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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: This question has come before, and I suspect that this is an example of North American languages (Mexican Spanish & U.S. English) evolving together. Why this direction of aspect change is not always clear, but there are plenty of examples of neighboring languages evolving similar constructions over time.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 22-Aug-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Present perfect in Europe versus Past Simple in America    Susan D Fischer     (25-Aug-2013)
  2. Re: Present perfect in Europe versus Past Simple in America    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (22-Aug-2013)

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