American English Grammar

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Deepurple

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Dear teachers,

I would like to know:

(1) under what circumstances that the past tense should be used instead of the present perfect, apart from "already, just and yet". Is it under all circumstances that the present perfect can be replaced by the past tense in US English? and

(2)as a UK grammar learner, how to ensure my class assignments are acceptable to US teachers in terms of grammar and vocabularly. Is there any convenient ways/tools on the internet that I can use on that? Thanks for helping.

(Both UK and US teachers are welcome for suggestions.)
 
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Tdol

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There are lists of vocab and the more obvious differences, but US teachers should not have a problem if you use BrE- educations pretty international and different variants are learnt and used all over the place. There will be things like our tendency to use the plural for collective nouns and constructions like need + ing that they may not be familiar with.
 

Barb_D

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Where, oh WHERE does this idea that Americans don't use the present perfect come from, and why does it continue?

I have found [look! I used it!] that there is a difference with "just" -- "I just used the present perfect" sounds fine to me, but my UK cousins would use have used there, I believe -- but otherwise, we're very, very similar.

When the situation relates to the present, use the present perfect. When the situation relates to a specific time reference in the past, use the simple past.

Before I started coming to ESL forums, there were things I would have thought to be wrong, like "at the weekend" on "in the street" (when we would use "on" the street), but there are very few things most Americans wouldn't simply recognize as being British English, instead of "wrong."
 

TheParser

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Dear teachers,

I would like to know:

(1) under what circumstances that the past tense should be used instead of the present perfect, apart from "already, just and yet". Is it under all circumstances that the present perfect can be replaced with the past tense in US English? and

(2)as a UK grammar learner, how to ensure my class assignments are acceptable to US teachers in terms of grammar and vocabularly. Is there any convenient ways/tools on the internet that I can use on that? Thanks for helping.

(Both UK and US teachers are welcome for suggestions.)

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Good morning, Deepurple.

(1) Yes, I think it is true that Americans often use the past when the

books call for the present perfect.

(a) I guess the "classic" case is when you ask someone about a movie

that s/he has just seen:

(i) My guess (only a guess, of course) is that many (most?) Americans

would say:

Man! Wow! That was the best movie I ever saw in my life.

(a) Maybe some grammarians with deep insight might say that using the

past is justified in some sense.

(i) Is it "stronger" to say "saw" than a "weaker" and "more tentative"

"have seen"? I have no idea. Just asking.

(2) As the other posters HAVE SAID (said?), the differences don't seem

that shocking except for the occasional preposition.

(i) I was taken aback the first time I read "the first time FOR five years" in

a British publication.

(ii) And occasionally the vocabulary (not only the spelling) is quite

"charming." Just today I had to run to my dictionary to look up

"dogsbody." I guess it is something like our "gofer."

(3) Finally, I just read that a popular American TV show may be

looking for a British host because, it is said, Americans just love

the British accent!

Have a nice day!

*****

P . S. Of course, sometimes the differences CAN be important. I hear that

"to table a motion " in Parliament/Congress has opposite meanings.
 

Barb_D

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Do you really think so? I would certainly say it was the best movie I have ever seen. As would my parents, siblings, children, in-laws, coworkers, etc.
 

bertietheblue

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Why not google (US pages only) 'the best movie I ever saw' v 'the best movie I've ever seen'? Could it be that, grammatically, English in Pennsylvania is more like GBEng? Don't know, but 'the best movie I ever saw!" - I picture a drawling southerner more readily than I do someone from the old colonies. Or indeed from an Ivy League university - could it be a marker of class?
 

Barb_D

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I only live here now. I grew up in New York, lived in New England for 15 years, the rest of my family is from California, and my in-laws are from Michigan.

On the other hand, at the local mall, I'm sure I can hear "I seen it!" as well, so what can you say.
 

bertietheblue

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I only live here now. I grew up in New York, lived in New England for 15 years, the rest of my family is from California, and my in-laws are from Michigan.

On the other hand, at the local mall, I'm sure I can hear "I seen it!" as well, so what can you say.

Ah, 15 years in New England - there you go! They talk properly up there, don't they?;-)
 

Nightmare85

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**Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

I often watch American TV shows, and yes, I heard things like "This is the best movie I ever saw".
It's strange and I cannot understand it either.

A little and healthy girl can never say: "This is the best movie I ever saw."
Tomorrow she could see an even better movie.
(At least in that scene it made no sense to use Simple Past.)

I doubt it's an American English issue, though.
Maybe I will watch some British TV shows to compare the grammar.

Cheers!
 

2006

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**Neither a teacher nor a native speaker.**

I often watch American TV shows, and yes, I heard things like "This is the best movie I ever saw".
It's strange and I cannot understand it either.
The only reasons it might seem strange are that you are used to using only perfect tense or that you have been brainwashed into thinking that only perfect tense is correct.



A little and healthy girl can never say: "This is the best movie I ever saw."
Tomorrow she could see an even better movie. That has nothing to do with the issue.

(At least in that scene it made no sense to use Simple Past.)
There is no good reason to say one cannot use simple past!

If you only want to speak British English, you can continue using only perfect tense in sentences like that. But if you want to speak a more international English, you should realize that simple past is also correct.



Cheers!
2006
 

Nightmare85

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Hmm I don't know, although I really like American English, I dislike this Simple Past exaggeration.
If you talk about ever you cannot simply make past.
Ever is past, present and future.
Of course there are exceptions, like this where I fully agree that Simple Past has to be used:
My sister passed away, and it's so sad that I never played her favorite game with her.
She's dead, you cannot play that game with her anymore, but you had several chances to do it.

If someone says:
This is the best car I ever drove.
This is the best movie I ever saw.
then I clearly expect that the speaker really thinks he will never drive a faster car or see a better movie.

I often use Simple Past, but I also try to include its elements.
I would not say:
I already read that book. ->
(I've already read that book.)
But I would say:
I already read that book 2 weeks ago.

Well, I think this is a language liberty ;-)

Cheers!

 

Raymott

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If someone says:
This is the best car I ever drove.
This is the best movie I ever saw.
then I clearly expect that the speaker really thinks he will never drive a faster car or see a better movie.
You might expect that, but you shouldn't.
In this context, "ever" means up until now.
If the speaker intended the eternal meaning that you attach to "ever", he'd have to say, "This is the best car I'll ever drive", or something like that.
While the usage of the simple past for sentences like this is not as common as the present perfect (outside America), it's not because of the meaning of "ever".
 

Deepurple

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Dear All,
Thank you so much for your generous comments. By the way, besides those mentioned above, what else should I pay heed to when presenting my assignments to US teachers? Thanks again.
 
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