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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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