Difference between Present Perfect and Past Simple.

Actions related to each of the three main tenses (past, present and future) may differ in nature. But if in the Russian language there are no separate grammatical categories for expressing such nuances, then English has a whole system that includes 12 basic temporal forms. Let's compare two of them, or rather, find out how Present Perfect differs from Past Simple.

General information

Speaking in Russian, we are talking about the present perfect and the past simple tenses. Many confuse them with each other because in both cases the actions are related to the past, and sentences, where verbs are in different forms, are translated similarly or in the same way:

James has arrived. -Jamescame.

James arrived at 6 o'clock. -James arrived at six o'clock.


So, each of the discussed forms of time expresses what happened. Nevertheless, the difference between Present Perfect and Past Simple is noticeable. The first of these forms is appropriate to use if you want to emphasize the result of what happened, creating a special situation in the present. Present here indicates not the time of action, but the moment when its consequences are relevant:

I have bought and cake. -I bought a cake. (And now we will eat it / And I want to give it to you / Look how delicious it looks!)

Meanwhile, the purpose of using Past Simple in speech is to report the action itself without a hint of its result, to state the fact. In this case, the time of what happened becomes important:

Did you buy а cake yesterday? -Did you buy a cake yesterday? (The questioner is only interested in the action, the result is not important.)

Time in the case of Past Simple is clear from the context or, as in the last example, is indicated by adverbial words. In addition toyesterday, there may be such specific time indicators:on Friday, last month, in 1984, 11 days agoand the like.

In sentences related to the Present Perfect, no time is often named. In other cases, words are used denoting an indefinite time or repetition:ever, seldom, never, several timesand others. If the period of time in which something happened is still lingering, then certain indicators are used:all day, this evening, this week. In addition, markers of this temporal form are:just, lately, so far, sinceand others.

It should also be mentioned what is the difference between Present Perfect and Past Simple regarding the rules of their formation. Let's talk about Present Perfect first. In it, constructions of all types - affirmative, interrogative and negative - are formed with the participation of the auxiliary verb to have, meanwhile the main verb is always used in the third form:

We have just seen him. -We just saw him.

Have you ever eaten avocado? -Have you ever eaten an avocado?

Alice hasn't changed at all. -Alice hasn't changed at all.

In Past Simple, statements do not contain an auxiliary verb, and the main one is used in the second form. In interrogative and negative constructions, the verb did is used as an auxiliary, while the main one is taken in the infinitive form:

Last week all of us went to the concert. -Inlast weekweekweallwenttoconcert.

When did your sister begin to study English? -Whendid yoursisterstartto studyEnglish?

I didn’t meet him on Tuesday. -On Tuesday I did not meet him.