I had to re-read the post to understand what you were alluding to and then I saw my bold statement. You’re right… present perfect is a “present tense” in that it talks about the status quo (as a result of what happened in the past). The German spoken past is essentially the same, just that it doesn’t focus on the present.
That’s why you never ever ever ever name a point in time when using the present perfect in English (ever). Emanuel, I know your German brain has a hard time with it, but it really and truly is a present tense. I really appreciate the whole explanation of the forms in German, but I think English speakers need to realize very early on that German verb forms just don’t map onto English ones and that a lot of the information they’re used to conveying just by using the right verb form needs adverbs and such to come across in German.
Let's look at how this works. Say you're describing Charlemagne's troubles with his Saxon neighbors, and you compose your words in the following way, using the present tense:
Ok… the second example doesn’t really illustrate my point since present and past don’t have much in common there.
But compared to the standard German past used in 73,1 * % of all spoken conversation (*number made up, may differ from actual number), the normal present-past-sentence pairs in English are virtually twins.
Not so in spoken German.
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Irregular verbs are those whose past tense (for example, "I rode") and past participle (for example, "I had ridden") have forms that do not follow the standard rules.
Including present-tense verbs in historical, academic prose can also lead to trouble when, as is inevitable, you must at some point revert to past-tense verbs. Here's what it sounds like when you mix present and past tenses:
However, if you are citing articles in the paper, as you probably should, then you should check with your professor to see if he or she would prefer that you use the literary present or the past tense when referring to these articles.
But that’s where the commonalities end. The German may look a somewhat similar to the English present perfect at times but the usage is totally different.
The thing is this… which form of German past to use does NOT, I repeat, NOT depend on the content or information you want to get across. It rather depends on HOW you get the information across… and it also depends on the actual verb. Here are some examples. Thus what is present perfect in English can translate to either form in German.
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The contrast between the present-tense forms ("is forced," "has to re-Christianize") and past-tense forms ("was," "resolved") is something short of graceful. Moreover, to vacillate between these can be disconcerting to your readers. I mean, are we supposed to imagine we are right there alongside Charlemagne suffering his troubles, or viewing him from a safe historical distance and reflecting calmly upon his tribulations with the Saxons?
My friend Paul gave me this lecture once--though he gave it.I suggest reading a copy of How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper by Robert A Day What tense should paper titles use?