How to use the simple past and the present perfect tenses correctly

The simple past and the present perfect tenses are used to talk about finished actions in the past. However, there is an important difference between them. The present perfect tense cannot be used with a time expression referring to the past. If there is a past time expression, you have to use the simple past.


  • I saw him yesterday. (NOT I have seen him yesterday.)
  • I have seen him.
  • She has acted in two films. (No time reference)
  • She acted in two films in 2014. (NOT She has acted in two films in 2014. You can’t use the present perfect with a past time expression.)
  • They have returned from the US.
  • They returned from the US yesterday.
  • I have seen that movie. (No time expression)
  • I saw that movie the day it was released.

Note that the present perfect tense can be used with expressions like ever, never, before, just, yet and already.

Related posts:

  1. Past tenses with present meaning
  2. How to use tenses correctly in your IELTS essays and letters?
  3. Passive verb forms
  4. Verbs not used in the passive
  5. If-clauses
  6. Common mistakes in the use of if-clauses
  7. Rather than and would rather
  8. Must and have to : differences
  9. IELTS Essay: Kids today are not as fit as they were in the past
  10. Is it Appropriate to Use Slang Words in Academic Writing?

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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