Difference between simple past and perfect present

Present perfect  is used to indicate actions occurred in the past but completed in the present. On the other hand, simple past tense is used for completed actions in the past without connection to the present. For clarity, both present perfect and simple past tense are used to describe complete actions, but in the different time and manner.

To describe complete actions

Both are used to describe complete actions. So, let’s see what is difference between the action described by present perfect and simple past tense.

Present perfect tense

Completed action described by present perfect seems like continuation from past, but just finished in the present.

•I have just completed my assignment.

•They have visited Ajantha caves twice this year.

•She has cracked her exam with distinction this year.

•He has beautifully played in the final match.

•It has rained heavyily since morning.

Simple past tense

It is used to describe action completed in the past without continuation in the present or past of the past. It seems finished in isolation without link.

•We went for picnic yesterday.

•It rained heavyily at five o’clock.

•Last night, he completed his assignment.

•They invited you day before yesterday.

•A long time ago, we met in the book fair.

•I visited Tirupati temple when I was ten years old.

Specific or general time indication

Specific time is mentioned when we describe action in the simple past. Whereas, general time is indicated in the present perfect tense.

Simple past tense

To differentiate past from present, specific time indication is utmost important.

•We went for picnic yesterday.

•Yesterday – specific time

•It rained heavyily at five o’clock. (five o’clock)

•Last night, he completed his assignment.(last night)

•They invited you day before yesterday.

Present perfect tense

General time indication is important to differentiate it from continuous present and simple past.

•I have just completed my assignment.(just–general time)

•They have visited Ajantha caves twice this year.

•She has cracked her exam with distinction this year.

•He has beautifully played in the final match.

•It has rained heavyily since morning.

•We have decided to launch new plan of action.

Habitual action

present perfect tense isn’t used to describe habitual action, but simple past is widely preferred for this.

It was my daily routine to go for swimming at six o’clock.

•People used to go for a walk every morning.

•She used to practice for singing everyday.

•Children always went to play in the garden after school.

For period of time — only simple past tense

If the effect of action is beyond the point of time, in such situation, simple past tense is usually used to indicate action occurred in the period of time. Here as well, present perfect has no role.

•Really surprisingly, he worked continuously for a decade without rest.

•He played for his country for five years.

•He represented India in the Asian games for ten years.

•As a teacher, he taught consistently for two decades.

•They helped me for many years.

These are some important differences between simple past and present perfect tense.

Functions of preposition

Clarification of simple present tense

Present perfect continuous tense

Learning present continuous tense

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