to give new information, to announce a recent event
The US space shuttle Atlantis has returned safely to earth.
to give details about some recent event announced in the previous sentence
The US space shuttle Atlantis has returned safely to earth. It landed in Florida this morning.
to speak about someone's life experience
I have seen Madonna.I have been to Africa twice.
to speak about people who are dead
I saw Sinatra.My Dad travelled a lot and he was in Africa.
to denote actions which have results in the present or connection with the present
The lift has broken down. (We have to use the stairs.)I have washed the car. (It looks lovely.)I have seen him in the library (I am still in the library. He may still be in the library too.)Have you ever fallen off a horse? - Yes. I've fallen off quite often.
to denote actions which do not have results in the present or connection with the present
The lift broke down. (It is working again.)I washed the car. (It is dirty again now.)I saw him in the library. (I am not in the library any more. / He is gone.)I fell off a horse quite often. (My riding days are over)
when the time of the action is not stated
I have read this book.
when the time of the action is stated
I read the book last year.
when we report that someone has recently invented, produced, discovered or written something
Scientists have discovered that all over the world millions of frogs and toads are dying.
when we talk about something that was invented, etc. in the more distant past
It is often said that Hernan Cortes “discovered” Mexico in 1519.
with justHe has just gone.
with just nowHe was here just now.
when the time of the action is indicated by an adverbial modifier of time denoting a period which is not yet over
I have drunk four cups of coffee today.Has the postman come this morning? (asked between 8.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m.) Note: this morning = till 1 o'clock
this afternoon = till 5 o'clock
when the period is over or the reference is made to a particular past point of time within that period
I wasn't very well in the morning, but I am perfectly all right now.Did the postman come this morning? (asked after 1 o'clock)
Note 1: The Past Simple is used with ever and never for emotional colouring.
· Did you ever hear anything like that?
· I never heard such nonsense!
Note 2: The Past Simple is used if reference is made to happenings which are definite in the mind of the speaker, i.e. either because the situation has already been mentioned or because the situation is known to the hearer.
· Did you sleep well?
· Did you enjoy the book?
· What did you say?
· I didn't understand (hear) your questions.
· Did you see the accident?
Note 3: The Past Simple is always used with «when» and «where», as for other special questions both forms may be used depending on the meaning to be conveyed, though the Past Simple is more common.
· When did you buy this book?
· Where did you buy this hat? (The place implies the time)
· Where have I put the hat? (Where is it now?)
Note 4: We use the past simple to correct an incorrect belief or expectation, or to confirm a correct one.
· She is just as beautiful as I imagined.
· The area is far more rugged and wild than I expected.
Note 5: We normally use the Present Perfect when we are thinking about past events together with their present results. However, we prefer a past tense when we identify the person, thing or circumstances responsible for a present situation (because we are thinking about the past cause, not the present result). Compare:
· Look what John’s given me! (thinking about the gift)
· Who gave you that? (thinking about the past action of giving)
· Why are you crying? – Granny hit me.
· I am glad you were born.
· How did you get that bruise?
· That’s a nice picture. Did you paint it yourself?
Note 6: Mind the difference:
· She has gone to Spain. = She is there now or on her way there.
· She has been to Spain. = She has come back from Spain.
· She has been in Spain for two weeks. = She is still in Spain.