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  1. #1
    jwschang Guest

    Default Revisiting Present Perfect

    Did some checking up.
    It would appear that "forbidding" the use of the Present Perfect with "past time expressions" is NOT the case, with "past time expressions" generalized wrongly and thus misunderstood.

    1. We use the Simple Past for specific times in the past.
    (a) I saw Simon yesterday.
    (b) I ate lunch in the afternoon.
    (c) I visited Dalian in July.

    2. We use the Present Perfect where the exact time in the past is unimportant, not known, or cannot be recalled, but NOT with a specific past time.
    (a) I have seen Simon before. (OK)
    I have seen Simon yesterday. (Not OK)
    (b) Have you eaten lunch? I have eaten already. (OK)
    I have eaten lunch in the afternoon. (Not OK)
    I have eaten lunch at three. (Not OK)
    (c) I have visited Dalian several times since I first arrived. (OK)
    I have visited Dalian in July. (Not OK)

    That's what I understand to be the case. Any views?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Agreed :D

    1. We use the Simple Past for specific times in the past.
    2. We use the Present Perfect for non-specific times in the past.

    Something happened at some time between then and now:

    I have eaten.

    Something happened at a specific time in the past:

    I ate.

    ===========Also==================
    Time is inherent:

    I ate. (Specific time need not be stated always because it can be deduced from the context)

    Example:

    The following conversation is taking place right now, at lunch time.

    Pat: Did you eat yet?
    Sam: Yup. I ate.

    Pat asks, "Did you eat yet?", meaning "Did you eat lunch yet?" Lunch is eaten in the afternoon, so Sam deduces that 'Did you eat yet?' refers specifically to lunch time as opposed to dinner time or breakfast.

    Specific time is inherent in Simple Past verbs so a speaker doesn't have to state it, unless, that is, it's necessary:

    The following conversation takes place between two people who have been stranded on an island for two days without food.

    Pat: Did you eat yet?
    Sam: Yup. I ate yesterday afternoon before I knew you were stranded too. If I'd have known you were here, too, I would've saved some food for you. Sorry.

    'yesterday afternoon' is a specific time. It's different from 'this morning'. If Sam would have said, "Yup. I ate this morning when you were out hunting for food", Pat would've probably eaten Sam

    And, just because specific time is inherent in Simple Past verbs, doesn't mean that they cannot be modified by non-specific times, such as:

    I ate some time ago. (ok)


    Time as a modification:

    I have eaten today. (at some unknown time today).

    'today' is a specific day, but it is also made up of hours, making it span of time. When "You ate" within that span is unknown/undefinited and hence why 'today' is compatible with Present Perfect verbs.

    Note, 'today' is a 'past time adverbial': it refers to that part of today which is over. 'today' is also compatible with both Simple Past and Present Perfect. The reasons being, it refers to (a) a specific day and (b) a non-specific time within the day.

    One more thing. The Present Perfect is generally, if not always, used to take focus off the time frame and onto the the event itself. Notice that the Simple events go hand in hand with a , meaning one, specific time frame,

    walks = event 'walk', time 'Present'
    walked = event 'walk', time 'Past'


    whereas Perfect verbs lack a specific time frame. They refer to two:

    have walked: Present 'have' & Past 'walked'
    had walked before I ran: Past (begining) 'had walked' & Past (end) 'ran'

    Speakers use the Present Perfect to place heavy focus on an event. That may be the reason why the phrase 'time is unimportant' tends to be adopted in definitions for the Present Perfect.

    Have you eaten lunch?
    (I'm asking about the event. Time is not the focus/topic here)

    Did you eat lunch?
    (I'm asking about the event and the time. The event and the time go hand in hand).

    Cas :D

  3. #3
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Speakers use the Present Perfect to place heavy focus on an event. That may be the reason why the phrase 'time is unimportant' tends to be adopted in definitions for the Present Perfect.

    Have you eaten lunch?
    (I'm asking about the event. Time is not the focus/topic here)

    Did you eat lunch?
    (I'm asking about the event and the time. The event and the time go hand in hand).

    Cas :D
    Your explanation is very useful.
    In fact, my example was not a good one: I have visted Dalian several times since I arrived; because we can say "...since July 17, 2002" which makes the past time specific.
    The "variation" to the "rule" is allowed by the use of the conjunction "since". I think the "rule" of specific past time being disallowed applies only WITHIN the same clause.
    Must do more checking.

  4. #4
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    A: Have you eaten lunch in the afternoon?
    B: Yes, I have eaten lunch in the afternoon.

    A: Have you eaten lunch at three?
    B: Yes, I have eaten lunch at three.

    A: Have you visited Dalian in July?
    B: Yes, I have visited Dalian in July.


  5. #5
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    A: Have you eaten lunch in the afternoon?
    B: Yes, I have eaten lunch in the afternoon.

    A: Have you eaten lunch at three?
    B: Yes, I have eaten lunch at three.

    A: Have you visited Dalian in July?
    B: Yes, I have visited Dalian in July.

    Yes. We have been using it so. Trouble is, there ARE linguists and teachers who are teaching that we should say in answer:
    B. Yes, I ate lunch in the afternoon.
    B. Yes, I ate lunch at three.
    B. Yes, I visited Dalian in July.

    1. This is the matter that has got some people upset (never mind mentioning whoever), because it is or can be confusing.
    2. The "rule" is not my view. I did some checking and found that that's what is being taught by SOME. I don't know if it's a majority or minority who subscribe to the "rule", or it's at the climatic state of a toss-up!!!!!
    3. It seems the language has gone through "refinements" (for whatever reasons???). Without sounding disparaging, it appears that such refinements are the labour of love of purists.
    4. I guess you and I grew up speaking quite a bit of unsound grammar in pure blissful ignorance!!!!
    5. I'm more concerned with the practical side of things: With such differing views, what should we teach learners? And it could lead to a lot of angst in the poor serious-type of kid (not to mention even some adults).

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    I ate. (Specific time need not be stated always because it can be deduced from the context)

    Example:

    The following conversation is taking place right now, at lunch time.

    Pat: Did you eat yet?
    Sam: Yup. I ate.



    Cas :D
    In BE, most would use the perfect here- the past simple with 'yet' is not very common. I, personally, wouldn't use this, but some would.

  7. #7
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    I ate. (Specific time need not be stated always because it can be deduced from the context)Example:
    The following conversation is taking place right now, at lunch time.
    Pat: Did you eat yet?
    Sam: Yup. I ate.
    Cas :D
    In BE, most would use the perfect here- the past simple with 'yet' is not very common. I, personally, wouldn't use this, but some would.
    1. Re Ron's examples, some would say the Present Perfect is NOT ok for both Q & A: Did you eat lunch in the afternoon/at three? Did you visit Dalian in July? and not: Have you eaten lunch in the afternoon?....etc

    2. ON THE OTHER HAND, there can be a real meaningful difference between the Simple Past and the Present Perfect, depending on the intended message or context.
    Mother to son:
    Did you do your homework?
    Son:I did (Give me a five! She didn't ask and I didn't say I'd finished it!)
    Mum: Have you done your homework? (Completed it?)
    Son: Um... (start minor defensive tactics) the neighbour's cat was having kittens and I'd to get the vet but Uncle Ron took my mobile (new age kid) to ask aunt Julia over for dinner but Mary said she couldn't....(then major diversionary tactics) aunt Mary'd been kind of mean to Liz (Uncle Ron's wife) 'cause I'd heard her say last Thanksgiving that Liz's turkey was from the Thanksgiving before that (mum's eyes open wide)...and yeah mum (easing into counter-attacking mode), you still owe me that dollar for doing up my homework last week... (with betrayed but forgiving glance) I've to run, mum, the neighbour's cat's still having......

    3. In Singapore, kids (on the streets, in the malls) struggle with the Present Perfect, choosing (subconsciously) to use it randomly in place of the Simple Past, because (I think) they gravitate to this unfathomable city slicker to know it better, compared to plain country cousin the Simple Past.

    4. Also, I think adults tend to ask questions to kids in the PP (as wives do to husbands) and the knee-jerk reply is also in the PP, because the message is "have you done it", not a straight-forward "did you do it". The latter allows an escape route because it doesn't address COMPLETION.

    5. My conclusion (IMHO) is that there are contexts where there is no, or hardly any, difference between the two tenses, and others where the difference is intentional (conscious or otherwise).

    Trying to be light-hearted in our exchanges, like Ron.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    There is definitely a grey area- in the example I gave, it sounds a bit uncomfortable to my ears, but I wouldn't call it wrong. The two uses are acceptable. I think the general tendency is to use the PP less.

  9. #9
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    I ate. (Specific time need not be stated always because it can be deduced from the context)Example:The following conversation is taking place right now, at lunch time.
    Pat: Did you eat yet?
    Sam: Yup. I ate.
    Cas :D
    In BE, most would use the perfect here- the past simple with 'yet' is not very common. I, personally, wouldn't use this, but some would.
    That's how I tend to use the PP, without any "past time expression", and not the Simple Past for: Have you eaten? Yup, I have eaten.

  10. #10
    jwschang Guest

    Default Re: Revisiting Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    A: Have you visited Dalian in July?
    B: Yes, I have visited Dalian in July.
    Another thought. The above example seems more fitting for regular expected visits than for a once-off visit. Boss to salesman responsible for Dalian:
    Have you visited Dalian in July? (Have you done your visit to Dalian for July?)
    I have visited Dalian in July.

    What I can glean from all the examples and discussion is that the "rule" that the Present Perfect cannot be used with "a SPECIFIC time in the past" is wrongly understood to apply across the board. I think it applies only in certain contexts, depending on the intended message, where the Simple Past should be the preferred or only correct form.

    I shouldn't have opened this can of worms!!

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