Past Tense or Perfect Tense?
For some reason, these two forms are often perceived as challenging for Cambridge FC (First Certificate) students during exams (and for many others as well). Some students even tend to mix them up, leading to confusion. In fact, those who manage to form sentences in the past tense find it difficult to use the perfect tense. Sometimes, in classes, past tense is preferred over the perfect tense.
Furthermore, in American English, the perfect tense is not used as frequently, and instead of using perfect tense, one can simply say “I just broke,” for instance. So, how different are these two tenses? Do they have the same meaning? If they convey the same meaning, how can we distinguish them?
Our goal is to make speaking English easy and fast by following the rules and to assist you in finding answers to these kinds of questions. Therefore, we try to provide clear explanations of these subtle differences between the topics. Let’s start with examples and delve into the subject in detail.
Perfect Tense and Past Tense
We use the Perfect Tense in one of these ways:
- For an event which started in the past and is still happening.
- For events where time is not important.
- For events that occurred very recently and are related to the present.
- To express a starting point (since).
- To express the duration of an action (for).
1. For an event which started in the past and is still happening.
I started my lesson 30 minutes ago. (Past Tense)
I have taught my lesson for 30 minutes. (Perfect Tense)
2. For events where time is not important.
I have been to the UK before. (Perfect Tense)
I have been to university. (Perfect Tense)
3. For events that occurred very recently and are related to the present.
Someone has stolen my car. (Perfect Tense)
I have studied for the English exam all morning. (Perfect Tense)
4. To express a starting point (since).
I have been in London since I was born. (Perfect Tense)
5. To express the duration of an action (for).
They have been in London for two weeks. (Perfect Tense)