Simple past or present perfect tense?

The pretérito indefinido (simple past tense) is mostly used:

  • to talk about an action which began and ended at precise points in the past.

Comimos con Magda ayer comer, pret. indefinido.

We ate with Magda yesterday.

  • to talk about a completed past action with a precise duration.

Él viajó por Latinoamérica durante 3 meses viajar, pret. indefinido.

He traveled around Latin America for 3 months.

  • with terms such as ayer (yesterday), anteayer (the day before yesterday), anoche (last night), la semana pasada (last week), en 1992 (in 1992), etc.

La semana pasada estuve en Buenos Aires estar, pret. indefinido.

Last week I was in Buenos Aires.

The pretérito perfecto (present perfect tense) is mostly used:

  • to refer to an action which happened in a period of time which is not yet over.

Esta semana he ido al cine ir, pret. perf..

I have been to the movies this week (the week isn't over yet).

  • to refer to a past action which has consequences in the present or future.

He decidido hacer ejercicio todos los días decidir, pret. perf..

I have decided to exercise every day (I took the decision in the past but it affects my current daily routine).

  • with terms such as hoy (today), esta mañana (this morning), esta semana (this week), este mes (this month), este año (this year), etc.

Este año he estado en Madrid estar, pret. perf..

I have been to Madrid this year.

Note: In everyday speech, the use of these tenses varies from country to country (and sometimes even from person to person):

  • In Spain, the present perfect tense is generally more common, while the simple past is used more in many Latin American countries.
  • The choice of tense can depend on the speaker's personal perspective, and whether to them the action is part of a time period which is over (→ simple past tense) or not (→ present perfect tense).

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