Past form or have -en?
Past Simple vs Present Perfect

When do people use the past form and when do we use have -en? Let’s look at some sentences with the past form (past simple) and have -en (present perfect)  to better understand the meanings -ed and have -en add and why speakers choose to use them.

Or start with our practice exercises.

Why do we use them?

We add the past form (-ed) to show we aren’t referring to the present-future, such as a time in the past when something happened.

We add have -en when we are talking about the present, and we want to say what happened before now. There is a result in the present.

Compare:

We use the past form to talk about a specific time in the past.

We use have/has + -en to talk about results we have in the present.

past simple tense timeline - completed action in the past

I went to Africa last year .
He didn’t eat lunch yesterday. Lunch time was in the past.
Did you do your homework? (in the recent past)

present perfect tense timeline - present result - Recent action: happened at a time before now

I‘ve been to Africa.
He hasn’t eaten lunch. (not yet: he may eat it in the future)
Have you done your homework?

We often ask questions with have/has + -en. We don’t know which time in the past to talk about so we talk about the present. We then use the past form to get the specific details.

A: Have you been to Africa? (interested in experience that you have in the present)
B: Yes, I went there last year. (giving details about when I got this experience: in the past)

We use the past form to talk about a period of time that finished in the past.

We use have/has + -en with a period of time up to the present.

past simple tense timeline - a period of time in the past

She worked here for a year. (finished: she doesn’t work here now)
He didn’t eat for three days. (in the past: he eats again now)
Did you live here for more than a year? (in the past: a time you lived here)

present perfect tense timeline - present result - Duration: happened for a period up to now

She has worked here for a year. She works here now.
He hasn’t eaten since yesterday.
Have you lived here for more than a year?

1. Make a conversation

2. Complete the sentences

3. How can we say it?

Choose sentences to fit the situations. There may be more than one answer.