Difference Between Simple Past and Present Perfect

Main Difference – Simple Past vs. Present Perfect

Simple Past and Present Perfect are two tenses that confuse many English learners. The main difference between simple past and present perfect is, simple past is used to state that something happened in the past whereas present perfect is used to emphasize the result of a past action.

What is Simple Past

The simple past tense is used to talk about an action that happened in the past.  The sentences that use the simple past tense gives old information, i.e. things that happened some time ago. The simple past tense is always used to talk about a completed action. It describes an action that started and ended in the past. The simple past can be used to indicate a series of past events as well. Given below are some sentences that are written in the simple past tense.

He went to Australia last year.

I bought three novels yesterday.

He went home, talked to his mother and returned to the office.

She read that book when she was in the sixth grade.

My mother’s birthday was on last week.

We sold our Malibu house in 2009.

If you look at the above sentences carefully, you’ll notice that each of these sentences indicate a specific time. This is a special feature of the simple past tense.Main Difference - Simple Past vs Present Perfect

What is Present Perfect

The Present Perfect tense indicates a link between the present and the past. The present perfect tense is formed with the present tense form of “to have” plus the past participle of the verb. For example,

I +have+ seen…


We use the present perfect when we want to emphasize the result of a past action and here, the time period is not specific. The present perfect can be used to describe and an action or situation that started in the past and continues to the present, an action performed during a period that has not yet finished, and a repeated action in an unspecified period between the past and now. It can also describe an action that was completed in the very recent past. The specific time is not given much importance in this sentence. Given below are some examples of the present perfect tense.

We have already met.

Peter has broken his arm, so he can’t go to school this week.

The old lady has called me three times this week.

She has lived in Mexico for five years.

I have already seen this movie four times.

He has just finished work.Difference Between Simple Past and Present Perfect

Difference Between Simple Past and Present Perfect


Simple past is used when we simply want to say that something happened in the past.

Present perfect is used when we want to emphasize the result of a past action.


Simple past is used with finished actions.

Present perfect is used with unfinished actions that started in the past and continue to the present.

Result of the Action

Simple past is used with a finished action with no result in the present.

Present Perfect is used with a finished action with a result in the present.


Simple past describes older information.

Present perfect describes more recent news and information.

Specific Time

Simple past is used with a time expression that denotes a specific time period.

Present perfect is when the time is not clear.

Time Period

Simple past is used when the time period is finished.

Present perfect is used when the time period is not finished.Difference Between Simple Past and Present Perfect - infographic

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