Please could you tell me, how would you know which to use here-
‘Yo no he sido’- it wasn’t me
‘Yo no fui’- it wasn’t me
If you are referring to an action that has just happened or feels very close to you in time you would use "Yo no he sido". But if you are clearly referring to an action that happened some time ago you would use the preterite "Yo no fui".
Say for example that someone sees broken glass on the floor and says "¿Quién ha roto un vaso? (Who [just] broke a glass?) and you reply "Yo no he sido" (It wasn't me). The broken glass on the floor seems like something that has just happened, so it is recent.
However if someone says "¿Quién rompió aquel vaso tan bonito el otro día? (Who broke that pretty glass the other day?), then you would reply "Yo no fui. Creo que fue Miguel" (It wasn't me. I think it was Miguel.) That is not a recent action; it is not connected to the time when you are speaking. We use the preterite here.
This is one of the general differences between using the Pretérito Perfecto and the Pretérito Indefinido. There is a lesson with a lot of detail about this. Have a look:
When to use the perfect tense versus the simple past in European Spanish (Perfecto vs Indefinido)
Hope this helps
Muchas gracias Inma, ahora lo tengo.
Many years ago I was an infant teacher to very young Spanish children. I had very basic Spanish back then, to my shame I must say. I remember so well one little girl in my class who was a little ‘mimosa’, Laura. If ever something was broken or if there had been a small argument between the children she would come to me crying, ‘¡Yo no fui, yo no fui!’ She would be referring to something that had just happened.
Since in English we have just the one way of saying, ‘It wasn’t me’ I wonder how much harder it is for Spanish children learning their mother tongue and also when do they realise the differences in tenses. I suppose by listening to the differences spoken to them by parents and teachers.
Thanks again Inma.
That's very interesting, Clara. This little girl, was she from Latin America or Spain? I am asking because if she said "Yo no fui" for something that's just happened, that sounds more of a Latin American usage, or some parts of northern Spain.
Hi again Inma,
Well now I’ve really learnt something. Yes, I was living and working in Gran Canaria. Thanks so much for that, it makes more sense now!
Yes, in the Canary Islands, as far as I know, this would be common. :))
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