During my recent trip to Istanbul I saw this sign outside a restaurant. Grammatically, it’s not correct. Can you figure out what’s wrong?
Did you figure out what’s wrong? Need a hint?
The sign uses the past simple tense, but this is not correct.
Ready for the answer?
The present perfect tense should have been used instead of the past simple tense. The sign should read: “Have you tried Latin American coffee?”
[Actually, I’m learning Turkish and they meant to say “Have you tried our Latin American coffee” but that’s not the important point. And, by the way Turkish doesn’t have the perfect tenses.]
Today’s lesson: When and why we use the present perfect tense
We’ll review the usage of the present perfect tense and then you will have a chance to practice.
The error in the coffee sign:
When the sign is in the past simple tense, it sounds as if the person is talking about a specific completed event in the past. If you ask this question to a mother-tongue English speaker, she might be confused and respond, “When? Sorry I don’t understand what event you’re talking about.”
This is because the past simple tense is used to talk about a specific event in the past that is completed.
So it would be fine, for example, to use the simple past if you were at a café and your friend arrived 20 minutes later and looked at your empty coffee cup and asked, “Did you try the Latin American coffee?”
In contrast, what the café wanted to ask on their sign was – at any point in the past (whether last night or last month or two years ago) – did you try this type of coffee? The exact point in time is not important. What is important is whether or not you have tried the coffee at any time before.
To be even clearer, the café is trying to emphasize they have something new. Latin American coffee isn’t popular in Turkey. They know many people haven’t tried it before so they want to highlight this so the person walking by will become interested in trying something new.
Let’s recap before the practice exercise:
Past simple: Use for a specific event in the past.
Present perfect: Use for anytime in the past.
The present perfect is formed with: the verb have + past participle
(click here for a chart of past participle forms of irregular verbs)
Additional points about usage:
- The present perfect is often used with ever and never to talk about experiences up to the present.
– Have you ever been to Istanbul? (= at any point in your life)
– No, I’ve never been there but would love to go! (= Up to this point in your life)
- We also frequently emphasize something that has happened by using already or not happened by using yet.
– The waiter hasn’t brought the bill yet.
– Don’t worry, I’ve already paid it.
Select the correct form. Type in either the past simple or the present perfect tense.