Present Perfect vs Simple Past Tense! Differences?


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Happy New Year!

Let's talk about present perfect tense.

Hi, everybody! Welcome back to Ask Alisha.

The weekly series where you ask me questions and I answer them, maybe.

As always, remember you can submit your questions to me at

First question!

This question comes from Zara.

Hi, Alisha!

I have a question about present perfect tense.

In my native language, there isn't a tense called present perfect tense.

I am confused because I don't know the differences between present perfect tense and simple past

tense well.”

Let's begin with an in-depth explanation of these two grammar points and the differences

between them.


To begin.

Let's begin with a simple timeline here.

We have the past, now, which is the star on the timeline, and the future.

So, we're going to focus on thepastand thenowpoints.

Let's focus on those.

First, let's look at the simple past tense.

We use the simple past tense for actions which started and ended in the past.

So, at a point in time before the present.

A point in time before now, in other words.

On our timeline then, let's imagine there are two points, a start point and an end point

for that action.


Here, I've made a start point and an endpoint on the timeline.

So, in the past, you can see there are two points, the start and the end of the action.

Both are in the past.

You'll see both of them are in the past.

That's the first point about the simple past tense.

Also, these are for actions that we did at a specific point in time.

We can assign a specific point in time to these actions.

For example, this morning, last year, last week, yesterday.

There's a specific point in time we can attach to these actions.


Let's talk now about the present perfect tense.

Present perfect tense has a couple of different uses.

The first use of present perfect tense I want to explain is using the grammar point to explain

a life experience.

Let's take a look at how visually this is different from the simple past tense.

So, now on the timeline in blue, you can see this sort of dotted line that I made with

a question mark.

The dotted line begins in the past and it ends now.

It ends at the current point in time.

This is because we use present perfect tense to talk about things that happened at some

point in the past but the specific point is unimportant or unknown.

We don't need to explain when the action happened.

We only want to state we have had or have not had that experience.

So, we use this when we want to talk about our life experiences.

For example, travel experience or work experience like “I have never been to France.”

orI've eaten pho.”

My parents have never been outside the country.”

for example.

We use this to talk about life experience but we don't include a specific point in time

when we talk about these experiences.

It's just some time before the present.

The specific point in time is not important in that sentence.

You might follow up this sentence with a specific point in time, in which case, you use simple


Let's talk about one more use of the present perfect tense.

This is the one we use with the wordsforandsinceand we can also use the continuous

tense with this use.

The black line on the timeline here shows an action that started in the past and continues

to the present, or it's an effect of an action that continues to the present.

We use this to talk about our studies, for example, or the places where we live.

Like, “I have been studying English for three years.”

or “I have lived in Brazil for 10 years.”

for example.

So, remember that we use the wordsforandsincealong with this form of the

present perfect tense.

We useforbefore a length of time like, “I've studied for three years.”

I've lived in Brazil for five years.”

and we usesincebefore a period of time.

I have lived — “I've been studying since 2009.” or “I have lived here since 2013.”

for example.

So, please keep this in mind, the present perfect tense is used for actions that started

in the past and continue to the present.

Simple past tense is used for actions which started and ended in the past.

Next question.

This question comes from Maxine.

Hi, Maxine!

What's the difference betweenone yearand “a year?”

For example, “I've lived here for a year.”

orI've lived here for one year.”

In this sentence, no difference.


When you're talking about time periods, “a year,” andone year,” “a minute,”

one minute.”

They don't mean anything different.

They mean the same thing.

Thanks for the question though.

Next question!

Next question comes from Wang Zhang Ik.

I'm very sorry.

Which one is correct?

‘I work out for one to two hours a day.’

‘I work out for one or two hours a day.’

‘I drink coffee two to three times a day.’

‘I drink coffee two or three times a day.’”


Both of these are correct, actually.

In this case, there are very, very small differences between these.

One to two hours a day,” meansbetween one and two hours.”

If you say, “I work out for one or two hours a day,” it means it's determined like one

hour only for a workout or two hours only for a workout.

So, the difference here is, are you determining?

Are you deciding one hour or two cups of coffee or three cups of coffee or is it between those

two amounts?

So, usingone to twoortwo to threemeans between those two amounts.

Usingorshows it's either A or B, but not between those two.

This is the difference betweentoandor.”

Next question!

Next question comes from Wong Sena.

I'm very sorry.

I'm very sorry.

“‘I've never been to Japan.’

I've never been to Japan before.’

I've never eaten horse.’

I've never eaten horse before.’

My question is, if you putbeforeat the end of those sentences, does it mean,

you are in Japan right now?

Or you are eating horse right now?”


Not necessarily.

Think ofbeforeat the end of the sentence asbefore now.”

I've never eaten horse before now,” in other words.

You could use this just before you eat horse or just before you go to Japan, if you like

as an emphasis phrase, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you are in Japan now or that you're

eating horse now.

You could use it in that way, sure, but it doesn't necessarily mean it.

If you'd like to emphasize it, like if you're about to eat horse, for example, “I've never

eaten horse before.”

you could show your interest or perhaps to show, maybe some anxiety, or nervous feelings

about what you're about to do.

But, no, it does not necessarily mean you are in that place.

Like, for example, you could just be having a conversation.

Have you eaten horse before?”


I've never eaten horse before.”

It could just be a conversation about it.

But, really, “before,” just meansbefore now.”

Next question!

Next question comes from Rashke.

I'm sorry.

Where do we usewanna,’ andgonna,’ and how?”


This question is about the casual contracted forms ofwant toandgoing to.”

Want tobecomeswanna.”

Going tobecomesgonnain casual speech.

We use them in exactly the same way we would use “I want to,” “I'm going to,” “he

wants to,” “she wants to,” “he's going to,” “she's going to.”

We use them in exactly the same way, which means, we use them in casual situations.

Like, “I want to take a day off,” orI'm gonna go to the beach this weekend,” or,

Do you want to see a movie tonight?”

We use them in exactly the same way we usewant toandgoing tobut we use

them in speech.

Typically, we don't write these.

Unless, we're writing very casual messages like text messages to our friends or something.

Next question!

Next question comes from Garrison Silva.

Hey, again, Garrison.

When can I use the expression, ‘take for granted?’”

Take for granted.”

This is an expression which we typically use in the negative.

Like, “Don't take something, something for granted.”

Don't take blah, blah, blah for granted.”

It means, don't forget to appreciate this thing or this person.

For example, “Don't take your parents for granted.”

orDon't take this opportunity for granted.”

These expressions mean, don't forget to appreciate these things, or don't just disregard your

parents, or don't disregard this opportunity.

To recognize the importance of something.

So, if you are given a good opportunity, for example, or someone gives you good advice,

or a very nice gift, perhaps, we would typically use this with the negative.

Don't take something, something for granted.”

meaning don't forget to show your appreciation for that thing or for that person.

Next question!

Next question comes from Daniel Silverio.

Hi, Daniel!

Daniel asks, “What is the difference betweenwishanddesire?’

Greetings from Paraguay.”


What is the difference betweenwishanddesire?”

Wishis used to express want.

When you want something that is different from the present situation.

So, we often use it with, “I wish I were,” or “I wish I could.”

Something we want or an ability we want, but that we do not have now.

Something for the future.

So, “I wish I could speak seven languages.”

or, “I wish I had a million dollars.”

or, “I wish I were taking more time off every week.”

for example.

Something that is different from the present condition.

The present situation we usewishor “I wish you would call me.” for example.

“I wish you would.”

or “I wish you could.”

To express something that is not happening now.

Desire,” on the other hand.

Desiretends to be used more formally and it also can carry more romantic nuances.

It's not used as much conversationally as the wordwishis.

Wishis used to express wants.

Things that we want that are not true now.

Desireis used more in romantic situations.

Like, to desire another person, orHe desired more of her time.”

for example.

But it sounds unnecessarily formal, I feel.

You might use it in a more formal, like a business context.

Like, “Our client desires more information about the situation.”

That could be a different use of the worddesire.”

But in general, it sounds a bit more formal and a bit more romantically charged at times,

depending on the situation when it's used.

If you're talking about a person, as well, like if you say, for example, “I desire


it sounds actually quite odd at least in American English.

If you want to use the worddesire,” I think in romantic situations, it might be

applied in a phrase like, “He was filled with desire.”

or, “She was filled with desire.”

Used more as a noun than as a verb.

So, I would recommend not usingdesireso much to talk about your wants as it can

sound a little bit too formal or can give perhaps the wrong nuance to the situation.

Butwishis used to express a hope for something or wanting something that is different

from the present situation.

I hope that helps.

Next question!

Next question from Han Yonghe.

I'm very sorry.

Hey, Alisha.

What's the difference betweenmaybe,’ ‘probably,’ ‘perhaps,’ andpossibly?’”

Great question!

Maybe,” “probably,” “perhaps,” “possibly.”


Maybe,” “probably,” “perhaps,” andpossibly,” these are all adverbs.

They have the same grammatical function.

Maybe,” “probably,” “perhaps,” andpossibly.”

Maybeandperhapsare very closely related.

Maybeandperhaps,” they have the same meaning, but just different levels of


Maybeis like the lower level.

The more casual version of the wordperhaps.”

Maybe I'll go to the beach this weekend.”

andPerhaps I'll go to the beach this weekend.”

They have really the same meaning butperhapssounds more formal.

Probably,” however, is different.

Probablyexpresses a higher level of possibility than the other words on this list.

I'll probably go to the beach this weekend.”

It's like a 75% to 80% chance the speaker is going to go to the beach this weekend.

Possibly,” however, “possiblyhas more of a nuance of just that something can

be done.

It is possible to do something.

We usepossiblymore in requests.

Like, “Could you possibly blah blah blah for me?”

Could you possibly send me this file?”

Possiblysounds a little too formal for casual conversations and invitations.

But if you're using it at work, for example, “Could you possibly meet me later this week?”

Instead of, “Could you maybe meet me?”

So, the difference betweenmaybeandpossiblyandperhapsthere, “possible

has that route, yeah.

Possible,” able to.

So, “maybeandperhapsdon't have that nuance.

Possiblysounds like, “Is it possible?”

Is it?”

Are you able to do this thing?”

Maybeandperhapsdon't contain that nuance.

So, to recap.

Maybeandperhapsare used to express the same thing, a chance of something


Perhapsis more formal.

Possiblyis used in a similar way, however, it refers more to simple possibility than


Are you able to do that thing?”

Probablyexpresses a high chance of something.

Thanks so much for all your questions.

Remember, you can submit to me at Thanks very much for watching this episode

of Ask Alisha.

I will see you again next week. Bye-bye!

Happy New Year and I hope that your studies continue well.