# Thread: The Hidden Evidence: The Past Family

1. What is meant by "Sometimes we span, sometimes we don't"?

:?

2. RonBee asked:
What is meant by "Sometimes we span, sometimes we don't"?
My reply: Casiopea has already explained the meaning of a span of time:
Well , the action started in the Past and continues up to the Present. Past time (-en) is used to start the continuum and Present time (have see) is used to complete it. Time is used in this way to create a span of time, of which a start point and an end point is needed.
Our meaning is, :D in Ex1, the time "started in the Past and continues up to the Present", while our normal Present Perfect structures, such as Ex2, don't express such a span.
Ex1: I have seen him in the past week. (we span.)
Ex2: I have lived in Japan before. (we don't span.)
:wink:

3. Okay.

4. ## Re: The Hidden Evidence: The Past Family

Shun:
In many other examples of Present Perfect, the time doesn't show "a start point and an end point".
Yes. I couldn’t agree with you more. The reason being, there’s a difference in meaning, not to mention function, between “an event ends” and “a time frame is completed”. When I wrote the word ‘completed’ I was referring to the Past as a time frame, not an event (i.e. the Past meets the Present; they form a circle, with no end point and no beginning point).

Shun:
Actually, normally, most Present Perfect sentences don't link to any time. They don't imply such a span of time, "of which a start point and an end point is needed".
That’s the way I see it, too. No start, no end, just a circular span, no pun intended. In fact, the true function of the Present Perfect is to take focus off Time so as to place more focus on the event, in much the same structural way that passive constructions take the focus off the subject so as to place more focus/emphasis on the object. (Hmm, seems very apropos come to think of it that Present Perfect definitions use passive constructions i.e. ‘is completed’).

Shun:
Or we may put them together for contrast: sometimes we span, sometime we don't:
I have seen him (jogging) in the past week. (we span.)
I have lived in Japan before. (we don't span.)

Firstly, great examples!

Secondly, on the contrary Both sentences express a span, “between then and now”.

As for compatibility, the adverb ‘before’ and the Present Perfect both express unknown time. They take focus off Time. The adverbial phrase ‘in the past week’ and the Present Perfect are not compatible, however, because ‘in the past week’ expresses a known time: “within the past week”. That’s why *“I have lived in Japan in the past week” is ungrammatical. 'have lived' expresses unknown Time, whereas 'in the past week' expresses known Time.

Shun:
What is it? A freedom of using tense?
The variation you mean? Freedom, no. Systematic, yes. By the way, although it’s neither here nor there which term you choose to use, the term “Perfect Aspect” is more common these days. “Tense” means, Time. And, as we know, Present Perfect verbs do not express time. They take the focus off Time so as to place more focus on the event.

:D

5. ## Re: The Hidden Evidence: The Past Family

I said:
Actually, normally, most Present Perfect sentences don't link to any time. They don't imply such a span of time, "of which a start point and an end point is needed".
You replied:
That’s the way I see it, too. No start, no end, just a circular span, no pun intended. In fact, the true function of the Present Perfect is to take focus off Time so as to place more focus on the event
My reply: So, I see no span of time because I am seeing a circular span? If so, don't you think you need to explain a bit what is "circular span"? If without further explanation, it is pun. When explained, it is then no pun, as simple as this. :wink:
Personally, I don't know what is "circular span". But I am an old man with little knowledge, so I don't count. Somehow, I hope I could get back to age of 21, by way of "circular span".
We are talking about a span of time. How can a time shuttle back and fro like a circle? I don't know. I can't understand how I am able to turn the time back, controlling it. Actually, time has no return. You only have got "lineal span".

----------------------

Cas wrote:

That’s why *“I have lived in Japan in the past week” is ungrammatical.
My reply:
My goodness, I don't know you have this idea: It is ungrammatical. No wonder you have kept giving me the example:

Ex: I have seen him (jogging) in the past week.
Why didn't we use some grammatical examples of the Past Family? I suggest a way how we find examples in a fair way: Go to yahoo and type in "in the past few years", a member of the Past Family, and see how many Present Perfect we can find:

Ex: Photography has come along way in the past few years.

I want to report to you, most searching results are in Present Perfect. You are lucky enough if you notice a few Simple Past working with the Past Family. Even with Simple Past, the writers are still victims of grammar books which say Simple Past works with specific past time, and hide the Past Family away. More victims are now in Asia. (see further below).

-----------------------

Many grammar writers would teach us not to use Specific Past Time, such as yesterday, last year with Present Perfect. For example from the following page:

http://conversa1.com/presentperfectpastsimple.htm
NOTE: We do NOT use specific time expressions with the Present Perfect. We cannot say, for example, "I have eaten spaghetti yesterday."
I did not deliberately find rare examples. I just went to yahoo and typed in key words such as "specific past time Present Perfect", and chose one in the first page among many pages of matches. Statements like this quotation are frequent. However, very unfortunately, it is the assuredness such as this that forbids they touch the Past Family. :mad:

The pattern of the Past Family, like "in the past xx years", can be as specific as down to a few years, or months, or weeks, or days, or hours, or minutes, or even seconds:

8) Ex: "I have watched over him for the past five minutes."

They are specific enough!! Compared with them, "yesterday" is non-specific at all:

Ex: I saw him yesterday.
== I didn't see him the whole day. I didn't say exactly when in yesterday. Comparatively, "yesterday" is a very unspecific time, measured and compared with "in the past five minutes".

On the other hand, are the Past Family PAST? Yes, I can bet anything on it. The Past is the same Past in "Specific Past Time".

Therefore, the Past Family are both specific and past. And this is the trouble. This is why they are guilty and put into concealment, poor thing. However, the concealment is not the end of the story. Rather, it is just the beginning. Following the common rule such as the quotation above, Asians frequently use Simple Past with the Past Family:

Ex: *They worked here for the past five years.

They would say, "Why not Simple Past?" It is specific, and it is past, students pointed out. Most of all, they would appeal, grammar books don't teach that "in the past five years" cannot stay with Simple Past! Students even challenged us: Do you have any grammar which foolishly say "in the past five years" can possibly stay with Present Perfect? No! Therefore this time adverbial must be used with Simple Past, they concluded!!

We teachers are speechless. :mad: Why will someone produce such a quotation above, without giving a word to the Past Family?

Some teachers have listlessly given up to students, "Go ahead, may be you right, use Simple Past (with the Past Family)." Some are seeking for help. I am not here giving you confusions. Not at all. On the contrary, grammar books written by native English speakers have heaped lots of confusions upon you and me. Give me the good answer of the Past Family and we Asian teachers will say thanks for a thousand times to you English native speakers.

Please teach us how to make a span of time circular. We have to explain to students.
:) :)

6. Ex: *They worked here for the past five years.

Do they still work here? Yes, so the past is innapropriate.

7. TDOL wrote:

Ex: *They worked here for the past five years.
Do they still work here? Yes, so the past is innapropriate.
:( My replied: I have made a terrible mistake in understanding your idea. I have deleted the old part and replace with this. :(

Then what tense is appropriate and WHY. I was asking about Present Perfect, not Simple Past. :wink:

8. TDOL,

I say sorry again for the mistake I've made. :eggface:

As you see, now I can only tell students to go to search machine and study the appropriate tense for the Past Family. Students have to make a conclusion by themselves. They have to believe me, fortunately.
But it is not a grammar solution for the Past Family, as you must agree. We have to find an explanation, and that is why I am seeking for the answer.

I was waiting for the "circular span" theory.

9. TDOL,

You wrote:

Ex: *They worked here for the past five years.
Do they still work here? Yes, so the past is innapropriate.
:D My reply: Please understand I agree with you 100%. But how should we say it? You are implying that even with specific past time, sometimes, using Simple Past is inappropriate. However, this goes against the normal rule as I quoted above:

NOTE: We do NOT use specific time expressions with the Present Perfect. We cannot say, for example, "I have eaten spaghetti yesterday."
http://conversa1.com/presentperfectpastsimple.htm
How shall we explain the whole thing? Below, I try to give my supposition, or conclusion, that is deduced from all the opinions here.

:agrue: I have been seeking for help for a long time and I was told that we may easily find examples that violate the agreement. We may search in the pattern "have seen yesterday", and we will get many examples violating our quotations before:

Ex: But we have seen yesterday, that Judah and Ephraim are to be taken as the same;
Ex: On the other hand, this of course leads here only to practical construction, architecture is something of another sort...not always so bad, I have seen yesterday affamed dwellings by a japanese architect that.....
Ex: ''What I have seen yesterday and today is people coming in to use the computers because they needed to communicate with relatives in other states.''
Ex: I have seen yesterday something suspiciously like this, but this was 2.0.14 on a Cabriolet board and otherwise Red Hat 3.0.3, i.e. no shared libraries at all.
That is to say, using the pattern "have seen yesterday", replace SEEN with other past verbs like discussed, arrived/ finished/ shown/ told/ got/ received/ agreed/ found/ lost/ decided/ etc., or replace YESTERDAY with last year/ month/ week/ etc., we still easily find a number of examples -- "Present Perfect with YESTERDAY". What does this finding prove?

If we add things all up, we may find something consistent, though. We may prove the rule that Present Perfect doesn't stay with specific past time, is just not there. Grammar writers provide us a non-existent rule that in turn forces themselves to hide away the Past Family. It is "circular vice", or a vice circle, no pun intended. If this is not the conclusion, then what is?

------------------------
More evidence is that Cas wrote:

That’s why *"I have lived in Japan in the past week" is ungrammatical.
If according to Cas, Present Perfect is ungrammatical staying with "in the past week", why then it is grammatical with "in the past two weeks"?

:P But if Present Perfect is ungrammatical with "in the past two weeks", why then it is grammatical with "in the past 1000 weeks"? And then, why it is grammatical with "in the past five years"? They are of the same pattern!!!

That is, from the beginning to the present, logically, Cas regarded that Present Perfect is not compatible with "in the past five weeks".

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More evidence is that a gentleman here regarded our rules are nothing but a viewpoint:

You CANNOT use the Present Perfect with time expressions such as "yesterday," "one year ago," "last week," "when I was a chlid," "when I lived in Japan," "at that moment," "that day" or "one day."
== http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/presentperfect.html (a viewpoint, doesn't make it a rule.)
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Of course, as we see from above, your statement is also a disagreement to the rule.

The temporary conclusion here is obvious: Nobody agrees to such a rule.

What do you say?
:) :)

10. If the time is specific and unfinished (since 1987) then the present perfect is used. I think the issue is clouded by the fact that the present perfect is the choice when time is not specified, but that is its only use.

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