Today - present perfect or simple past?

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by kan3malato, May 30, 2006.

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  1. kan3malato

    kan3malato Senior Member

    HI!! all
    E' qualche tempo che trovo delle frasi qui nel forum o direttamente parlando con dei nativi che mi confondono.
    Dove viene usato il simple past al posto del present perfect quando si usa"today"(ma è uguale sia per this week,this morning this year etc etc..)
    I know present perfect sometimes is not so clear…
    For example English people use P.P. in different way than American people.
    Anyway my book (English Grammar in Use)says about present perfect in this particular case(there are a lot of rules I know..).

    We use the present perfect with today/this morning/this evening/this week/this year etc. etc.
    The most important thing to remember about the present perfect is that it can never be used with adverbs which describe finished time periods, such as yesterday, five minutes ago and at three o'clock. If a time adverb is used with the present perfect, it should describe a time period which is unfinished. Example include today and this week.
    This is now, It's a my attempt:

    Now for example it is evening...
    Me:How many cigarettes did you smoke in the morning?
    You say: 4
    Me:How many cigarettes did you smoke in the afternoon?
    You: 5
    But if I say s....
    How many cigarettes have you smoked today?
    (the time is not finished you smoked 4 in the morning,5 in the afternoon BUT The DAY IS NOT FINISHED UNTIL NEX 24.00(Midnight) so that you could smoke some other cigarettes......

    But recently I discovered on the forum some interesting things..
    “ what did you do today ?” and “what have you done today? (I know now that are correct both.)
    A girls Days ago told me ”I always said to my son or to my hubby( when they come back from school or work)“ what did you do today?”.
    Now I think that, time is not finished yet(it’s always “today”) but perhaps in her mind she means works and school like times finished.(forse, visto che la scuola o il lavoro sono terminati sono sottintesi come “tempi finiti”).

    A girl of the forum 2 days ago' told me"“today my husband made a lovely cake with my daughter” Perhaps her sentence(on past simple) meant
    (it’s like that one above…)Her hubby could not make other cakes because he had to make other things or He went out and so on…
    Infact this afternoon I have found(now is evening) this one:
    Also use the past simple, even with an adverb of unfinished time, if the action can no longer happen:
    I went to the shops today. (But the shops are now closed...)

    In sostanza può essere che si usi il simple past al posto del present perfect
    inquanto il tempo è considerato finito (da parte di chi parla) o perchè così si può anche sottolineare che un'azione non può essere ripetuta nuovamente nell'arco della giornata?( come l'esempio del marito che aveva fatto la torta...)

    E' stata dura..:( spero che qualcuno abbia il tempo e la voglia di prestarci attenzione,e soprattutto che ci capisca qualcosa....Ma non sono riuscito ad essere più sintetico...

    Se qualcuno mi correggesse le parti in Inglese.....:eek:
  2. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Present perfect is a much-disused tense in vernacular AE, and there is a widening gap between spoken and written forms as a result-- even informal writing.

    The cause of this substitution of simple past for present perfect (and other tenses, including, alas, the subjunctive) is our tendency to speak in contractions.

    While "I've looked all over for you-- where were you?" is an obvious use of the present perfect on paper, this is not the case with the same sentence as heard by a listener, especially a learner of English. We not only elide the vowel, we give so little emphasis to the v (or the d in "had"), that it is hardly audible.

    The problem worsens when native speakers of English who are not formally educated in grammar try to write something-- they transpose what they hear when they use spoken language. Result?

    "I looked all over for you-- where were you?"

    "If I looked for it in the right place, I'da found it."

    Examples of this phenomenon are manifold-- especially in AE, and moreso in young people than old. People in my generation read a lot, we couldn't just go out and rent the DVD.

    We live in yet another time of great upheaval for English-- I'm not lamenting this, just describing. Rapid change seems to be an inherent feature of the language.
  3. kan3malato

    kan3malato Senior Member

    Thanks fox for your Ansawered...
    I think You was at Woodstock concert in the 1969:D
    But I nedd that someone ansawer my question above...Peraphs my post It's too long..:( and not even so clear...:eek:
    Ok I'll try in this another way.
    Is there difference of meaning between?:
    "Today my husband made a lovely cake with my daughter”(simple past)
    "Today my husband has made a lovely cake with my daughter"(present perfect)
  4. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY
    Normally, you would only use the first (simple past). If for some reason your husband is going to continue making cakes, then you could use the present perfect.

    "So far, my husband has made two cakes today and he's working on a third."

    Remember, it's not just that the time period hasn't finished -- it's that the action will or may continue.

    "Today I took the subway to work." (Simple past - I'm not coming to work again today, that's something you only do once).

    "Today I've taken the subway 4 times." (And I may take it again, and again).

    I hope this helps; I'm a bit confused as to the thrust of your query.
  5. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    English - England
    Yes, there is. To me, the simple past is about the past, and the present perfect is about the present, and particularly the resonance of the past on the present.

    Your first example is a statement about what happened in the past.
    The implication of your second example is: 'and here it is', or 'so now he knows how to make cakes', or 'so now my husband and daughter are closer to one another', etc. In a real life scenario, the speaker will have clear in her mind which of these she means, and in a real sentence she will most likely make it a lot clearer which one she means.

    I think there is quite a bit of difference between British and American English in this area.
  6. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Yes, the first question is correct. The second doesn't sound like idiomatic English to me.

    I'm not sure why-- I think it's the time marker, today.

    "We went to the party today-- my husband made a lovely cake for the occasion."

    "We're going to the party today-- my husband has made a lovely cake for the occasion."

    You can't interchange the second clauses-- but the simple past "my husband made" works for both examples.

    Why does the present perfect work in the second example? I'm not sure I can derive a "rule," but since "we're going" indicates futurity, the making of the cake is a prior action in that context. So a perfect tense sounds right, just as the past-perfect is needed for an action prior to a verb in the simple past.

    "We're going to the party today-- my husband made a lovely cake for the occasion." Is correct, it's a compound statement about two events, and they are connected by adverbial and prepositional-phrase time indicators. These do the work of conjugation in English, making a certain vagueness of tense in the actual verbs possible.

    "We're going to the party today-- my husband has made a lovely cake for the occasion" is more complex than the compound statement. The other time markers are congruent with the shift in tenses which denotes prior action and implies causality.

    I can't resist noting, a bit facetiously, the slight ambiguity in the phrase "with my daughter." Was she an ingredient in the cake?
  7. coppergirl

    coppergirl Senior Member

    London, England
    Ciao a tutti!

    Sono d'accordo con Elaine---it all depends on whether you intend to continue the action or not.

    If it is at the end of the day, you might say "Today I had a great day---I won the lottery!". It is over and it happened only once during the day.

    If you are in the middle of the day and the action might continue further, you could say, "Today I have been knitting a sweater". This means that I might continue to knit the sweater throughout the rest of the day--- maybe I will, maybe I won't, but it suggests the possibility of the action continuing throughout the day.

    I think it is really a question of what you want to suggest with regard to the possible continuation of the action that determines the tense used here.

    Just my two cents, though!
  8. kan3malato

    kan3malato Senior Member

  9. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I think se16teddy has the answer. The present perfect is about the resonance of the past on the present. I think British and American English are in agreement on this.

    What the resonance is depends on the context and what the speaker wants to say.

    Reading your sentences about the cake in Post #3, I don't see anything to suggest the cake making will or won't continue. Neither past nor present perfect says whether the action will be repeated. The sentence with present perfect suggests to me that the cake is still available to be eaten. In the same way this sentence:

    We went to the party today-- my husband has made a lovely cake for the occasion.

    sounds as if the husband perhaps has Alzheimer's and we now have a cake that he made for the party after we attended the party. Or perhaps the party is still going on and we now have a cake to contribute. As se16teddy has said, the present perfect is about the present.

    The tense I choose reflects what I am thinking. If I'm thinking something like "Was the shoe store still closed for remodeling?" or "Did you buy the thing I wanted?", I might ask "Did you go to the shops today?". If instead I'm thinking "There is a spectacle going on at the shops this week that I expect you would like to see" or "Would you like to go to the shops now?", then I would ask instead "Have you been to the shops today?". Of all these sentences, thought or spoken, only "Would you like to go to the shops now?" assumes anything about whether the shops are still open now.
  10. Mary13881 Member

    Ciao a tutti!!
    Volevo sapere ma se voglio scrivere una lettera ad una mia amica per raccontargli delle mie vacanze (appena finite) devo usare il past simple o il present perfect?
    Grazie mille!!
  11. MünchnerFax

    MünchnerFax Senior Member

    Italian, Italy
    Il past simple. ;)
    Ma poi non si può dare una risposta precisa. È come chiedere "ma in italiano devo usare il passato prossimo o l'imperfetto?". Come si fa a rispondere? Dipende dalla frase e da quello che stai dicendo! :)
  12. Mary13881 Member

    Tipo : Ho visitato molti posti....Andavamo ogni sera in discoteca...
    Lo so che è strano ma io forse userei il past simple perchè è tempo determinato.Poi non saprei. :(
  13. Caroline35 Senior Member

    Re: Today-present perfect or past simple
    Even Though English is one of the most illogical languages, nevertheless there are rules to follow. According to my knowledge, if you are talking about your past holiday, you are supposed to use the past simple if you use a past time adverbe.
    "Last summer I went to Australia for my holiday"
    "I've enjoyed my holiday in Australia."
  14. mbs-banned Banned

    Italian - Brit English (bilingual)
    Besides being - to my mind - one of the most logical, rational and 'orderly' languages in the world ( the way, it is so 'rational' that it doesn't accept 'even though' and 'nevertheless' in the same sentence... just like in Italian. Either one or the other, please. ;) ), I wish to point out that 'linguistic rationality' is not a concept you can biasedly define (nor can you impose it) based on your exclusive viewpoint.

    Just because - as an Italian native speaker - you believe 'rationality' pertains primarily to your own language (or to the language it is derived from), that doesn't necessarily make English less 'rational' than it actually is. Languages define and classify our shared reality in different ways, period.
    What seems perfectly rational to a Latvian speaker may sound totally irrational to a Tagalog speaker.

    I would definitely advise against teaching students that English is 'irrational'.
    English is 'rational'..... the problem is the way it's taught in Italian schools....the old-fashioned, 'descriptive' method (e.g. 'past time adverb'...: I don't like teaching this, they should focus on time / time span (functional grammar) rather than on grammatical descriptions...).

    - 'Adverbe' ??
    - with Today: Present Perfect, Present Perfect Continuous, and Present Continuous.
    Past Simple = ok, but only in American / International English. In an 'ESOL Cambridge' official exam, it's generally classified as a mistake if you don't say 'when exactly' you did that thing 'today'.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011
  15. italtrav

    italtrav Senior Member

    I'd just add what seems to me to be a mild clarification. In "today my husband has made a cake," what is continuing is the day, not necessarily the cake-making. Successive sentences might add that "Sue has made some BBQ and Sam has boiled a ham. Grace has made a bouillabaisse stew." All these things have happened thus far, but more is expected, e.g., "In the evening we will have a party."

    In the cartolina question: the most straightforward form is to use the simple past—"We went to the beach and then we went surfing. We saw dolphins leaping from the water."

    If, instead, you say "We have gone to the beach and we have gone surfing. We have seen dolphins leaping from the water," the sense is that these are things that you have done up to this point, but that as the vacation continues, other things will happen. Perhaps there is a useful rule of thumb that "If you can preface your sentences with "Up to this point [or any specified point]," then you can use the present perfect (possibly that would need more refinement).

    "I was ill." Without further info, we would conclude that the illness has passed.

    "I have been ill." The illness was an ongoing situation that may or may not yet have passed. Recently, and up to some point that may extend even to the present moment, I was (and possibly continue to be) ill.
  16. Caroline35 Senior Member

    My dear, if you state that English is a rational and logical language, you're kidding yourself. It's for this reason that non English-speaking people find it very hard to learn this beautiful language. It''s a must for a non native English teacher to live for a long periode of time abroad( in an Englis-speaking country) I did it for a few decades. So don't tell me that English is logic and don't tell me that my attitude it's wrong when I say so. I've a long experience of teaching and I would say with success. So please,don't patronize me.
    Have a nice day
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