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Thread: British English: Use of the Present Perfect

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    British English: Use of the Present Perfect

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    I thought you might find this interesting. You probably know that the present perfect in English is used for actions that begin in the past but hold a clear connection the present (rather than actions in the simple past which begin and end with no connection the present) but did you know that it’s use could also vary by country?

    That’s right, even grammar is a matter of cultural difference. According to the rule just mentioned the present perfect should be necessary to talk about lifetime experiences with ‘ever/never’ (you are still alive, the possibility exists that you will do these things today= connection the present). In US English, it’s normal for speakers to substitute the simple past in this type of situation and in fact the present perfect is not that commonly used: ‘Did you ever see that movie?’ ‘Yes, I did.’

    Be aware, however, that in British English the rules around the present perfect are maintained and the exchange would become ‘Have you ever seen that movie’ ‘Yes, I have.’ A good rule of thumb with "Brit" English is to never use a simple past without a clear expression of time, such as ‘last week’ ‘on Tuesday’ ‘in 2003’ etc and to use the present perfect with trigger words that suggest a connection with the present: just, yet, never, already, ever, so far, up to now, recently, since and for (with a length of time).
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    Yes, I hear people (in the United States) frequently use simple past instead of the present perfect when the latter would be more precise. For example, I hear my high school students, referring to a movie currently in theaters, asking others, 'Did you watch [sic] Current Dystopian Movie II yet?'

    By the way, the 'watch' vs. 'see' is something I hope to write about soon.
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