The Present Perfect Simple tense and the Past Simple tense can seem similar. Here are some ways to tell the difference:
|Present Perfect Simple||Past Simple|
|Used for actions or events where there is a connection to the present or something that is important now.*||Used for events and actions in the past that have no connection to the present. Sometimes we include a ‘finish’ time word such as ‘yesterday’.|
|I have known David for twenty years.
Unfinished action: I still know David.
|I knew David for twenty years.
Finished action: David moved away (we lost touch), or David is no longer living.
|I’ve lost my wallet! (Result: I cannot pay for lunch now.)
Finished action with a connection to the present.
|I thought I lost my wallet yesterday, but it was in my coat pocket!
Finished action with no connection to present.
|We have been fishing on holiday.
Finished life event; subjects are still living.
|My husband used to go fishing on holiday.
Finished action, subject is no longer living.
|They have seen the movie twice this week.
Finished action with unfinished time word (this week, this month, today).
|I saw the movie last week.
Finished time word (last week, last month, yesterday).
*Remember that you can’t use the present perfect with a finished time word such as ‘yesterday’ or ‘last week’.