2. Last weekend I went to a concert.
Which of these sentences is correct?
The present perfect and past simple are famous for confusing people. However, if you chose number 2, you’re on the right track!
This post will focus only on one usage of the present perfect and past simple – using them to talk about past events with a ‚finished time‘ word or phrase, or with an ‚unfinished time‘ word or phrase.
When talking about a finished event in the past, especially when using a phrase which defines a finished time period (e.g. last weekend), we use the past simple. However, we use the present perfect with phrases such as today, this week, this year, etc. – these indicate an unfinished period of time.
Past simple – past events with finished time words
I finished my work at 2pm.
I went to Spain last year.
I knew her when I was young.
Last week, I didn’t have to work.
I didn’t eat breakfast this morning. (now it’s afternoon)
Present perfect – past events with unfinished time words
I‘ve finished my work for today. (today is unfinished)
I haven’t eaten breakfast this morning. (it’s still morning)
I have done all my shopping for this week.
I‘ve been to Spain this year.
Present perfect and past simple – form
The past simple:
positive: Subject + infinitive verb + -ed ending for regular verbs
negative: Subject + did + not + infinitive verb
question: Did + subject + infinitive verb
I liked to swim when I was young.
She didn’t know about the party.
Did you go on holiday last summer?
The past simple is formed by adding -ed to the infinitive form of regular verb; however, there are some spelling rules to follow (see below). For irregular verbs, you must simply memorize them.
Spelling rules for regular verbs in the past simple:
- if a verb ends in -e, add -d (like – liked; encourage – encouraged)
- if a verb ends in a consonant, we usually double the consonant and add -ed (plan – planned; skip – skipped)
- if a verb ends in a consonant and -y, change the -y to -ied (try – tried; hurry – hurried)
- if a verb ends in a vowel and -y, keep the -y and add -ed (play – played; destroy – destroyed)
The present perfect:
positive: Subject + have/has + past participle
negative: Subject + have/has + not + past participle
question: Have/has + subject + past participle
I have eaten breakfast.
She hasn’t seen the movie.
Have you seen Rob today?
For regular verbs, the past participle is the same as the regular past simple verb ending in -ed. You must memorize the irregular verbs.