Present Perfect or Simple Past

You know that the present perfect talks about past actions that have a direct effect on the present. But the simple past also talks about past actions.

Do you know when to use the simple past and the present perfect?

The difference is actually very simple. Are you focusing on the past action itself? If so, you must use the simple past.

Or are you focusing on the present result of that past action? If this is the case, you must use the present perfect.
Let's look at some examples:
  • Eric and Betty moved to England in 1992. Then they moved to Morocco two years later.
    (We are focused on the past action, so we use the simple past. They did something in the past, then they did something else.)
  • Eric and Betty have moved to England! They are very happy there.
    (Now we are focused on the present result of their action. They moved to England, so now they are very happy living there.)

Here is a helpful hint: if you say when the action happened in the past, you must always use the simple past, because you are focused on the past event.

Just remember to think about whether you are focused on the effects of an action right now (present perfect), or if you are more interested in the finished action in the past (simple past). You will have no trouble at all!