I guess you may have confused a few things. But I sincerely hope I am wrong.
> I define the Present Perfect tense as expressing
> an action that is already COMPLETED at the
> present time, OR an action BEGUN earlier
> and spanning a period to the present time.
My reply: Please recongnize that "an action that is already COMPLETED at the present time" is a past action, for example:
Ex: I met John on the street.
== The meeting is already COMPLETED at the present time.
Also please be reminded that "an action BEGUN earlier and spanning a period to the present time" is a present action:
Ex: I live in Hong Kong.
== The living "BEGUN earlier and spanning a period to the present time", as I could not live here suddenly, and it must have begun earlier.
That is to say, you haved described Present Perfect as itself indicating either Simple Past or Simple Present. Through your merciful description, IMHO it seems that the three tenses are interchangeable, without a guideline to tell them apart.
> "Last week" is a point of time in the past,
> so no problem here. "For the past week"
> is a span of time that goes on still, so is
> considered incompatible with the idea of
> "completed" action.
My reply: Though in your message I see no restriction about tenses whatsoever, please be reminded of one common rule: Present Perfect doesn't stay with past time expression:
Ex: *I have visited there last week.
Therefore, perhaps for this reason, you didn't give illustrating examples for "for the past week":
Ex: I have visited there for the past week.
== No matter how you describe "for the past week", it is still a past time expression and is supposed not to stay with Present Perfect. Grammar writers cannot handle this, and this is the exact reason why they have to hide the Past Family away. What then is your opinion?
That was nicely put, jws. Quite nicely, indeed. :olympic:
4. I define the Present Perfect tense as expressing an action that is already COMPLETED at the present time, OR an action BEGUN earlier and spanning a period to the present time.
Like in, "I have lived in L.A. since 1999" wherein 'have lived' expresses a span of living in L.A. The span started in 1999, hence '-ed', and continues up to the present time, hence 'have'.
Mind you, continuity will vary with regards to verbs such as "read" and "die" for example.
Cas1. I have read that book.
Cas2. I have died and gone to heaven.
Unlike 'live', 'read' and 'died' do not continue up to the present. Those events are over. So, given our current definition, which I will adopt from you, we now have to deal with the question: How do you deal with verbs like "have lived", which are not over at the Present time (i.e. I have lived in L.A. since 1999 and I am still living in L.A.)?
Which brings me to my humble point. :D
It's not the action, per se, that's over, it's the timeframe that is completed (by...): *note 'completed' is a past participle; 'complete' is an adjective.
X is completed by Y (X = past time, Y = present time).
Past time starts the span, whereas Present time completes (i.e ends) the Past timeframe, not the span. Time ends, specifically Past time, and not necessarily the action subsumed within that timeframe. Hence the grammaticality of "I have lived in L.A. since 1999."
In other words, I'd put my money on (a), not (b):
Cas(a) "It (the Past timeframe) is completed (by the Present timeframe)"
Cas(b) "It (the action) is completed by (?)
What is (?) ? Learners come across this, too. (b) is a problem.
No, I have not confused anything. (See also my comments in red, alongside what you wrote.)
Originally Posted by shun
1. English is not the same as, say, Chinese. In Chinese, we express an action in the past by using an additional word equivalent to "already", to say I ate or I have eaten. So, in Chinese, there is no difference between the Simple Past and the Present Perfect.
2. Past and Present tell WHEN an action happened/happens. Continuous and Perfect tell whether the action is on-going or completed/begun earlier, at that time indicated by Past or Present.
3. However, English tenses are not as "straight-forward" as described in (2) above, WHICH IS NOT UNIQUE to English (see (5) below). For example, the Present Continuous expresses an on-going action now, or an action INTENDED (like future tense), expected or about to happen.
4. Do you not see any difference between "I ate my lunch" and "I have eaten my lunch"? The latter has an emphasis of "already" (which the former does not have) without having to use that word, which in Chinese we use for any past action or completed action. Of course, one can say past is past, or completed is completed, what is there to emphasise anymore. Some people are blunt (or straight-forward) in their words, others are subtle. I'm sure you have heard of innuendoes and "reading between the lines".
5. Chinese does not use tenses. Tone, intonation and accent are an important part of communicating in Chinese. So, we can say perhaps that when words or structures are less complex, other aspects of speech take over some of these functions.
6. In centuries past, when a court minister or official speaks to the Emperor, sometimes the entire message had to be expressed in a quartet, and no more. So, words carry meanings within a context. A word for word dissection or analysis is not always applicable.
7. English used to be much more inflected in the past compared to now. For example, nouns used to be different between the subject form and the object form.
My humble opinion is:
(a) We need not make too much of what you rightly see as difficulties, lack of guidelines, or even confusion. Ordinary Chinese people (and this is not meant to sound chauvinistic) are among the most practical of people (we have philosophers too, no doubt), and are more concerned with the practicalities of making a living, which includes learning a foreign language; the ordinary person is not interested in linguistics, and has no need to be.
(b) We must try to make learning English as simple as possible. This is of course not so easy, partly because of the vast number of books and oft times differing views. Some books are good and practical, some are inadequate, some confusing and IMO unnecessarily academic. That's why we have learners asking "Who is the ultimate authority?". Certainly not me or you, nor (if I may say so) Ronbee nor TDOL, etc.
(c) For doing or learning anything, I find the 80/20 Pareto Principle very true: 80% of the value is in 20% of the content. We can leave the rest alone because we hardly need or use them.
(d) I think you write excellent English (if I may say so) and I have enjoyed talking to you. :wink:
1. I've visited them for the past week (not Ok)
No matter how you describe "for the past week", it is still a past time expression and is supposed not to stay with Present Perfect.
2. I've not visited them for the past week. (Ok)
Sentence 2. is Ok because 'not' negates the continuity expressed by the preposition 'for', which being the head of the 'past time expression' "for the past week" modifies 'have visited'.
In other words, 'not' blocks the implication that 'have visited' expresses continuity. If 'not' wasn't there to block modification from 'for...', 'for' would modify 'have visited' as expressing continuity, with the result being ungrammatical as in 1. That is, 'have visited' doesn't express continuity; but, 'have been visiting' does.
The problem is solved by making the verb continuous, as in 3, thereby making the verb and its modifier compatible, or, as you say, 'stay with'.
3. I have been visiting them for the past week. (Ok)
Please see my comments in red. For the Past Perfect, I have defined it as expressing an action completed at a (not the) time in the past, or an action begun earlier and spanning a period up to a time in the past. Looks usable to me.
Originally Posted by Casiopea
Also, the Present is Now, one and only specific point in time. The Past is a certain point of time (may be other points: yesterday, last night, when the cat was sitting on the roof, etc) in the past. :wink:
You've made some very interesting comments, to which I will respond as soon as I've had a chance to mull them over. :D
For the Past Perfect, I have defined it as expressing an action completed at a (not the) time in the past, or an action begun earlier and spanning a period up to a time in the past. Looks usable to me.
As for the bit above, if it's not a problem, I'd rather stick to clarifying the definition for Present Perfect before getting into the workings of the Past Perfect. Although the two share the word "Perfect", they do not necessarily share the same function. So, with that in mind, would it be too forward of me to ask that we get one definition stated clearly first before we move on to another?
Nicely put, IMHO. Which gives a very nice role to the Perfect Continuous!! :wink:
Originally Posted by Casiopea
Sure. That's just to have the Past Perfect sit alongside the Present Perfect in the bus, which is taking all of us on a wonderful holiday to Dalian, where Shane is.
Originally Posted by Casiopea
Wow! The man studied Chinese for six years before going off to China! I hope I have the chance to meet him.
Just a side issue: Dalian is one of the cleanest and most beautiful of Chinese cities, I'm told. It's in the northeast, on the southern coast of Liaoning province in the old Manchuria. I have yet to visit the place (supposed to have gone early this month). I just think that TDOL (whose students include Chinese), Ronbee, Red5, yourself....... should one day visit China. :)
Ok. Cas1. fits definition A. and Cas2. fits definition B.; but, that's not the humble point I was trying to make. Sorry. Lemme try again.
The A. part of the definition had me wondering, and still has me wondering what makes the Present Perfect different from the Simple Past, since we can replace the words Present Perfect with the words Simple Past:
jws IHHO provided:
I define the Present Perfect tense as
A. expressing an action that is already COMPLETED at the present time,
B. an action BEGUN earlier and spanning a period to the present time.
The Simple Past tense expresses an action that is already COMPLETED at the present time.
Given that the A. definition for the Present Perfect also houses the Simple Past, how would we explain (to students) the use of the Simple Past and the Present Perfect in the sentences below? That's sort of my point.
Cas3. I ate. (finished, over, ended)
Cas4. I have eaten. (finished, over, ended)
Moreover, both 'ate' and 'eaten' are finished, over, ended. I started it and I ended it. The task was completed, if you will allow me to use that term, by me, but my use of the term 'completed' here is different from the one expressed by the conventional definition(s) for the Present Perfect. Herein is where learners, even teachers, come across the fuzzy boundary between the Present Perfect and the Simple Past. "Completed" refers to frames of time. Two timeframes to be exact, as does the Past Perfect.
In short, the word "completed" is ambiguous. In reference to the Perfect, it has nought to do with actions but rather the coming together of two separate points: time frames, if you will, the Past and the Present, as in the making of a perfect circle, and hence the origin of the grammatical term "Perfect". Given this, I wonder if we should modify our definition so as to provide a better understanding of the ambiguous term "completed".
p.s. I apologize in advance for any typos. (It's late.) :oops:
It's like TDOL explained "The polls show support for Bush....." compared to "The polls are showing...".
Between the Simple Past and the Present Perfect, the difference may not always be there (which Shun thinks is always not there!). Where it is, it is subtle (that's how I see it). The Simple Past can be more "final" than the Present Perfect. For example,
1. I enjoyed talking to you. Done, finished, over.
2. I have enjoyed talking to you. So far, could go on enjoying (if we carry on talking). Therefore, although completed (up to whatever stage), does not convey the same finality as the Simple Past. This is, I think, because the tense still brings us to (or keeps us at) the present time. The Simple Past has no connection whatsoever with the present.
Grammar is the death of me. That's why in the not too distant past, communication experts threw grammar out of the window altogether. People are better taught without grammar glue sticking like Tarzan glue, not to say the confusion caused by trying so hard to explain something that can be so subtle as human speech! They said, learn by just using, using, using.....
Grammar has returned to "fashion" because the foregoing didn't work, standards fell, etc, etc.
IMO, we have to teach basic grammar because it is a framework, foundation, reference benchmark for what's right and what's not right in order to know what WENT wrong in your sentence, and in order to MAKE sentences based on understanding of the basic rules, etc.
You'll take a long, round about, and trial and error way to build a house without.......
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