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Present Perfect v Past Simple: The Queen & her butler

Present Perfect v Past Simple grammar issues cause lots of problems for English students. Enjoy the video which has both present perfect and past simple examples. If you need help with the words, look at the transcript below. Then get deep into understanding the choice between the two tenses with the grammar explanations of each sentence.  

 

Transcript

  Q = Queen J = Jeeves   Q: Jeeves, have you polished my crown today? J: No, Madam. I'm afraid that I haven't had time to do that yet. Q: WHy not? Then please tell me what have you done this morning? J: Well, let me see. I got up at 5am and then the first thing I did was to iron your newspaper. Q: Good. J: Then at half past five I took your corgis for a walk. Then at 6 o'clock I took Prince Philip to the bathroom. Q: Quite right. J: From 8 until 10, I was cutting out pictures of Prince Harry from the newspapers... for the family album, of course. Q: Oooh. J: But then I discovered something in the palace. Q: Yes, yes. What was it? J: Well, Madam it is a rather delicate matter. I'm afraid to say that your beloved doggies have done their "toilet business" all over the royal throne. Q: Oh no! J: So, Madam, that is why I haven't cleaned your crown yet. And may I ask your Highness, what have you done this morning? Did you meet the Prime Minister? Q: No, Jeeves, no. I left the palace at quarter to eleven to go and open a supermarket... and I've just arrived back. J: Well, Madam, you have definitely had an extremely difficult morning. Q: Indeed, indeed.    

Present Perfect v Past Simple

 

WHY IS IT PRESENT PERFECT?

Jeeves, have you polished my crown today?
‘Today’ for the Queen is not finished... the time/today is still continuing, so in her opinion, ‘today’ is still NOW. So she is thinking about some point in the past AND all the time up until now (‘now’ is still part of ‘today’)
No, Madam. I’m afraid that I haven’t had time to do that yet.
yet is a keyword for the present perfect. He is thinking about the past and all the time continuing up until now. Have you finished reading this blog yet? No, I haven’t finished reading this blog yet. You started reading the blog a few minutes ago (the PAST) and you have continued reading it... up until now (the PRESENT). This is thinking about the past and the present at the same time. Think of yet as meaning ‘up until now’
Then please tell me what have you done this morning?
Same as 1. This morning is a time period that has not finished in the speaker’s opinion.. it is still continuing. It would be the same meaning if the Queen said, “What have you done IN ALL THE TIME OF THIS MORNING UP UNTIL THIS MOMENT NOW?”
...your beloved doggies have done their “toilet business” all over the royal throne.
Jeeves implies/means that the dog poo (or some of it) is still on the throne... he is in the middle of cleaning it/he has not finished the cleaning yet. It would be possible for the Queen to still see the evidence of the dogs’ action. There is a specific, visible result in the present because of a past action.
...that is why I haven’t cleaned your crown yet.
There is a result of a dirty, unpolished, uncleaned crown in the present. This is because of Jeeves NOT doing any cleaning of it throughout the whole morning. All the time of the morning, there wasn't any moment when he cleaned the crown and we can see the result now: an unclean, unpolished crown. Jeeves is thinking of all the time in the morning up to AND including NOW.
...and I’ve just arrived back.
'Just' often goes with the present perfect. It basically means 'a short time ago'. With this sentence she is saying, "I arrived a short time ago and Look! Here I am in front of you". A past action that has a clear result now in the present moment.
... you have definitely had an extremely difficult morning.
Jeeves is thinking about all the past time of the morning up to now. In his opinion the morning has not finished - it is still happening. Past & Present together = Present Perfect

   

WHY IS IT PAST SIMPLE?

I got up at 5am and then the first thing I did was to iron your newspaper.
Got up - finished action. He did it one time and it was completed/ended/finished. He did NOT continue to keep getting up lots of times. Plus he said the exact time in the past when it happened (5am). This time does not connect to the present time. He ironed the newspaper and then it was finished. It’s a completed action, that is not being repeated or having any effect on the present moment. Plus here, Jeeves is telling a story of past events, like a list of things. When you do this, you use the past simple.
Then at half past five I took your corgis for a walk. Then at 6 o’clock I took Prince Philip to the bathroom.
Exactly the same reasons as before. He says the exact times in the past and he is telling a story of past events
But then I discovered something in the palace.
He is continuing with his story/list of past events. Also, he discovered/found something (the dogs’ poo) once and then he did something about it: he implies/means that he started cleaning it. Again, it’s like he is telling a story of past events, but this time he doesn’t say what the second past event is (the cleaning)
...your beloved doggies have done their “toilet business” all over the royal throne.
Jeeves implies/means that the dog poo (or some of it) is still on the throne... he is in the middle of cleaning it/he has not finished the cleaning yet. It would be possible for the Queen to still see the evidence of the dogs’ action. There is a specific, visible result in the present because of a past action.
Yes, yes. What was it?
The Queen is responding to the sentence "I discovered..." which is about a past, finished action. So she continues talking in the past simple. It would sound very strange if she used present perfect and said, "What has it been?"
Did you meet the Prime Minister?
The Queen is not with the Prime Minister now. So if she did actually meet him in the morning, she MUST have completed that action, because he isn't standing there now with her. Completed, finished action in the past = Past Simple.
I left the palace at quarter to eleven...
She is talking about a completed action and mentions the specific time in the past that it happened - definitely past simple! It sounds strange to say, "I have left the palace at 10:45". This specific time has been and gone - it's finished, so we can't use the present perfect. Present Perfect is for when you are thinking about the past and the present at the same time.

    You might like our other Present Perfect blogs in this series... 1. Infographic 2. Jack The Ripper 3. Love Story 4. 'Need to drink' Cartoon & timeline 5. Alien Search    

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