The past simple vs the present perfect

Do you know how and when to use the past simple and the present perfect correctly in English? If not, don’t worry because we are here to show you exactly how!

Let’s start off with the past simple!

The past simple is used to ask or say when something happened and it refers to finished actions in the past.

For example:

She bought a new guitar last weekend.

Mary took the bus to work this morning.

I lived in a small apartment when I was in London.

When the sentence is negative we use the auxiliary verb “didn’t” together with the main verb in its infinitive form. The structure is the same for all personal pronouns and never changes.

Jenny didn’t come to my house yesterday.

We didn’t go to the theatre.

Sam didn’t buy a new pair of shoes from the shop.

Some common time expressions used with the past simple are:

Last month


Last year

A few hours ago

At nine o’clock this morning

Let’s check out some examples:

She bought a ticket to  Brazil a few hours ago.

Yesterday Sam went to the gym.

Now let’s check out how to use the present perfect correctly!

The present perfect is used to talk about a recent event without indicating when it happened, for example:

She has bought a new car.

Jill has found a place to live.

It is also used when referring to actions that started in the past and are still true in the present.

I have lived here for 5 years.

Luke has travelled to many countries (he has not finished travelling and may continue to travel).

The present perfect is often used with the words:

Ever (for questions)

Have you ever been to England?


I have never been to England.


Guillem has just arrived at my house (very recent action).


I have known you for a long time.


Have you eaten yet? (used for questions and negatives)

No, I haven’t eaten yet!

Now, some comparisons between past simple and the past perfect:

I went to the shop yesterday (the action was completed yesterday).

I have just arrived from the shop (you have recently completed the action).


Mike finished writing his book last week (completed action).

Mike hasn’t finished writing his book yet (Mike is still writing his book).

You read that book last year (completed action last year).

Have you read that book yet? (We do not know if you have read the book).

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One comment

  1. Super posts

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