Practice 1: When to Use the Past Simple or the Present Perfect Tense | Advanced Verb Tenses
Based on this lesson, use the verbs in parentheses to complete the blank or blanks in each item. Pay close attention to the context.
Contractions (e.g., “I’m,” “they’ve,” and “haven’t”) are used because the items represent informal, spoken English. Use contractions wherever possible.
(If needed, open this list of irregular verbs in a new tab).
When you are finished, click “Answer.”
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— When did you work for the Ecks Corporation?
(The word “when” asks about a specific time in the past. It requires the past simple tense.)
— I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I worked for Acme two years ago, but I’ve never worked for the Ecks Corporation before.
(“Two years ago” is a specific time in the past, so it requires the past simple. “Before” is not a specific time in the past; it is a time before now, the present.)
Reminder: Contractions are used in informal, conversational English.
— Who was the King of England who had six wives?
— That was Henry the Eighth.
(Even though no specific time in the past is mentioned, the whole dialog is about a historical fact, thus in the past.)
No one has seen Professor Ecks since last semester. Is he on vacation?
(This is about an situation before now, so it has a connection to the present.)
— Oh no! I’ve burned the turkey!
(The focus is on the result; the turkey is — present — burned now.)
— What happened? Did you leave it in the oven too long?
(The question asks for details about what happened in the past that led to the present result.)
My stomach hurts. I’ve had too much to eat.
(The focus is on the present result, not on when it happened.)
How many English-language courses have you taken so far?
(“So far” means “up to now,” so shows a connection to the present. The focus is on the accomplishment up to today.)
— Have you graduated from college yet?
(There is no time in the past. The question is about a present accomplishment.)
— Yes, I have. I graduated last fall.
(“Last fall” is a specific time in the past. It requires the past simple tense.)
— Your German is excellent! How have you learned it so well?
(The question is not about a specific time in the past. Rather, it is about a present situation, that is, speaking German so well.)
— I lived in Germany when I was a child.
(“When I was a child” refers to a time in the past. It also provides a detail or explanation. You need the past simple tense.)
I haven’t been able to find my phone since last Saturday.
(“Since last Saturday” conveys the idea that this situation started Saturday and continues up to the present. I still do not have my phone, so you focus on the present situation or result.)
When Ernest Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, he sold over 5 million copies in the first two days.
(Everything here is about past events and shows no connection to the present.)
Try More Practice
Practice 2 uses formal, academic English.
Practice 3 helps you write complete sentences using these verb tenses.
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