One of our students asked us yesterday why in class we had learnt that with expressions such us HOY, ESTA SEMANA, ESTE MES, we use ‘pretérito perfecto’ but her native Spanish speaker wife told him that actually, she never said that and she always said ‘hoy trabajé mucho’ and that he should check with us as it could possible be a mistake.
Let’s start by saying that although we would love to say that The Wife is right (yes, you have guessed my gender!), in this occasion she is not quite right.
The usage of this structure is possibly one of the biggest if not the biggest difference between Spanish from South America and Spanish from Spain (most of Spain shall I say as in some parts of Spain they use it ‘the South American’ way too!!)
In Spain and regardless of the time of day, expressions like HOY, ESTA SEMANA etc mean that the time to which the speaker is referring, is not over yet, and so, we should use the perfect tense. In South America however, the time of day is important.
*I started working at 7am, it is 11am and I am already exhausted AND I have to work until 5pm. At 11 am I would say “Hoy he trabajado mucho”
*I started working at 7am, it is 5pm and I am heading home absolutely exhausted, I would say “Hoy trabajé mucho” as my working hours are technically done.
So, The Wife is right in that we sometimes use the simple past (trabajé) with those expressions, BUT, it is important to think about the context as it will be context the one that will tell us which tense is used… In South America. In most of Spain though, the only option is the perfect tense regardless of the time of day. At Condor we teach it first according to how people from Spain use it and once the structure is clear, we move to showing our students both usages. The purpose is not to confuse our students and also we understand that in most text books, the perfect structure is taught this way.
Any questions, let us know.