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Thread: Confusion

  1. #1
    MIA6 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Confusion

    I want to know: Could a sentence in the present perfect tense has different meanings under different contexts? I don't really think so. It's like in every native english speaker's mind, in their concepts, there is only one answer for some kinds of typical sentences no matter what context is, since the context would also let you feel that way. I can give you two examples. I think they are typical sentences in the present perfect tense:1) When a person says: I have eaten a chicken. Even though you don't have context, you will think that it means he already ate it . That sentence has only this one meaning. You will not think that it means he ate it, and he is still eating it. Then If he gives you a context, I think the context would also let you feel that it means He already ate it. But if he tries to express that he is still eating it (the second meaning),then you must feel so weird that this person expressed wrongly. 2) I have never been to England. No context for you now. You must think it means I didn't go to England before, and now I am still not there; From past to now, I have never been there. I think you don't really need context to understand the Use of this sentence. However, If i give you a context. Suppose that we are both now in England, and i say to you: "This country is nice, I have never been here." Then, you must feel so weird, because in your mind, "I have never been here" means .... (I already said above). So you may correct me:"you need to say 'I have never been here BEFORE' ". [I am not so sure about this example, because my teacher told me "I have never been to England" mean I didn't go there before. So i can say this sentence when I AM in England right now] But i think you can get my point now? If you don't agree with my thought, then you mean a sentence (two sentences i gave above) has different meanings under different contexts? I hope you can solve my confusion. Thanks a lot!

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    Default Re: Confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by MIA6 View Post
    I want to know: Could a sentence in the present perfect tense has different meanings under different contexts? I don't really think so. It's like in every native english speaker's mind, in their concepts, there is only one answer for some kinds of typical sentences no matter what context is, since the context would also let you feel that way. I can give you two examples. I think they are typical sentences in the present perfect tense:1) When a person says: I have eaten a chicken. Even though you don't have context, you will think that it means he already ate it . That sentence has only this one meaning. You will not think that it means he ate it, and he is still eating it. Then If he gives you a context, I think the context would also let you feel that it means He already ate it. But if he tries to express that he is still eating it (the second meaning),then you must feel so weird that this person expressed wrongly. 2) I have never been to England. No context for you now. You must think it means I didn't go to England before, and now I am still not there; From past to now, I have never been there. I think you don't really need context to understand the Use of this sentence. However, If i give you a context. Suppose that we are both now in England, and i say to you: "This country is nice, I have never been here." Then, you must feel so weird, because in your mind, "I have never been here" means .... (I already said above). So you may correct me:"you need to say 'I have never been here BEFORE' ". [I am not so sure about this example, because my teacher told me "I have never been to England" mean I didn't go there before. So i can say this sentence when I AM in England right now] But i think you can get my point now? If you don't agree with my thought, then you mean a sentence (two sentences i gave above) has different meanings under different contexts? I hope you can solve my confusion. Thanks a lot!
    Yes, I agree with your analysis. If you have not finished eating a chicken, then 'you are eating a chicken'. If you 'have eaten a chicken', then you have finished eating it, but you are reporting it now. The eating part occurred in the past. That's why we have the pluperfect tense: 'I had eaten a chicken' means that you ate the chicken, but you are reporting a state that is also in the past. There is no context that gives the meaning of eating a chicken, and also 'having eaten' it.

    In the second example, it is impossible to say 'I have never been here' if you are here. The sentence would have to imply 'I have never been here before', and no native speaker would even consider saying it in any other way.

  3. #3
    MIA6 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Confusion

    Hi, Coffa. You said you agreed with my analysis. But did you mean you agreed with what i thought -- it's like in every native english speaker's mind, in their concepts, there is only one meaning for some kinds of typical sentences no matter what context is, since the context would also let you feel that way? IN other words, The tense does not really need context to tell us what it means. If it did need context, what good would the tense be to us? But context helps fill in the blanks, the small missing parts.
    Do you agree?

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