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Common problems
Simple past or present perfect?

What's wrong?

Please correct the following sentences:

1. We have written the report yesterday
2. He has been to London in 1989
3. I never ate caviar

What's the rule?

We use the past simple to talk about actions or situations that occurred or existed in a named or understood time period in the past. An explicit past time expression is not always necessary. The past time is often understood by both speaker and listener because of the context (a meeting which took place ago two days ago, for example).



The company lost £7 million last year.


A. "How did the meeting go?"
B. "They didn't agree to the conditions."

We use the present perfect:

(a) to describe a state leading up to the present.


The office has been empty for a long time

(b) to describe experience at any time in the past up to the time of speaking (where the time of the experience is unspecified).


Have you ever been to Japan?

(c) to describe a habit leading up to the present time.


We have attended all the meetings.

(d) to describe a past event with present effect.


He has lost his glasses (and now he can't see).

(e) after "when" to indicate the future completion of an event.


When you have finished the report, please send it to Mr Smith.



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