When to use the Present Perfect or the Past Simple (PART 1)

Trying to determine how and when we use the Present Perfect or the Past Simple is somewhat unknown to many students when we refer to what has happened, or what happened TODAY.

Let’s imagine that right now it is 11am, and we are having a conversation with our friends at school, university or work, and we want to say the following sentence in English:

-Me he levantado a las 07:00.

Now if we translate literally, we end up saying: I have got up at 7am. This is exactly where the problem lies for students because they are so used to using the Present Perfect for the past today, and the Past Simple for yesterday and beyond. English people would say: I got up at 7am, because it is something that happened a few hours ago.

In English, we use the Present perfect for the last couple of hours, and beyond that, we then use the Past simple. Look at the examples below:

Let’s imagine it is now 6pm in the UK.

-We have come home from work in a hurry. (we have recently finished work)
-I had a relaxing lunch with my boss today. (that happened my than 2 hours ago)
-I did a presentation just after lunch and it went very well indeed. (that happened my than 2 hours ago)
-My boss has called to say that I can take tomorrow off. (that has happened recently, around 1 hour ago)

It is so important that you follow this rule when you speak English because if you translate from Spanish, you will make mistakes, since it is normal in Spain when having dinner at 10pm to talk about what has happened in your day at work, university or school, using the PRESENT PERFECT for everything. Now you can see that in English, we have to use BOTH when we talk about what has happened today, taking care with what has happened and when.

We hope you have enjoyed this little, but important explanation about the English language. Before we finish, there are other differences between the above grammar and next week, we will explain them as well, in the usual thorough manner.

See you soon, here in our blog!

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