[Grammar] I've read the book, but I didn't understand it.

englishhobby

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I've read the book, but I didn't understand it. - Can this sentence be used to talk about a book you read, say, 20 years ago?
 

teechar

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No. Use the past simple for that.
 

englishhobby

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That's confusing for me. I thought when you talk about experience, it doesn't matter how long ago the action happened. For example, as far as I know, 'I've been to Paris' works even if you visited Paris 20 years ago. Or it doesn't?

And can we really use the past simple to talk about experience in the past? Can we say 'I was in Paris, but I didn't like it' with the meaning of experience, when the time is not mentioned or implied? I've always thought we can't...

So 'I've been to Paris, but I didn't like it' is also ungrammatical? :shock:
 
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teechar

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You're right. In that case, you might say "Yes, I've read that book. I (first) read it 20 years ago, but I (still) don't understand it."
The part in blue is about the experience. The rest is details about that experience.
 

englishhobby

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And what about that one: 'I've been to Paris (a few times), but I didn't like it (during all those visits).'?
 

bhaisahab

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'I've been to Paris, but I didn't like it.' is OK.
 

englishhobby

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bhaisahab

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In my opinion, you can.;-)
 

emsr2d2

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I agree that the present perfect is fine in your original example. It wouldn't be if you actually said "20 years ago".

I've read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)
I read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)
I read that book 20 years ago but I didn't understand it. (Specifying the time period means you need the past simple.)
 

englishhobby

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I've read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)
I read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)

If these two sentences mean the same ('I did it in the past"), does that mean that some day English will not need the present perfect tense at all (at least to talk about experience)? ;-) It means experience when used in the past simple just as well.
 

englishhobby

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They don't mean the same. They express different ways of seeing one situation.

When the time of the past action is mentioned, I understand the difference (that the speaker refers to that time in the past when using the past simple)., But in both of these examples there is no time reference. Don't they both mean experience without a time reference?

I've read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)
I read that book but I didn't understand it. (It doesn't matter when you read it.)
 

englishhobby

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The first places the reading of the book as part of the speaker's whole-life experience.
The second refers to the reading of the book as a past-time action.

So we can always add 'once' (read ... once) to the second sentence (in our thoughts), right? When we use the past simple, the time when the action was performed is always 'there' even if not mentioned. Is it possible to say so?
 
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