "in London since 2015." "Since 2015" means it started at that
time, but it's not finished yet. Since 2015 till now. So, it includes the past and the
present and it's unfinished, okay? Here, it's finished. It's over. But here, since that
time, since that point in time, till now, and including now. So, this is considered
an unfinished time. So very often, with the present perfect tense, you'll see this word
being used. Since 2015, since 5:00, since this morning. Since I was young, okay? Something
started in the past and it's unfinished. We can also use the word "for". You will see
that very often with this perfect tense, present perfect. So, we could say, "She's lived in
London for three years." Okay, for three years. She started living in London three years ago
and she still lives in London, okay? So, that's what we mean by unfinished time. So, in present
perfect, either you don't mention the time, but if you mention a time, it has to be some
expression that is - that shows that it's unfinished, okay? Let's look at some more
"He didn't call me yesterday." So, "He didn't call", this is past simple, "yesterday" is
our finished time, because yesterday's finished, it's over. But here, in present perfect, we
have, "He hasn't called me yet." "He hasn't called", this is our present perfect, but
"yet" is one of those words which you can use with the present perfect. Because what
does "yet" mean? It means till now. From the past till now. So, this is okay to use. You
could also just say, "He hasn't called me". That's okay. So, you don't have to mention
the time. But, if you mention a time, make sure it's a word which is - includes now,
alright, which is unfinished. Let's look at some more examples.
"We completed the project last week." "We completed", past simple, "last week", a finished
time. Or here in present perfect, we could say, "We've already completed the project."
"We have already completed". So, "already" is another word that you see very often with
the present perfect. Alright? There we go.
Here's one last example, "I met Joe last month." "I met", past simple, "last month", it's over,
it's a finished time, right? But here, we could say, "I've met", this is our present
perfect, "I've met Joe recently." Okay? So, "recently" is another word that is representative
of what? An unfinished time. Recently means the time from not that long ago till now and
including now. Alright? So, the important thing to remember is that with present perfect,
either don't mention a time, but if you mention a time, make sure it's an unfinished time.
The most common mistake that's made here between these two points is that people use the present
perfect and then they mention a finished time. So, the mistake is, for example, "She's lived
in London from 2015 to 2018." No, that would be wrong. Or to say, "He hasn't called me
yesterday." No. Okay? Because if you mention any finished time, use past simple. That's
it, don't worry about present perfect because you can't use it in that context.
Now, let's look at questions and how they are different in the past simple tense and
in the present perfect tense. So, in past simple, we would ask a question like this,
"When did you _________?", something. But in present perfect, we could ask, "How long
have you ________?" Okay? Let's look at the difference. When we say, "When did you" in
past simple, we're talking about a point in time in the past. When did you do something?
But when we say, "How long have you", we're talking about a length of time that started
in the past and continues till now, right? So, let's see how the questions will change
based on what we're trying to find out, okay, with our question.
So, for example, here we would say, "When did you get married?" Okay? I'm asking in
which year or which month or whatever. When did you get married? Okay? That's going to
give me an answer at a point in time in the past. Here, I would say, "How long have you
been married?" Okay? That means you got married and now you're still married, so how long
have you been married? I want to know about the length of time, not the point in time
when it started, but how long it continued.
Here, we would say, "When did you start this job?" Last month, last year? Okay? A point
in time in the past. Here, we would ask, "How long have you had this job?" You started at
some point and you still have this job, so what's the length of time? I've had this job
for two months, three years, whatever. Okay?
Here, we would ask, "When did you move to Boston?" Here, we would say, "How long have
you lived in Boston?" Okay? Are you starting to see the difference, starting to feel the
difference? Okay. Here, we would say, "When did you meet Mary?" And on this side, "How
long have you known Mary?" Okay? See the difference? "When did you join university?" Okay? Last
year, two years ago, whatever. A point in time in the past. Or, "How long have you been
in university?" What's the length of time? Is it one year, two years, three years, okay?
So, this is another very important difference between these two tenses. So, one way you
can know that is if you need to use the word "when", then always use past simple, because
the question "When?" demands an answer which is a point in time in the past. So, whenever
you have that word, then you know, I'm just going to use past simple. I cannot use present
Now, let's take a quick look at the structure of these two tenses. In my individual lessons
on these tenses, I go into much more detail about how to structure and form these tenses.
We look at the positive sentence, the negative sentence, and the questions in detail. And,
if you've already seen that, then this will be like a little review for you. If you have
not watched the individual lessons, then this is just a quick overview for you.
So, let's start with the past simple. How do we structure that? We take the subject,
which is I, You, We, They, He, She, It, etc., and we add the past simple form of the verb.
Now, the past simple form of the verb could be for a regular verb or an irregular verb.
A regular verb, for example, is this one: worked. Work becomes worked. So, with a regular
verb, you're usually just adding -ed or -d to make it in the past. With an irregular
verb like the verb "to go", when it becomes past simple verb, it just changes completely
sometimes, like this one, from "go" to "went". Sometimes, it doesn't change it all, like
"put" and "put". And that's why those are irregular.
So, in English, you know there are some regular verbs and irregular verbs, and they behave
differently. So, with the past simple tense, we're just taking the subject + the past simple
form of the verb. So, here's an example, "I worked", or "They went". This is with the
regular verb, this is with the irregular one, okay? If we want to make that negative, it
would become, "He didn't work", or "They didn't work", or "It didn't work." And you see a
change here, it goes back to that base form of the verb, alright? Or, if it was with the
verb "to go", it would become, "He didn't go", "We didn't go", alright? Again, watch
the full lesson if you don't understand any part of this. It's not a problem, it's important
for you to understand this very well. If we're making a question, we would say, "Did they
work?" Again, we're coming back to that base form of the verb. Did he work? Did it work?
Etc. Okay? So, that's the past simple.
When we're looking at the present perfect, we have a little bit more to pay attention
to. Here, we have the subject. Again, "I, You, We, They", etc. + a helping verb, "have"
or "has", which you need to know, alright? And we're using the past participle. The past
participle for a regular verb is just this same form as the past simple verb, alright?
So, we see it here. Here, we see "worked, here we see "worked". It's a regular verb.
The past participle for an irregular verb like "go" is what's usually called like the
third form, or verb three sometimes they call it. So, for "go" for example, we would have
"go", "Everyday, I go." "Yesterday, I went." But I have gone, so this is that third form,
which is called past participle. Again, study that in detail if you need to, and if you
don't understand it, just practice it a little bit. Check in the back of any good grammar
book to understand what is the past participle form of those irregular verbs.
But, let's look at the structure now. So basically, we'll have "I, You, We, or They" have worked.
"I have worked very hard this week." Or, "He has gone to the supermarket". "He has gone",
"She has gone", "It has gone", okay? Like that. And of course, we can also contract
these and shorten them, which again, I explain the full lesson, alright? But let's look at
now the negative form. "They haven't worked all week", or, "They haven't gone to the supermarket",
or, "He hasn't gone out", okay? When we make a question, we change the order. "Have they
gone out?" "Has he worked this week?" Like that, okay? So, that's the basic structure
of these two tenses and as you can see, they are quite different. Not only in how we construct
them, but also as we learned earlier, when we use them.
Now, let's practice what you've learned. So, I've written some sentences and questions
on the board. Some of these are correct, and some of them are incorrect, and you're going
to help me decide which ones are right and which ones are wrong.
So, let's start with number one: I have visited my sister yesterday. Is that right or wrong?
It is actually wrong, but why is it wrong? Think about it. So, it says, "I have visited",
that's what tense? Present perfect. I have visited my sister, but then it says, "yesterday".
When is yesterday? Yesterday is a finished time. So, if we keep the word "yesterday",
then we cannot use present perfect, we have to just use past simple. So, then we would
say, "I visited my sister yesterday." Okay? Now of course, in each of these, when it's
wrong, we could probably change it either way. We could make it into past simple or
we could make it into present perfect, depending on what we change, but I'll tell you which
part we're going to keep so you can correct it accordingly, alright?
Next, number two: Did you see the doctor last week? Is that right or wrong? That one is
actually correct. Okay? Hope you chose that. So here, we have, "Did you see", right? What
tense is that? Past simple. So, "Did you see" and it says "last week", so with past simple,
can we use the finished time? Yes, definitely. For sure, okay, so that one is just fine.
Number three: Have you heard the news? Is that right or wrong? Well, that one is also
correct. "Have you heard", what tense is that? Present perfect, right. And does it say when
or anything? No, it doesn't. So, it just says, "Have you heard the news?" "Yes, I have",
"No, I haven't", okay? It's absolutely fine, because we can use present perfect with no
time expression, no time marker. It just means in all the time until now and including now,
have you heard? That's it.
Number four: When have you sent the email? Right or wrong? Tell me quickly, you know
this one, okay? This is wrong! Why? Because we have the critical word here, "when". As
soon as you see "when", which tense should you be using? Past simple. So, how do we fix
this? "When did you send the email?" Okay? As soon as you see "when", you know that it
has to be in the past simple. So, then it becomes, "When did you send the email?" Okay?
Very good. `
Number five: I have applied for a job last week. Right or wrong? This one is incorrect.
Why? Because it says, "I have applied" and that's what tense? Present perfect. But then
it says, "last week". We can't do that, right? Because "last week" is a finished time. So,
let's change the sentence. Let's keep "last week". If you want to say "last week", then
you need to cancel this and just make a past simple sentence. "I applied for a job last
week." That's it, you're getting it, good. And more important, you didn't memorize it,
you understood it, and now you're applying it. So, even if you write a sentence by mistake,
you can look at it for a second and say, "Wait a minute, okay", and you can fix your own
sentences, not just these. But let's finish doing these first.
Number six: Our sales increased last year. Right or wrong? That one is correct, okay?
"Our sales increased", increased is what? Past simple, and "last year" is a finished
time, in past simple, we can definitely use a finished time. Alright.
Number seven: Have you watched the game last night? Right or wrong? By now, you're getting
really good at this and you know that this is wrong, because we have here, "Have you
watched", and here we have "last night". So, this is present perfect, this is a finished
time, and we can't use those together, right? So, if we want to keep "last night", then
we need to get rid of all this and turn it into a past simple question. How do we do
that? Instead of "Have you watched?", we say, "Did you watch the game last night?" Very
good, very good.
Number eight: They have lived here for two years. Right or wrong? Okay, so this one is
actually correct. Why? Okay, "They have lived", what tense? Present perfect. And here, we're
just talking about how long they have lived here, "for two years". It means they started
two years ago and they still live here now, which is what present perfect is all about,
connects the past and the present. And very often we use, remember, "for two years", "since
2018", whatever, okay? Excellent.
Number nine: Did you train the team? Is that correct? Yep! It is. Let's look at the last
one for a second: Have you trained the team? Is that correct? Hey, yes, it is! So, what's
going on here? Kind of the same idea, but in this case, we asked about it in what? The
past simple. And here we used what? Present perfect. So, can we do that? Yes, actually,
sometimes, we can do that. Grammatically, this sentence is correct, "Did you train the
team?", it's fine. "Have you trained the team?", that's fine because there's no past time expression
or anything used. The meanings are almost the same, but they're a little bit different.
"Did you train the team?" is just like okay, did you do that? Can I - I have a list of
things to do and did you do that? Yes, I can check it off my list, okay? It's done, it's
finished. But, "Have you trained the team?", you're really asking here, have you trained
them, so are they ready now to do the new things that we need them to do? So, the focus
of this one is that if you have trained them, and now they can do new things, okay? So,
the focus is into the present, and here that focus, "Did you train" is more - the focus
is on the past. Alright?
So, this was a very good review. I think you did really well, because I think that you
understood now what are the different points you need to keep in mind when you're choosing
between these two very popular tenses, alright? And remember this, if you're in doubt and
you're really not sure, make your life simpler and use the simpler tense. So, use the past
simple tense if you're not sure. Don't use the present perfect tense if you're not sure.
Okay? That's another little trick to keep in mind.
So, where do you go from here? As I said, if you haven't watched the full lessons, then
of course, you can go and watch those individual lessons and understand each of these tenses
very, very well. If you have watched the individual lessons already, maybe you found that you're
a little bit unsure and you want to go back and review. Absolutely fine. This is your
chance to get it all completely right and not have to keep on wondering, okay, all your
life, but really knowing what's right, okay? And whenever you're ready, you can go on to
the next tense in this series, which is the present perfect continuous tense, alright?
So, I wish you the very best with this. If you'd like to practice this particular comparison
a little bit more, you can also a quiz on this on www.engvid.com . Thanks very much
for watching, and all the best with your English.