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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Subject: Present perfect in Europe versus Past Simple in America
Question: Dear Ask a Linguist,

I've noticed that in Europe languages such as Italian, German,
French, Spanish and even English use the perfect to talk about
recent past whereas in America we use a simple form. For example,
people may say in Mexico ''Ayer compré pan'' (Yesterday, I ate bread)
while in Spain the same idea can be expressed as ''Ayer he comprado
pan'' (Yesterday, I have bought bread). If I translate into Italian
or French a perfect is also used. Why is that? What happened in
America that language users use Past simple (one word) to express
something that in these European languages is expressed by using an
auxiliary and past participle? When did this happen?

Reply: A particular form can take on other functions, leaving the original form to fill some
other functions. For example, the simple past exists in French but is used almost
exclusively for formal written French, ao now the difference in tense becomes a
difference in register. An analogy might be the two ways of indicating future in
American English: the modal "will", which is a bit more formal than "going to" and a lot
more formal than "gonna."
Reply From: Susan D Fischer      click here to access email
Date: 25-Aug-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Present perfect in Europe versus Past Simple in America    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (22-Aug-2013)
  2. Re: Present perfect in Europe versus Past Simple in America    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (22-Aug-2013)

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