Today we’re going to look at past simple, and how it compares to present perfect. The present perfect has several different uses, so we’re just going to look at one. These two tenses are often confused, so we’re going to use two great songs to help us and make it more interesting!
Firstly, let’s look at past simple. We use this for actions that happened in the past, in a finished period of time, such as yesterday, last year, 2002. Here is Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘My Way’. Almost all of it is in the past simple. Just listen to the lyrics, look up any words you don’t know.
Let’s look at a few of the lyrics in past simple –
‘I did it my way’.
‘I planned each chartered course’.
‘I bit off more than I could chew’.
Why does Sinatra use past simple? We assume from the song that the singer is looking back at his life, which is almost over, he can’t live it the same way that he was. His life is at an end.
Now, let’s look at present perfect. One of it’s uses is for experiences that happened in a time that isn’t finished yet, like today, this week, this year. This time, listen to U2’s song, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. Almost all of it is in the present perfect.
Check out some of the lyrics –
‘I have climbed the highest mountains’.
‘I have run’.
‘I have scaled these city walls’.
Why do U2 use the present perfect? Bono is telling us about experiences in his life which is not over yet. And the clue is in the name of the song – he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He’s still searching, he hasn’t finished.
Let’s look at this another way.
‘I have been to Singapore’. I use present perfect to talk about an experience in my life. I can also say, ‘I went to Singapore’, but then we focus more on the past, not the experience.
Can we say Michael Jackson has been to Singapore?
Because, sadly, his life is over, that time period has finished. Instead we say, ‘Michael Jackson went to Singapore’.