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Unit 10 The Present Perfect or the Past Simple


1The present perfect can never be used with adverbs which describe finished time periods, such as yesterday, five minutes ago and at three o'clock. If a time adverb is used with the present perfect, it should describe a time period which is unfinished.

Table 5

Time Adverbs
Unfinished Time Finished Time
today yesterday
this week last week
this year last year
this morning* this morning*
this afternoon* this afternoon*
this evening -
during the last two years during the summer
since I left school before I saw you
- at six o'clock
- when I met him.
- five minutes ago
ever -
just -
* Can be finished or unfinished, depending on the time of dayThe teacher hasn't arrived yet. (She might still arrive.)The teacher didn't arrive (The class is over, he can't arrive now)I've spent $20 today. (I can still spend money.) I spent $20 this morning ('this morning' is over, I can't spend any more money 'this morning')

Also use the past simple, even with an adverb of unfinished time, if the action can no longer happen:

I went to the shops today. (But the shops are now closed...)

2Past simple is used with a definite place for an event because this may suggest a definite time:

I left my bag on the train.

Why didn't you speak to my father yourself on the boat?

Did you see him at the theatre? (= when you were at the theatre? You are not at the theatre now)

I ran into her in Oxford Street. (= when I was in Oxford Street)

Where have you been? - I've been to the opera. - Did you enjoy it? (you are not at the opera now)


3 Similarly, it is the Past Indefinite that is used in questions introduced bywhen.

When did you actually arrive?

The Past Indefinite is also used in special questions beginning with where and how when they refer to the past events.

Where is my hat? Where did I leave my hat?"

The question Where have you been? can be asked of the person who has just come.

'Hello, Mum. I'm sorry I'm late" "Where have you been?"

In all other cases it should be Where were you?

"Did the party go off nicely?" "I don't know. I wasn't there." "Where were you?'


Have you had a good holiday? (You have just returned)

Did you have a good holiday? (Your holiday finished some time before the question)

In special questions beginning with other interrogative words (who, what, why, what ... for etc.), both the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite are possible. We normally use the Simple present perfect when we are thinking about past events together with their present results. However we prefer a simple past when we identify the person, thing or circumstances responsible for a present situation (we focuse ona past cause, not on a present result):

Someone has let the cat in. Who let the cat in?

That’s a nice picture. Did you paint it yourself?

How did you get this bruise?

Why are you crying? - Jack hit me.

"What have I done against you?" "Why can't we get on?"(present result)

"I know she gave him a good scolding." "What did he do?"

"Dorothy's gone to a garden party." "Why haven't you gone too?"(You are here now-result)


4 Remember that we use the present perfect to describe an action that can still happen

She has starred in a lot of major films. (She’s still alive and acting)

She starred in a lot of major films. (Her acting career is finished or she’s dead)

So, the simple past tense is used for an action whose time is not given but which occurred at a moment in a period of time now terminated.

My grandmother once saw Queen Victoria.

Did you ever hear Maria Callas sing?


5 Expectation and reality: we use a past tense to refer to a belief that has just been shown to be true or false:

It’s not as big as I expected.

You are older than I thought.

But you promised!

Remember the following expressions:

Что Вы сказали? What did you say?

Теперь я понял Now I understand.

Я не слышал Вашего вопроса I didn’t hear your question.

Мне сказали, что он в Лондоне. I’m told that he is in London.

Я слышал, что он в Москве. I hear that he is in Moscow.

6 You sometimes use a past tense rather than a present tense when you want to be more polite. For example, in the following pairs of sentences, the second one is more polite.

Do you want to see me now?

Did you want to see me now?

I wonder if you can help me.

I was wondering if you could help me.



Ex. 62 Explain the use of the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite in the following questions:

1. Why hasn't he let us know where he is? It simply isn't like him. 2. Why did you give your son that kind of education then? 3. "What time is it?" "Almost nine o'clock." "Damn," he swore. "Why didn't someone wake me?" 4. When did the tragedy occur? 5. "What's happened?" he thought. "How did they get here?" 6. "I'm going to see Mr Warren," she said. "He's in St Joseph's Hospital." Her father turned from the TV. "What happened to him?" "He had an accident. He says it's nothing serious." 7. Where's my hat? Where did I leave my hat? 8. "And I've got a bit of money. We could get ourselves a nice flat." "Where did you get the money from?"9. "Miss Drake," he said later. "How long have you known Roger?" "Nearly a year. He's told me a lot about you." "What did he say?" 10. "How long were you in hospital with that wound?" she asked. 11. "Well, this is a hell of a mess you have got into. I don't wonder you are upset." "How did you find out?" 12. Then I thought of the other summer and of Laura. "How long did Laura stay there altogether?" 13. As Rosemary entered her room, her mother called to her: "Where have you been?" 14. When did she leave for a swim? 15. You seem to know a lot about your neighbours. How long have you lived here?


Ex. 63 Explain the use of the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite in the following sentences containing an indication of a period of time:

l."I hear you went to the dentist this morning." "Yes. I had three teeth filled." 2. He laughed. "My," said Peggy, very pleased, "you got off the right side of the bed this morning, didn't you?" 3. That man was here again this afternoon, asking for you. 4. "Where is my brother?" "He's not been in all afternoon." 5. At Corfu you find people playing cricket. Watching them you remember that Corfu was under British rule for fifty years and cricket, obviously, is a heritage of those days. 6. "Mr Ferrier wishes to speak to you on the telephone, Sir," she said. "He has called up three times this morning." 7. "What's going on here?" Mel sighed: "We've had a storm for three days. It's created emergency situations." 8. "Have you seen Mary this morning?" she asked the boy as she gave him his morning milk. "No. She is sick." "How do you know?" "She didn't come out of her room." 9. "I used to know the Pimleys. But I haven't seen them for years," he said. 10. When they were strolling along the beach, Wilmott said to the doctor: "Do you know, I was surprised to hear you quote poetry this evening." 11.I was an officer in the Territorials myself for a few years. I had to give it up for health reasons. 12.I've had a rather nasty pain in my knee at times lately. It caught me this morning in a devilish fashion. 13.She drew down his head and pressed her cheek to his. "I say, your cheek is like a grater! You have not shaved today." 14. "When did she bring it here?" "She left it on the door-step today."


Ex. 64 Use the Present Perfect or the Past Indefinite in the following sentences which contain an indication of a period of time:

1. "Listen," he said, "my father (to fight) for four years in the last war." 2.I (to meet) your boy-friend and {to have) a long talk with him today. 3. "Don't go, Philip," said his mother. "I scarcely (to see) you today." 4. "Good morning, Mother," he said kissing the top of her head, "you (to sleep) late this morning." 5.I was at school with Alec. Then we (not to see) each other for years. 6.I (to have) coffee with a friend of yours at the Union today. 7. I'm taking my wife out tonight. She (not to have) any fun for a long time. 8. "Has Meggie eaten her tea?" "No. Not a bite. Nor dinner either." "Why, this is awful. The child (not to have) a bite all day." 9. Unsmiling she (to regard) him steadily for a long time. He then stopped walking about and looked equally steadily at her. 10.I dare say you (not to have) a night's sleep or a proper meal this week. 11. Entering her bedroom her mother said: "Pat, dear, aren't you well? Don't you think that a cup of tea would be nice? We (to have) the first strawberries this morning." 12. "You (to see) Father this afternoon?" she asked coming in from the garden. 13. You are just in time to hear a nice bit of news. Our neighbour is engaged to be married. He (to bring) me the news himself this morning. 14. "I'm sorry I'm late," he said. "Everything (to seem) to hold me up this evening."


Ex. 65 The present perfect and the simple past:

(a) Fill the spaces by repeating the auxiliary used in the question, putting it into the negative where necessary.

Put the verb in brackets into the present perfect or the simple past tense.

e.g: Have you seen that play?

(a) Yes, I have.

(b) Yes, I (be) there last night.

Yes, I was there last night.

1 Have you wound the clock?

(a) Yes, I . . .

(b) Yes, I (wind) it on Monday

2 Have you ever eaten snails?

(a) No, I . . .

(b) Yes, I (eat) some at Tom's party last week.

3 Have they repaired the road?

(a) No, they . . .

(b) They only (repair) part of it so far.

4 Have they done their homework?

(a) Yes, they (do) it all.

(b) Yes, they (do) it before they left school.

5 Have you been to the opera this week?

(a) Yes, I . . .

(b) Yes, I (go) to Faust on Friday.

6 Have you found the matches?

(a) No, I . . .

(b) No, I (not find) them yet.

7 Have you seen him lately?

(a) No, I . . .

(b) No, I (not see) him since Christmas.

8 Have you been here before?

(a) No, I ...

(b) Yes, I (be) here several times.


Ex. 66 Make up situations to justify the use of the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite in the following pairs of sentences containing an indication of a period of time:

1. I haven't read the paper this morning. I didn't read the paper this morning. 2. We haven't seen them for years. We didn't see them for years. 3. He hasn't gone to bed for two days. He didn't go to bed for two days. 4. He has been a teacher for ten years. He was a teacher for ten years. 5. I've had a letter from him today. I had a letter from him today. 6.Have you seen him this afternoon? Did you see him this afternoon? 7. We haven't corresponded for months. We didn't correspond for months. 8. He has called me up from London three times this week. He called me up from London three times this week. 9. I've met them both this afternoon. I met them both this afternoon.


Ex. 67 Put the verbs in brackets into the present perfect or the simple past tense. In some sentences the present perfect continuous is also possible:

1 This is my house. - How long you (live) here? - I (live) here since 1970. 2 He (live) in London for two years and then (go) to Edinburgh. 3 You (wear) your hair long when you were at school? - Yes, my mother (insist) on it. 4 But when I (leave) school I (cut) my hair and (wear) it short ever since. 5 Shakespeare (write) a lot of plays.6 My brother (write) several plays. He just (finish) his second tragedy. 7 I (fly) over Loch Ness last week. -You (see) the Loch Ness monster? 8 I (not see) him for three years. I wonder where he is. 9 He (not smoke) for two weeks. He is trying to give it up. 10 Chopin (compose) some of his music in Majorca. 11 When he (arrive)? - He (arrive) at 2.00. 12 You (lock) the door before you left the house? 13 I (read) his books when I was at school. I (enjoy) them very much. 14 I can't go out because I (not finish) my work. 15 I never (drink) whisky. - Well, have some now. 16 I (write) the letter but I can't find a stamp. 17 The clock is slow. - It isn't slow, it (stop). 18 Here are your shoes; I just (clean) them. 19 I (leave) home at 8.00 and (get) here at twelve. 20 I (do) this sort of work when I (be) an apprentice. 21 He just (go) out. 22 He (go) out ten minutes ago. 23 You (have) breakfast yet? - Yes, I (have) it at 8.00. 24 I (meet) him last June. 25 You (see) the moon last night? 26 The concert (begin) at 2.30 and (last) for two hours. Everyone (enjoy) it very much. 27 The play just (begin). You are a little late. 28 The newspaper (come)? - Yes, Ann is reading it. 29 The actors (arrive) yesterday and (start) rehearsals early this morning. 30 It (be) very cold this year. I wonder when it is going to get warmer. 31 Cervantes (write) Don Quixote. 32 We (miss) the bus. Now we'll have to walk. 33 He (break) his leg in a skiing accident last year. 34 Mr. Pound is the bank manager. He (be) here for five years. 35 Mr Count (work) as a cashier for twenty-five years. Then he (retire) and (go) to live in the country.36 You (be) here before? - Yes, I (spend) my holidays here last year. - You (have) a good time? - No, it never (stop) raining.


Ex. 68 Put the verbs in brackets into the present perfect or simple past tense:

1 Where is Tom?- I (not see) him today, but he (tell) Mary that he'd be in for dinner. 2 I (buy) this in Bond Street. -How much you (pay) for it? - I (pay) Ј100. 3 Where you (find) this knife? -I (find) it in the garden. -Why you (not leave) it there?4 I (lose) my black gloves. You (see) them anywhere? - No, I'm afraid 1.... When you last (wear) them? - I (wear) them at the theatre last night. - Perhaps you (leave) them at the theatre. 5 Do you know that lady who just (leave) the shop? - Yes, that is Miss Thrift. Is she a customer of yours? - Not exactly. She (be) in here several times but she never (buy) anything. 6 He (leave) the house at 8.00. - Where he (go)? - I (not see) where he (go). 7 He (serve) in the First World War. - When that war (begin)? - It (begin) in 1914 and (last) for four years. 8 Who you (vote) for at the last election? - I (vote) for Mr Pitt. - He (not be) elected, (be) he? - No, he (lose) his deposit.9 You (like) your last job? - I (like) it at first but then I (quarrel) with my employer and he (dismiss) me. - How long you (be) there? - I (be) there for two weeks. 10 I (not know) that you (know) Mrs Pitt. How long you (know) her? - I (know) her for ten years. 11 That is Mr Minus, who teaches me mathematics, but he (not have) time to teach me much. I only (be) in his class for a week. 12 You (hear) his speech on the radio last night? - Yes, I . . . - What you (think) of it? 13 I (not know) that you (be) here. You (be) here long? - Yes, I (be) here two months. - You (be) to the Cathedral? - Yes, I (go) there last Sunday. 14 You ever (try) to give up smoking? - Yes, I (try) last year, but then I (find) that I was getting fat so I (start) again. 15 You (see) today's paper? - No, anything interesting (happen)? Yes, two convicted murderers (escape) from the prison down the road. 16 Mary (feed) the cat? - Yes, she (feed) him before lunch. - What she (give) him? - She (give) him some fish 17 How long you (know) your new assistant? - I (know) him for two years. - What he (do) before he (come) here? - I think he (be) in prison. 18 I (not see) your aunt recently. - No. She (not be) out of her house since she (buy) her colour TV.19 The plumber(be)here yet? - Yes, but he only (stay) for an hour. - What he (do) in that time? - He (turn) off the water and (empty) the tank. 20 Where you (be)? I (be) out in a yacht. - You (enjoy) it? - Yes, very much. We (take) part in a race. - You (win)? - No, we (come) in last. 21 How long that horrible monument (be) there? - It (be) there six months. Lots of people (write) to the Town Council asking them to take it away but so far nothing (be) done. 22 I just (be) to the film War and Peace. You (see) it? - No, 1.... Is it like the book? - I (not read) the book. - I (read) it when I (be) at school. - When Tolstoy (write) it? - He (write) it in 1868. - He (write) anything else? 23 Hannibal (bring) elephants across the Alps. - Why he (do) that? - He (want) to use them in battle. 24 Where you (be)? - I (be) to the dentist. - He (take) out your bad tooth? - Yes, he . . . - It (hurt)?- Yes, horribly. 25 She (say) that she'd phone me this morning, but it is now 12.30 and she (not phone) yet. 26 I just (receive) a letter saying that we (not pay) this quarter's electricity bill. I (not give) you the money for that last week? - Yes, you . . . but I'm afraid I (spend) it on something else. 27 How long you (be) out of work? - I'm not out of work now. I just (start) a new job. - How you (find) the job? -I (answer) an advertisement in the paper. 28 You (finish) checking the accounts? - No, not quite. I (do) about half so far. 29 I (cut) my hand rather badly. Have you a bandage? - I'll get you one. How it (happen)? - I was chopping some wood and the axe (slip). 30 How you (get) that scar? - I (get) it in a car accident a year ago. 31 You (meet) my brother at the lecture yesterday? - Yes, I .. .. We (have) coffee together afterwards. 32 He (lose) his job last month and since then he (be) out of work. - Why he (lose) his job? - He (be) very rude to Mr Pitt. 33 What are all those people looking at? - There (be) an accident. - You (see) what (happen)? - Yes, a motor cycle (run) into a lorry. 34 I (phone) you twice yesterday and (get) no answer. 35 Originally horses used in bull fights (not wear) any protection, but for some time now they (wear) special padding, 36 That house (be) empty for a year. But they just (take) down the 'For Sale' sign, so I suppose someone (buy) it.


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