Simple past vs. present perfect

A: Have you ever taken a cooking class?
B: No, I haven’t. How about you?
A: I have taken a few classes. My last class was in December. We 1) learned 2) have learned how to make some wonderful Spanish dishes.
Q1: I know the answer is “learned” (simple tense), but I am not sure if I can still use “have learned” (present perfect). Does it make sense? Do people use that?
Q2: The sentence I just used “I can still use…”, I’m wondering if I should put “still” before can or after can?

You have to use the Past Simple - ‘learned’ because it was in December, in the past.
You have to use ‘still’ after the modal verbs and ‘to be’, but before the other verbs:
I can’t still cook this dish.
I am still there.
I still use this gadget.

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Evgueny is right in that December is a finished period in the past, so you can’t use the present perfect in this case.

But this…

I can’t still cook this dish.
…is not correct. It’s “I still can’t cook this dish.”

Q2: The sentence I just used “I can still use…”, I’m wondering if I should put “still” before can or after can?

After, as you did it. Just looking at these two examples, maybe the rule is after can in the positive and before can in the negative, but I’m just thinking aloud and I’ve never really thought about this before.


Still can go before either “can” in your example, but it’s better after it. eg “…if I still can…” However, like JB said, the correct way in the evgueny example is “I still can’t cook this dish.”

I also have not thought about this as a rule before.

As long as there is no reference to when something happened, you can definitely say, “We have learned how to make some wonderful dishes in class.” That is used all the time.

But as the others have already pointed out, as soon as you introduce a time reference like “in December,” you can no longer use the present perfect; it has to be simple past: “In December we learned how to do something.”

You can still use “have learned,” but not in conjunction with a reference to when something happened.

The present perfect in English is also used when the action, the state or the period of time referred to continues up to or beyond the present moment. For example:

I have known her for years. I haven’t seen him in ages. It has been so long since I last saw them. She has lived in Taipei all her life. He has been to Sydney twice this year.

Sometimes there is implicit information that governs the use of simple past versus present perfect. For example, you would not ask, “How many plays has Shakespeare written?” because Shakespeare is deceased and therefore can no longer write plays. The reference to when something happened is implicit. Instead you would ask: “How many plays did Shakespeare write?” because the action was completed in the past.

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So we have to use “learned” (past tense) because the time is “December”. But They are (in) two different sentences. I mean the last class was in December and it doesn’t mean I learned some dishes in December only, right? It could mean I’ve learned some dishes from November to December, right? In that case, can I use “I’ve learned some dishes”?

No, because the time (November to December) is still closed and does not continue until now. You can only use it if the time is open or, as brucenator said, not specifically mentioned. So some examples where you can use 'I’ve learned" are: “I’ve learned how to cook some dishes lately/recently/this year.” But as soon as a past/closed time is introduced, you need to use the simple past, e.g. “I’ve eaten pizza three times this week (open time)”, but, “I ate pizza three times last week (closed time).”