The Use of the Present Perfect Sometimes, I got really confused by the use of the Present Perfect tense. Given the fact, that we don't have this structure in Russian, all we can is to base our knowledge on grammar rules. The rules are quite simple: experience ( I have been to London twice, unfinished actions (I have lived in Moscow since I was born) and close connection to the present situation: I have just cooked dinner. However, when it comes to simple questions, all that grammar is not so obvious. For example, if I am not sure and want to re-ask, could I say something like HAVE YOU MEANT? or is it DID YOU MEAN? and another case: I've sent you the letter and I sent you the letter. Does the first mean that I have just done it and the second that it was some time ago? Dear native-speakers, how do you use it? Thanks in advance!
Feb 4, 2016 10:22 AM
Answers · 11
Yes, I know it is difficult. Just remember that when a specific time in the past is stated or implied, then simple past tense is better. "I have sent you a letter". (No time specified). In this case, both "did you receive it?" and "have you received it?" would be all right, since the implication of past time is rather dependent on the beholder.
February 4, 2016
As Randy has said, simple past needs a certain time in the past, along with the verb. Without a time, the past simple verb is incomplete. When we use present perfect, we are using a past action to describe the present. It is not possible to do this with simple past, because the past is the past. For your example situation, we say "What do you mean?" We can only use past tense in the phrase, "What did you mean when you said...?" or "What did you mean by ____?" Both cases mean we are looking back at a comment or speech on the past, and not at a present discussion.
February 4, 2016
I'm not sure of the rule you are referring to, but the in the examples you gave, both would be considered correct. "Did you mean" is much more commonly used. "I've sent you a letter" feels a little more formal, but both are correct.
February 4, 2016
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