Past vs. Present Perfect

It is becoming more common to use the simple past tense instead of the present perfect tense, which is more correct.

Bad Examples: (Compliments of The Grammar Logs #477)
I never made a mistake in my life. (Howard Cosell)
I retired several times. (Fred Astaire)
They found 12 bodies so far. (CBC News)
We built several prisons already. (BBC News)

The simple past tense is used to describe an action or actions completed in the past, not something that started at some time in the past and is continuing to the present and perhaps beyond. For the latter, you need the present perfect tense, which is made up of has/have plus the past participle (–ed).

Thus, the word “have” was left out of all of those sentences above. Sometimes the contraction ‘ve is used, particularly when speaking.

Corrected Examples:
I’ve never made a mistake in my life.
I have retired several times.
They’ve found 12 bodies so far.
We have built several prisons already.

In all these cases, there is some assumption that the activity is still continuing or may continue.

It’s not simple past tense until it’s over. So don’t use past tense when present perfect is needed.

Just because it is becoming more common doesn’t make it right.
(BTW, that’s a great line to use with your kids when they claim “Everybody’s doing it.”)

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Profound Quotes of the Day:

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”

– Henry Ward Beecher, American clergyman and social reformer, 1813-1887
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