Don not use the present perfect (I have done) when you talk about a finished time (for example, yesterday / twenty minutes ago / in 1988 / when I was a child). Use a past tense:

  • The weather was nice yesterday. (not “has been nice”)
The weather was nice yesterday. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
The weather was nice yesterday.

 

  • They arrived twenty minutes ago. (not “have arrived”)
They arrived twenty minutes ago. English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
They arrived twenty minutes ago.

 

  • I ate a lot of sweets when I was a child. (not “have eaten”)
I ate a lot of sweets when I was a child. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I ate a lot of sweets when I was a child.

 

Did you see the news on television last night? (not “Have you seen”)

No, I went to bed early. (not “have gone”)

Did you see the news on television last night? No, I went to bed early. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Did you see the news on television last night? No, I went to bed early.

 

Use a past tense to ask When…? or What time…?

  • When did she arrive? (not “has she arrived”)
When did she arrive? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
When did she arrive?

 

  • What time did you finish work?
What time did you finish work? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
What time did you finish work?

 

Compare:

Present perfect

  • Jeff has lost his key. He can’t get into the house.
Jeff has lost his key. He can’t get into the house. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Jeff has lost his key. He can’t get into the house.

 

Here, we are not thinking of the past action. We are thinking of the present result of the action: Jeff doesn’t have his key now.

 

Past simple

  • Jeff lost his key yesterday. He couldn’t get into the house.
Jeff lost his key yesterday. He couldn’t get into the house. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Jeff lost his key yesterday. He couldn’t get into the house.

 

Here, we are thinking of the action in the past. We don’t know from this sentence whether Jeff has his key now.

 

Compare present perfect and past:

  • We’ve done a lot of work today.
We’ve done a lot of work today. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
We’ve done a lot of work today.

 

We use the present perfect for a period of time that continues from the past until now. For example, today, this week, since 1988.

We use the present perfect for a period of time that continues from the past until now. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past - Part 2

  • We did a lot of work yesterday.
We did a lot of work yesterday. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
We did a lot of work yesterday.

 

We use the past simple for a finished time in the past. For example, yesterday, last week, from 2010 to 2015.

We use the past simple for a finished time in the past. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2

  • It hasn’t rained this week.
It hasn’t rained this week. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
It hasn’t rained this week.

 

  • It didn’t rain last week.
It didn’t rain last week. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
It didn’t rain last week.

 

  • Have you seen Michael this morning? (it is still morning)
Have you seen Michael this morning? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Have you seen Michael this morning?

 

  • Did you see Michael this morning? (it is now afternoon or evening)
Did you see Michael this morning? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Did you see Michael this morning?

 

  • Have you seen Jane recently?
Have you seen Jane recently? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Have you seen Jane recently?

 

  • Did you see Jane on Saturday?
Did you see Jane on Saturday? - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Did you see Jane on Saturday?

 

  • I don’t know where Robert. I haven’t seen him. (= I haven’t seen him recently)
I don’t know where Robert is. I haven’t seen him. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I don’t know where Robert is. I haven’t seen him.

 

Was Robert at the party on Sunday?

I don’t think so. I didn’t see him.

Was Robert at the party on Sunday? I don’t think so. I didn’t see him. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Was Robert at the party on Sunday? I don’t think so. I didn’t see him.

 

  • I’ve been waiting for an hour. (I am still waiting now)
I’ve been waiting for an hour. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I’ve been waiting for an hour.

 

  • I waited (or was waiting) for an hour. (I am no longer waiting)
I waited (or was waiting) for an hour. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I waited (or was waiting) for an hour.

 

  • Lisa lives in New York. She has lived there for three years.
Lisa lives in New York. She has lived there for three years. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Lisa lives in New York. She has lived there for three years.

 

  • Susan lived in Toronto for five years. Now she lives in London.
Susan lived in Toronto for five years. Now she lives in London. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
Susan lived in Toronto for five years. Now she lives in London.

 

  • I have never played golf. (in my life)
I have never played golf. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I have never played golf.

 

  • I didn’t play golf when I was on holiday last summer.
I didn’t play golf when I was on holiday last summer. - English Grammar Lesson - Present perfect and past (I have done and I did) - Part 2
I didn’t play golf when I was on holiday last summer.

 

The present perfect always has a connection with now. See Present Perfect – Part 1, Part 2, Present Perfect Continuous, Present Perfect Continuous and Simple, How long have you (been)…? and When…? and How long…? For and Since.

The past simple tells us only about the past. See Past Simple (I did), Past Continuous (I was doing) and Past Continuous and Past Simple.