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present perfect tense, simple past tense

     
     

Question

: MY son is a Year Five student in a Chinese school. In his test recently, he was asked to construct a sentence by using the words given - "swim" and "blue sea " - and referring to a picture provided (of a boy swimming in the sea).

He wrote the answer as "He went to swim in the blue sea." He was marked wrong by the teacher. The reason given was, in a past tense sentence, the time must be stated at the end of the sentence, i.e. "He went to swim in the blue sea YESTERDAY."

Why? Isn't my son's answer already sensible and grammatically right?

The teacher said if the time was not stated at the end of a past tense sentence, it would become a perfect tense sentence. What is this? Does it mean sentences like "1 bought a car", "He ate a piece of cake", "They played in the playground" are all wrong?

 

   

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( English teacher )

  There is nothing wrong with your son's sentence, which is written in the simple past tense. The teacher must have misunderstood the difference between the present perfect tense and the simple past tense, and assumed that all sentences in the simple past tense must state the time of an action.

Let me summarize the differences between these two tenses:

1. The present perfect tense is used to convey the meaning that something happened at an unstated time in the past, and the time when it happened is not important, e.g. "I have seen the film." (What is important here is the fact that I have seen the film, NOT when I saw it.)

2. But that does NOT mean that every sentence that does not state the time of an action must be written in the present perfect tense, e.g. "I saw the film with my mother." NOT "I have seen the film with my mother."

The sentences in the simple past tense you mentioned are correct if they are put in these correct contexts, e.g. "I bought a car with the money my father gave me.", "He ate a piece of cake because he was hungry. ", "They played in the playground in front of their house." None of these state the time of the action.

3. However, every sentence that states the time of a past action must be written in the simple past tense, and not the present perfect tense, e.g. "I saw the film yesterday." NOT "I have seen the film yesterday."

     
 
 
 

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