Past Simple vs. Present Perfect Part 1

Today we’re going to take a look at the difference between the Past Simple and Present Perfect tenses. A constant source of confusion and irritation for German speakers (and the Swiss in particular), these two tenses may sound very similar but actually have a distinct difference – only one of them deals with when something happened.

In spoken German, the perfect tense is always used. For example: ‘Ich habe gestern den neuen Marvel Film gesehen.’ BUT in English, we would use the past simple to talk about something that happened yesterday. Why? Because it’s finished.

‘I saw the new Marvel film yesterday.’

Basically, we use the past simple to talk about things that are finished and have no bearing on the present. We also usually use it with a time stamp – for example, last night, when I was in high school, three days ago, in 1995.

The present perfect, as the name suggests, involves the present. We don’t use it to talk about when something happened, but we can use it to talk about whether something has or hasn’t happened at the time of speaking. I haven’t seen the new Marvel film yet/I’ve already seen the new Marvel film’, or how often something has happened: ‘I’ve seen the new Marvel film three times.’

In the next blog, we’ll have a look at the form of both tenses, but for now, have a look at these sentences and think about what tense I’m using:

I haven’t finished explaining the tenses yet but I will do that very soon.

I posted a blog about Yellowjackets last year, please check it out in the meantime.

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen any Marvel films.

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