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grammThe Past Simple Tense

The past simple tense is used to describe or talk about actions that are completed, i.e. finished time. Therefore, in most cases a time reference is given to indicate at what period the action or event was completed. Have a look at the following examples:

I finished writing the report yesterday.

Mr Wong placed an order for 200 units last week.

The meeting ended at 2 pm this afternoon.

At the last board meeting we decided to upgrade all our facilities.

The first issue of the magazine came out 10 months ago.

Forming the past simple structure depends on whether the verb in the present form is either ‘regular’ or ‘irregular’

For regular verbs, the past simple is formed by adding ‘d’ or ‘ed’ or ‘ied’ to the end of the verb.

For example:              

visit – visited

study – studied

place – placed

For irregular verbs, there is no uniformity in structure.

For example:              

taken – took

come – came

go – went

The Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is formed by using the auxiliary verb ‘have’ and the past participle:

I/You/We/They have taken/have not (haven’t) shown an interest in the new product range.

He/She/It has taken/has not (hasn’t) shown an interest in the new product range.

In business writing, the present perfect is used for a number of common reasons.

1   To talk about general experience. Commonly use words ever and never.

We have never received any complaints about the quality of our work.

Have you ever checked the regulations on application for study leave?

The department has been contacted three times, and we are waiting for their reply.

To describe actions and events which began in the past and havcontinued up to now. Commonly used words are for and since.

I have been a civil servant for 5 years.

Since the development of the computer, communication between departments has become a lot faster.

To describe actions or events that happened at an unspecified time in the past. Therefore, we do not use specific time expressions such as last week, yesterday etc. The time is not important. If it were, the past simple would be used.

I have organised a survey to find out the general public’s opinion of our service.

I have given your report to the M.D.

We have spent a lot on modernising the premises, and now they look well equipped.

4   To describe a recent action which may or may not have finished.

I have checked the files and have found nothing.

We have investigated the matter and have come up with the following recommendations:

5   To describe an action that takes place during a period of time that is not yet finished.

This month, we have received a number of requests for management skills training .

(This month is not finished, and there may be more orders)

In the last few weeks, we have seen an increase in absenteeism

(The period of time covers the past up to now and is unfinished. The increase in absenteeism may continue)


What is the difference between:

  1. We have submitted the report to the relevant parties.
  2. We submitted the report to the relevant parties yesterday.

The actions are the same, yet in (1) there is no time expression even though the action has occurred before now – the time is unspecified and may not be known. In (2), the past simple is used and clearly a time reference is provided to indicate specifically when the action occurred.