With examples, describe the diferences in meaning between the use of SIMPLE PAST and the PRESENT PERFECT structure in English?plz answer in detail

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Modern English there are three forms of six tenses.  Of these six tenses, three are considered simple tenses: the present, the future, and the past.  They are called simple because there is only one verb used with the exception of the future which has will before the present form.  Here is the verb to see conjugated in the  simple past tense:

I saw                 We saw              SIMPLE PAST TENSE

You saw              You saw

He/She/It saw      They saw

On the other hand, the perfect (which is Latin for completed) tenses are compound tenses formed by using the appropriate tenses of the verb to have with the past participles of the main verb.  Here, then, is the verb to see in the present perfect tense:

I have seen           We have seen

You have seen        You have seen

He/She/It has seen  They have seen

Now, the difference between the simple past tense of a verb and the present perfect tense is that the action of the simple past is both begun and completed in past time.  But, the action of the present perfect tense expresses an action that has begun in the past and is completed in the present. 

Here are examples:

Yesterday I saw the woodpecker in our backyard tree. (SIMPLE PAST: All action is begun and ended in the past.)

I have seen the woodpecker come into our backyard tree all this week. (PRESENT PERFECT:  The action began in the past few days and is completed in the present.)


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