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The Differences between Simple Past and Present Perfect Tense

From my experience of teaching Advanced Grammar and Reading, students are often confused by the use of simple past tense and present perfect tense. This table shows you the differences between the two tenses:

Simple Past Tense Present Perfect Tense
Form +ve: past tense form of verb +ve: has / have + past participle
-ve: did not + base form of verb -ve: has / have + not + past participle
?: Did + subject + base form of verb ?: Has / Have + subject + past participle
Function(s) To describe:

  • completed or finished actions.

To describe:

  • an action which began in the past and has continued to the present
  • a past action with more interest in the present effect.
  • an action which has repeated several times
  • Our experience up to now in life
Time Expressions  

Yesterday, Once upon a time, A week / month / year ago, Last week / month / year, In the past, etc.

Already, Just, Since, For, Yet, Never, Ever, Recently, So far, Up to now, This week / month / year, Before, etc.

I tidied my room yesterday.

I did not go to Japan last year.

Did you do your homework?


I have already tidied my room.

I have not been to Japan before.

Have you done your homework?

Quiz time! Think about which tense we use in the following sentences. Can you complete them?

  1. Ben __________________ (see) Wendy at the park yesterday.
  2. Vicky _______ never ___________ (be) to Japan before.
  3. Dad __________________ (not open) the window this morning.
  4. I ________ already ____________ (finish) my homework.
  5. James __________________ (not water) the flowers last week.

Let’s practise the use of simple present tense and present perfect tense with more grammar exercises from i-Learner’s I Love Grammar Series.