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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Past simple or present perfect? Or both?    

Past simple or present perfect? Or both?

Czech Republic

Past simple or present perfect? Or both?

Dear colleagues,


which of these sentences is correct?


I see a friend with a leg in plaster and I ask:


What happened (to you)? or What has happened (to you)?


Or are both questions possible and gramatically correct? I can´t know what the answer will be:


The friend can answer: I broke my leg yesterday. / I´ve broken my leg.


Is it different in British and in American English?


Thank you for your help.



21 May 2017      

Russian Federation

If you īre British, you īll probably ask "What īs happened?"
If you īre American, "What happened?"
In the modern International English both are fine. 

21 May 2017     


I think that the nuance is slightly different in each.
What happened to you? --> an event in the past. Answer: I fell off my motorbike.
What īs happened to you? --> consequence in the present. Answer: Iīve shattered my tibia. 

So I suppose it depends if you want to know how the injury occurred or what the injury is more precisely.

21 May 2017     

United States

To add more to two good answers:
If there was obviously a single incident that caused the question, then "What happened to you?" is best, although I think the British might still say "What īs happened to you?"
If it has been a while since you saw the person, and he or she is visibly very changed, you would definitely say, "What has happened to you?", because it wasn īt a single event that caused the change.

21 May 2017     

Czech Republic

Thank you all very much for your help :)

23 May 2017