One thing we all agree on is that our Business communication needs to be crystal clear. The last thing we want to do is mislead clients, colleagues or employees, right? The consequences could be devastating.
One of the most common errors I see amongst my Business English clients is a lack of awareness of the perfect tenses; in particular, the present perfect simple. They tend to use the past simple instead, which gives quite a different message!
What are these two tenses? Let’s look at some examples:
|Past Simple||Present Perfect Simple|
|I sent the budget request yesterday.||I’ve sent the budget request.|
|Profits dropped due to the financial crisis.||Profits have dropped due to the financial crisis.|
|Jim worked at Sony for 5 years.||Jim has worked at Sony for 5 years.|
So what’s the purpose of the different tenses?
Past Simple: We use this to express the idea that an action started and finished at a specific time in the past. (Sometimes, the speaker may not actually mention the specific time, but they do have one specific time in mind):
Present perfect simple:
Eg: “The CEO has updated the reporting format.”
Eg: “The R and D department has employed two more people due to the new deadline.”
Eg: “Dana and Joe have worked in HR for five years.”
When do we use the present perfect simple?
Below are a few situations which require the present perfect simple, rather than just the past simple:
eg. “I’ve pioneered the overhaul of my company’s recruitment process”
This way, you’re making a declaration of achievement (really important on a resume!)
However, if you use the past simple here (“I pioneered the overhaul of my company’s recruitment process”), you are making more of a factual statement about something you did in the (possibly distant) past.
eg. “Accounting hasn’t sent us the final numbers yet.”
In other words, this should have happened recently – but you’re still waiting!
If you use the past simple to express this idea (“Accounting didn’t send us the final numbers”), your audience might wonder when this happened. Last month? Year? Century?
eg. “Due to the slower market, we have slashed our Marketing budget.”
However, with the past simple (“Due to the slower market, we slashed our Marketing budget”), the message that this was a recent event is lost.
* * * * *
The present perfect simple is an essential tool in these and many other situations. It will help you deliver exactly the right message, and will inject your Business English with a new level of sophistication.
In short – when referring to an action or event which has happened recently, and/or which has an effect on the present – use the present perfect simple, folks!
It’s that simple.