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  1. #1
    former is offline Newbie
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    'begin' in the present perfect with time expression help!

    Greetings,

    I have recently been caught out, so to speak, when I asked a student during a game to conjugate the verb 'begin' in the present perfect. She replied:

    "I have begun studying for 3 years"

    As a native speaker, this struck me as incorrect. I believe this is grammatically correct (insert another verb other than 'begin' e.g "I have studied for 3 years), but it simply doesn't make sense. For the sake of clarity, I know how to say this correctly using other tenses:

    "I have begun studying" (no time expression)
    or
    "I have been studying for 3 years"
    or
    "I began studying 3 years ago"

    But, the question was for the student to use the verb 'begin' in the present perfect.

    My conclusion, and I am fully prepared to be told I'm wrong, is that it is grammatically correct, but it just doesn't make sense to "have begun" doing something for 3 threes. In my mind, this statements means I have been on chapter 1 page 1 everyday for three years. Even if the student's answer was:

    "I have begun studying since 2009"

    I would think the same: It's grammatically correct, but it doesn't make sense.

    This is my first post here. Please don't dump on me. I'm a new teacher, and I'm just looking for some insight from some of the old sages here.

    Thanks in advance.

    former

  2. #2
    5jj's Avatar
    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Re: 'begin' in the present perfect with time expression help!

    Quote Originally Posted by former View Post
    You are worrying too much about 'grammatically correct'. 'I died yesterday' is 'grammatically correct', but nonsense in most normal senses of the expression.

    You are correct in your thinking:

    "I have begun studying" (no time expression)
    or
    "I have been studying for 3 years"
    or
    "I began studying 3 years ago"

    "I have begun studying since 2009" - This is possible only in the sense of 'I am in the beginning stages of a course of studies which began in 2009'. You could similarly say 'I have taken up yoga since we last saw each other.'
    5

  3. #3
    former is offline Newbie
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    Re: 'begin' in the present perfect with time expression help!

    Thank you for your reply. I'm worrying about it being grammatically correct because the aim of the game was for the student to give a grammatically correct example of the verb 'begin' in the present perfect tense. In this case, she chose to use a time expression which I believe is what makes it nonsense, but still grammatically correct. I'm well aware that there are multiple ways to express the same thought using different tenses as you and I have written. I guess what I want to know is if the sentence:

    "I have begun studying for 3 years"

    Is in fact grammatically correct, albeit nonsense. With a lot of hesitation, which made me look like I didn't know my stuff, I told the student it was grammatically correct. Time was running out, so I didn't have time to get into if it was nonsense or not. Your example of "I died yesterday" is exactly what I am getting at. It's grammatically correct, but it doesn't make sense.

    The aim of the game was to construct a grammatically correct sentence using the verb 'begin' in the present perfect and not simply give an answer that someone has been (or began) studying for X amount of years of which there are other tenses and constructs that could be used.

    What I would like to be able to do is tell the class that the student's answer was in fact grammatically correct, but that it just doesn't make sense. So, was her answer grammatically correct?

    Thanks again for your input.

    Former
    Last edited by former; 02-Mar-2011 at 10:00.

  4. #4
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    Re: 'begin' in the present perfect with time expression help!

    Quote Originally Posted by former View Post
    "I have begun studying for 3 years"
    If one sets one's mind to it, one can eventually come up with a context for almost any construction - people soon came up with ideas for a meaning for Chomsky's well-formed but meaningless Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

    I dislike telling learners that a construction can never be used - apart from anything else, I don't like being caught out when some smart alec comes up with a possible context. I tend come out with something like, "It may be possible, but it's difficult to think of a natural context it which it could be used. I suggest that you forget it until such time as you may need it."

    Your example, quoted at the beginning of this post is just about possible in a situation in which I might say (with a stressed begun):

    I've begun studying several times over the last three years.

    The next word will probably be but (or some other contrast word). If it isn't, it is implied by the speaker, and will almost certainly be inferred by the listener.

  5. #5
    former is offline Newbie
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    Re: 'begin' in the present perfect with time expression help!

    Thanks friend. I think I know how to handle it from here. Your input is much appreciated!

    former

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