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  1. #1
    Susie Smith Guest

    Default Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Hi! I'm in a hurry, so I'll try to be brief and still make sense. A Brazilian asked me to check something he wrote. He said, "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time." I tried to explain that he can't use the present perfect this way - that he should say "I can't/don't remember this time.", but I don't think I convinced him. His argument is that he has heard, "She has won an Oscar." I told him that this means a recent past event. He wants a rule to support what I told him. Can anybody help me explain this to him?

    Besides that, I told him that "I like my friends very much." is preferable to "I like very much my friends." Would any of you disagree with me?

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    His memory is not recent past- it is a present memory of past events.

    We don't often split the verb and the object, so 'very much' is better at the end. However, in British English we tend not to use 'much' in the positive a great deal, so I'd say 'a lot'.

  3. #3
    Susie Smith Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    His memory is not recent past- it is a present memory of past events.

    We don't often split the verb and the object, so 'very much' is better at the end. However, in British English we tend not to use 'much' in the positive a great deal, so I'd say 'a lot'.
    Thanks a lot for the help. :D

  4. #4
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    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    The second sentence has no apparent connection to the first one. It is unclear what he doesn't remember.

    :(

  5. #5
    Susie Smith Guest

    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    The second sentence has no apparent connection to the first one. It is unclear what he doesn't remember.

    :(
    He can't remember that period of his life. (when his parents got divorced)
    The point is that he expected me to recite a rule to "prove" why he shouldn't have used the present perfect as he did, and I couldn't tell him a rule off the top of my head. I like the way Tdol explained it. Can you add anything to it?

  6. #6
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    The second sentence has no apparent connection to the first one. It is unclear what he doesn't remember.

    :(
    He can't remember that period of his life. (when his parents got divorced)
    The point is that he expected me to recite a rule to "prove" why he shouldn't have used the present perfect as he did, and I couldn't tell him a rule off the top of my head. I like the way Tdol explained it. Can you add anything to it?
    A better, more natural way to put that would be, "I have no memory of that." The present perfect has to be something in the past with a direct connection to the present. His sentence is only in the present. That is, while the events he remembers (or doesn't remember) are in the past, his effort to remember them is entirely in the present.

    (It seems that some verbs don't lend themselves very well to the present perfect. "Remember" seems to be one of them.)

    Does that help?

    :)

  7. #7
    Susie Smith Guest

    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    Quote Originally Posted by RonBee
    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    The second sentence has no apparent connection to the first one. It is unclear what he doesn't remember.

    :(
    He can't remember that period of his life. (when his parents got divorced)
    The point is that he expected me to recite a rule to "prove" why he shouldn't have used the present perfect as he did, and I couldn't tell him a rule off the top of my head. I like the way Tdol explained it. Can you add anything to it?
    A better, more natural way to put that would be, "I have no memory of that." The present perfect has to be something in the past with a direct connection to the present. His sentence is only in the present. That is, while the events he remembers (or doesn't remember) are in the past, his effort to remember them is entirely in the present.

    (It seems that some verbs don't lend themselves very well to the present perfect. "Remember" seems to be one of them.)

    Does that help?

    :)
    Yes, it does. Thanks a lot. I agree that it sounds better reworded; but if you start picking students' literary efforts apart, they can become frustrated and start wondering if they will ever be able to write something "satisfactory".

    Funny, I had come to the same conclusion about remember. I wonder if there's such a thing as a list of verbs that don't lend themselves well to the present perfect.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    Yes, it does. Thanks a lot. I agree that it sounds better reworded; but if you start picking students' literary efforts apart, they can become frustrated and start wondering if they will ever be able to write something "satisfactory".

    Funny, I had come to the same conclusion about remember. I wonder if there's such a thing as a list of verbs that don't lend themselves well to the present perfect.
    I have a list of verbs that don't lend themselves well to the progressive/continuous tense.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    A Brazilian speaker asked me to check something he wrote. He said, "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    Using the Present Perfect is fine, like this, (have been):

    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not been able to remembered that time."

    First, the word 'remembered' expresses a state, therefore we need BE, like this, have not been (Present Perfect); Second, remembering the divorce is what the writer is having trouble doing, so we need to add a modal, like this, have not been able to remember; third, since the divorce happened in this past, we need to use a demonstrative that relates to the past. Using 'this' doesn't work. It refers to the here and now; using that (i.e. over there, in the past) works well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    Besides that, I told him that "I like my friends very much." is preferable to "I like very much my friends." Would any of you disagree with me?
    I like my friends very much. (OK)
    Question: How much?
    Answer: Very much. (Functions as an adverb. It modifies what's called a VP (i.e. Verb Phrase, which is made up of the verb 'like' and its object 'my friends': like my friends).

    I like very much my friends. (Not OK)
    ==> 'very much' modifies the entire verb phrase 'like my friends', so it should go at the end of the entire verb phrase.

    All the best,

  10. #10
    Susie Smith Guest

    Default Re: Please help me explain the Present Perfect

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    A Brazilian speaker asked me to check something he wrote. He said, "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not remembered this time."
    Using the Present Perfect is fine, like this, (have been):

    "My parents got divorced when I was two. I've not been able to remembered that time."

    First, the word 'remembered' expresses a state, therefore we need BE, like this, have not been (Present Perfect); Second, remembering the divorce is what the writer is having trouble doing, so we need to add a modal, like this, have not been able to remember; third, since the divorce happened in this past, we need to use a demonstrative that relates to the past. Using 'this' doesn't work. It refers to the here and now; using that (i.e. over there, in the past) works well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Susie Smith
    Besides that, I told him that "I like my friends very much." is preferable to "I like very much my friends." Would any of you disagree with me?
    I like my friends very much. (OK)
    Question: How much?
    Answer: Very much. (Functions as an adverb. It modifies what's called a VP (i.e. Verb Phrase, which is made up of the verb 'like' and its object 'my friends': like my friends).

    I like very much my friends. (Not OK)
    ==> 'very much' modifies the entire verb phrase 'like my friends', so it should go at the end of the entire verb phrase.

    All the best,
    Thanks a lot, Cas. Your explanation is going to help me explain this to him, but I still think it would sound more natural in the present tense, as
    I can't remember that far back. or I'm not able to remember that time.
    Funny, I would use "forget" in the present perfect, but not remember, except maybe like this - I've just remembered that I left the iron on. - although most native speakers would simply say - I just remembered that ...
    I'd say:
    I've never forgotten that. BUT I'm not able to remember that. UNLESS I were (informal = was) trying to remember that time, in which case I'd probably say, "I haven't been able to remember that."

    Hope I make sense. I wrote this in such a hurry that I couldn't reread it.

    Once again, I truly appreciate your suggestions.

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