We can talk about two different spaces in the use of the past tense in Spanish:

  • HERE => Perfecto (the space where we are)
  • THERE=> Indefinido (a past space)

Ambiguous expressions

Some expressions can be used with both past tense: “siempre, nunca, en la vida, alguna vez, muchas veces, en los últimos días…”
The difference is between HERE and THERE. The speaker decides to which moment alludes: the space where we are or the past space.

  • Ex: “Siempre he estudiado el día antes del examen.”

HERE, until now. Within the unity of time. I follow doing it.

  • Ej.: “Siempre estudié el día antes del examen.”

THERE, past space. Outside the unity of time. I don’t study anymore.

Immediate past

When we refer to a very close situation to the present moment, we use expressions like:
“ya, hace un rato/un momento/un minuto…”

In these cases, we use the pretérito perfecto, but we also can use the pretérito indefinido. We show things from a different point of view.

  • Ej.: “Hace un rato he hablado con mi novio y me ha dicho que no viene.”

I’m HERE, inside the actual space.

  • Ej.: “Hace un rato hablé con mi novio y me dijo que no viene.”

I’m THERE,  outside the actual space, in the past.