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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Past simple or present perfect simple    

Past simple or present perfect simple

Czech Republic

Past simple or present perfect simple

Dear colleagues,


could you, please, help me with this grammar problem?


How many books has JK Rowling written? Present perfect simple tense is used - books written up till now - she is still alive and can write some more in the future.


How many plays did Shakespeare write? Past simple tense is used - he is dead and can´t write any more.


That´s clear. BUT:


How many Wimbledon titles has Martina Navratilova won OR did Martina Navratilova win?


How many times has Pelé played for Brazil OR did Pelé play for Brazil?


They´re both quite old but still alive, so at least theoretically they might still play and win in the future. It seems a bit cruel to use past simple tense in these kind of sentences, almost like burying them alive.


Which tense should be used in the sentences about Navratilova and Pelé and why? Are both possibilities - past simple and present perfect simple correct? Is there any difference between British and American English?


Thank you for your help.



5 Mar 2016      


I think that depends on your perspective on the matter. 
I think past simple is correct because Martina Navratilova is still alive and you never know. 
But to be honest, we all know she won �t win more titles and present perfect is much better here.

5 Mar 2016     


I think it depends on context. Both sound ok to me.
If you make it clear that you are referring to their career (which is �dead � and over), you can use past simple.
If you are referring more to their life achievements, you can use present perfect.
My preference would be for the past simple as I feel that the phrase "during his/her career" seems to be implied in each sentence.

5 Mar 2016     

Czech Republic

Dear Minka,
I think your answers are a bit confusing. Shouln’t they be vice versa?

5 Mar 2016     


Yes, of coutrse, sorry. And thanks.
The point is, it depends on how you look at it. 

5 Mar 2016     

maryse pey�

Well, in my humble opinion I would talk about the "value" of the tenses.
I mean : the past simple is the tense of the past events, possible to precisely date. So this is the tense of simple report of past, kind of "summary", "narration". This is the tense of objectivity.
the present perfect is more to talk about exprerience, a past repetition. The precise dates or moments do not matter. It is as if there was some "blurr" about the chronology.
I think that the fact that the person is still alive has no importance as it sounds logical that there could be no repetition of the action itself, however the person (if stil alive) can speak about ones feelings... and the speaker may express one �s "regret" or one �s "will" to have more explanations or precisions.
A little bit of explanation.

5 Mar 2016     


Well, I think the correct option would be the past simple. Yes, they are still alive but not taking part in competitions, therefore they won �t win any more titles. If they were still in competition it should be the present perfect.

5 Mar 2016     

United States

It definitely depends on the context and intention, as others have said. I would lean toward the polite form of present perfect.

6 Mar 2016     

Czech Republic

Thank you very much for your great help :)

8 Mar 2016