Read - simple past vs present perfect

Discussion in 'English Only' started by TomasD, Apr 17, 2017.

  1. TomasD Senior Member

    Croatia-Croatian
    Hello Forumites!

    I have tried to find an answer online, but information is often contradictory and sometimes nonsensical.

    1. Did you read that book?
    2. Have you read that book?
    (Context: I am just asking a guy if he read some book)

    My understanding is that:
    i) Either can be said and will be used correctly, but the tense choice depends on the mind of the speaker. Eg
    "did you read" (simple past) signals that the speaker means a single point in the past, which is disassociated from the present in the speaker's mind.
    "have you read" signals that the speaker means during a certain period in the past that extends to the present

    ii) Br English speakers will most likely use the present perfect, but American speakers might use the simple past.

    Correct?
     
  2. BLUEGLAZE

    BLUEGLAZE Senior Member

    English - USA
    I would generally use the present perfect also. (AE)
    At any time in your life have you read...
    When you were in school, did you read...
     
  3. Retired-teacher Senior Member

    British English
    "Did you read that book" is more time associated. You could say "Did you read that book yesterday".

    "Have you read that book" means at any time in the past.
     
  4. I agree with the other posters. No major differences between AE-BE usage here.
     
  5. TomasD Senior Member

    Croatia-Croatian
    Thank you, everyone. Would it be an error to say:
    "Did you read that book" without any time frame indicated? That can't be true . . . or can it?
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  6. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    You could ask something like "Did you read that book I told you about?" where it refers to an unspecified time in the past, yes. :)
     
  7. Retired-teacher Senior Member

    British English
    I suggest that Donny's example also has the implication that the person is being asked whether they recently read the book that was specified.

    "Did you read that book I told you about?" can hardly expect the answer "Yes, about ten years ago".
     
  8. Linkway Senior Member

    British English
    If the question is simply asking whether someone has read a certain book or not, the preferred form would usually be: "Have you".

    Have you ever read War and Peace? Yes, I have. OR: No, I haven't.

    But if there is an explicit or implied recent time involved, the preferred form is more likely to be: "Did you".

    Did you read that book I gave you last week? (The question is whether the other person read the book since being given it last week.)

    Yes, I did.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~

    If it's still not clear, imagine two students walking through a library and they notice a certain book lying on a table:

    Have you read that book? (ie Have you ever, at any time, read that book?)

    Yes, I have.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    Tom, have you been to Germany? (ie at any time in your life.)

    Tom, did you go to Germany? (eg Tom told me last time we met that he was planning a trip to Germany, but I don't know whether he actually went or not. Note that I may know that Tom has been to Germany several times before, but I'm asking about this specific occasion.)


    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    Importantly, if you insert the word "ever", I don't think you can rely on any difference of meaning.

    Have you ever been to France?

    Did you ever go to France?

     
  9. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    Can these examples also be used with the present perfect?

    Have you read that book I gave you last week?
    Have you read that book I told you about?"
     
  10. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Those do both work with the perfect tense, but to me they carry a slight suggestion of "Have you read it yet?" almost as if you've been expecting the person to read it.
     
  11. lollo123 Member

    GERMAN
    when I watched a film a few hours or weeks without saying this should I use the simple past or present perfect ?
    I watched a film ???
    I don^t understand the use of this two times ...................................................................................................................................................i hope i will check it some day
     
  12. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    Thank you.:)
     
  13. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    You would have to be a person of very few words to make such a bald statement. I can't imagine any situation where I would say "I have seen a film" or
    "I saw a film", unless I'm answering a question (e.g. What did you do last night? - I saw a film).

    If I am opening the conversation, I may say "I've just seen a great film" or "I saw a great film last night/ a couple of days ago".

    Your context really only calls for the present perfect if you've just seen the film.
     
  14. lollo123 Member

    GERMAN
    thank you:thumbsup:
     
  15. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    Did you read that book I gave you last week?
    Did you read that book I told you about?

    And when it's past simple, I'm just asking casually not expecting the person to read it?
     
  16. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    To me, it's more of an open question: you might or might not have read it.

    Other people might interpret it quite differently, of course.:)
     
  17. Retired-teacher Senior Member

    British English
    It depends on the nature of the relationship between the two people involved. If a university lecturer said it to a student then they would be expecting them to say "yes" or "sorry, not yet".
     
  18. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    Thank you, both.
    Are you talking about "Did you read that book I gave you last week?" and "Did you read that book I told you about?" here?
     
  19. Retired-teacher Senior Member

    British English
    Either of them. I was replying to post #16 pointing out that the question is not necessarily open or neutral.
     
  20. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    I meant, was your reply in 17 about the past simple or present perfect sentence?
     
  21. Phoebe1200

    Phoebe1200 Senior Member

    Russian-Russia
    Could you please clarify if you're talking about past simple or present perfect here?:)
     
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