I. The Simple Past and the Present Perfect
Look at the following sentence from the lesson, ‘Jamaican Fragment.’
The dark boy ran inside.
Now compare this sentence with the following sentence.
The dark boy has run inside.
Both the sentences express a past action. But in the first sentence the speaker is interested in the action itself whereas in the second sentence the speaker is thinking of the effect of the past action on the present .
The first sentence is in the simple past tense and the second sentence is in the present perfect.
Uses of the simple past tense:
(i) The simple past is used to refer to past actions or events.
1. He passed his examination in 2013.
2. I visited Delhi last month.
3. Raju met his friend yesterday
(ii) The simple past form can also be used to refer to the present time. This is a special use of the simple past form with verbs like want, wonder, hope, think to make an utterance more polite or tactful.
1. I wanted to discuss my proposal with you, madam.
2. I wondered if I could discuss my proposal with you, sir.
3. I thought of discussing my proposal with you, sir.
4. I hoped to discuss my proposal with you, sir.
Other Uses of the Simple Past Form
- After the conditional if to indicate tentativeness (hypothetical)
e.g. If I were the Prime Minister, I would provide free education at all levels.
- After it's time, would rather, wish
e.g. It's 10 o'clock---it's time you went to bed.
- In reported speech
e.g. I asked you what the time was.
The present perfect
The present perfect (has/have + Verb in the past particle form) refers to actions in the past which have no definite time reference. The present perfect in English is used in the following three situations:
- The present perfect tense is often used to talk about past actions and events which are completely finished. However, instead of the simple past, the present perfect is used if the action has current relevance, that is, it is related to the speaker's experience. In this case even though the actions took place in the past, they are 'still with the speaker, as part of his/her experience and knowledge.' This use of the present perfect is therefore also called the experiential use of the present perfect. This is called indifinite past.
e.g. I have seen the Taj Mahal
(meaning: I know the Taj Mahal. It is still fresh in my memory.)
(contrast: I saw the Taj Mahal two years ago.)
- To indicate an action/situation which began in the past and which has continued up to the present moment, i.e. the moment when we are speaking, the present perfect tense is used.
e.g. I have lived in Hyderabad for 10 years
(meaning: I started living in Hyderabad 10 years ago and I may still be living in Hyderabad).
If you wish to state that you still continue to live in Hyderabad you should say, ' I have been living in Hyderabad'.
This use of the present perfect is also known as its linking use as it links the past with the present.
- The present perfect is also used to refer to past actions/events whose results are seen in the present, i.e. when there is evidence in the present for some action/event that happened in the past. Hence, it is also called the evidential use of the present perfect. This is called resultative past.
e.g. It has rained! (evidence-Look! The ground is wet.)
The following examples make the difference clear:
- I saw the film Gandhi last March (Here the speaker is calling attention to the action of seeing and to the time when it happened)
- I have seen the film Gandhi. (Here the speaker is not saying when he saw the film. He is calling attention to the fact that he is now a person with personal experience of the film or someone who can tell us about it.)
- I cut my finger when I was sharpening the pencil. (Nothing is said about any result now).
- I have cut my finger (and it is bleeding now).
The simple past is often used with adverbs of past time (e.g. yesterday, two months ago, in June, in 1965, during the war).
Sometimes it is also used to refer to present time or future time actions.
e.g., 1 " Sir ,may I come in. I wanted to talk to you."
2 " If you left for Delhi tomorrow,when would you return?"
The present perfect is never used with adverbs of past time. You should not say, for example, 'She has gone to Hyderabad yesterday'. Say either 'She went to Hyderabad yesterday', if you are interested in the action and in the time when it happened, or 'She has gone to Hyderabad', if you wish to convey the idea that she is not in the town now.
The present perfect can be used with adverbs of present time (e.g. today, this morning, this week, this month).
Ex. I have seen Raju this week.
The present perfect is also used with just, recently, yet, already, never, ever, often, so far, etc.
Ex. They have just gone.
Ex. Has Anirudh left yet ?
Read the following sentences .Complete the conversations with the appropriate forms of the verbs. Then say why you chose simple past/present perfect forms.
1. "Is your brother in?"
"No, he isn't. He __________________(go) to Chennai."
"When he ________________________(go) to Chennai?"
2. "I (lose) my pencil. You ________________________(see) it anywhere?"
"No, I________when you last _________(use) the pencil?"
"I ________________________(use) it when I was in the class."
"Perhaps you ________________________(leave) it in the class."
3. A: Madhu ________________________( not arrive) yet ?
B: No, he ________________________
C: But he ________________________(arrive) already!
B: You ________________________(talk) to him?
C: No, I ____________I merely _______________(see) him.
B: That cannot be Madhu. He may be somebody else.
C: just ______(meet) his brother. He ______(say) Madhu ______(not arrive) yet.
4. A: You _______________(call) me, mother?
B: Yes, I_______________. You _______________(see) my diary today? I _______________(put) it on the table last night. I _______________(look) all over the house for it. But I not _______________(find) it anywhere.
A: I _______________(see) it on the table this morning, if I remember right. May be father _______________(take) it with him by mistake.
5. "Do you know Mrs.Geetha ?"
"Yes, I do. I _______________(know) her for nearly four years. It ______________(be) at a High School that I first _______________(see) her in 2009. I ___________(work) with her for several years. Recently we _______________(meet) at the wedding of a mutual friend of us."
II . Punctuation: hyphen (-) and dash (---)
Look at the following sentence paying attention to the use of hyphen and dash.
1. The other little fellow was smaller, but also sturdy - he was white, with hazel eyes and light-brown hair.
2. 'He was definitely a little Jamaican - a strong little Jamaican.'
As you know, a dash is longer than a hyphen. It is almost double the size of a hyphen.
It is used to give additional information, to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought .
In the above sentence 1, the dash is used to give important additional information about the white boy. Dashes are used to give very important additional information. They are also used to emphasise certain aspects of what was said earlier. For example, in the sentence 2, 'He was definitely a little Jamaican - a strong little Jamaican.', the phrase after the dash emphasizes what was said about the Jamaican by adding another dimension 'strength' and by repeating the phrase 'a little Jamaican'. This can also be said without using the dash like this: 'He was definitely a strong little Jamaican', but the expression with the dash is more effective since the dash breaks the thought of the reader and then draws his/her attention to the phrase that follows it.
From the story, pick out 5 sentences with a dash or a set of commas. Discuss the function of the dash /set of commas in each of them. In each case, substitute commas with dash or the other way round to observe the change in meaning.