<present perfect> + <... ago>

Discussion in 'English Only' started by akimura, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    Japan
    Japanese
    Hi,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I've been taught that you can use an <... ago> phrase in a past tense sentence, as in "I finished the work just a while ago". And, I have also been taught that an <... ago> phrase can't be used in a present perfect sentence. I am still wondering if none of the following sentences are correct.

    a) I have finished the work just a while ago.
    b) I have just finished the work a while ago.
    c) I have just a while ago finished the work.

    Thank you in advance for your help!
     
  2. ribran

    ribran Senior Member

    Austin, Texas
    English - American
    Hi, akimura. :)

    I'll be interested to see what the Brits have to say about b). It, as well as a) and b), is ungrammatical for me, but I sometimes hear Brits say things like, "I've just arrived in London 20 minutes ago."
     
  3. Resa Reader Senior Member

    A British person would of course say:
    - I've just arrived in London.
    - I arrived in London 20 minutes ago.

    I've never heard a combination of the two. For me this sounds wrong. Well, let's wait for someone speaking British English.
     
  4. sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I don't like a), b) or c). Sorry! "A while ago" goes with the simple past for me.

    I could say "I've just arrived in London" and, once I had said this, have an urge to be more precise. This could cause me to add "twenty minutes ago". Being a member of WR, I would immediately think "Damn! That combination is ungrammatical. I wish I hadn't said that." :D
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  5. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2012
  6. akimura

    akimura Senior Member

    Japan
    Japanese
    Thank you everyone. I'm much more comfortable now how invalid it is to chose present perfect tense with a past time adverbial phrase.
     
  7. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    When you use the present perfect a past time adverbial phrase has to include now, the present.
    Correction: When you use the present perfect, a past time adverbial phrase has to encompass now, the present.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  8. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    What about I have seen him quite recently?
     
  9. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Recently means at an unspecified time in the past up to now or at some recent time up to now (Practical English Usage by Swan, section 455.5). Recently doesn't sever the link with now, while ago does.

    Ethymology of ago: "early 14c., shortened form of O.E. agan, agone "departed, passed away," pp. of an obsolete verb ago "to go forth," formed from a- "away" (perhaps here used as an intensive prefix) + gan "go" (see go). Agone remains a dialectal variant." http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=ago

    Ethymology of recent: "
    1530s, from L. recentem (nom. recens) "lately done or made, new, fresh," from re- (see re-) + PIE base *ken- "fresh, new, young" (cf. Gk. kainos "new;" Skt. kanina-"young;" O.Ir. cetu- "first;" O.C.S. na-cino "to begin," koni "beginning."). http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=recent&searchmode=none
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Are you saying that quite recently isn't, in your words, 'a past time adverbial phrase'? I was worried at what seemed like an inaccurate 'rule' you were proposing in your post #7. If we propose rules, we must make sure they are right, which is one reason I'm very hesitant about proposing them.
     
  11. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    No, I have never, in my life nor recently said that.
    Correction: or recently
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  12. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Let me explain:

    You said (in your post 7) 'When you use the present perfect a past time adverbial phrase has to include now, the present'.

    I tried to point out that I have seen him quite recently is perfectly correct.

    The point is that if quite recently is 'a past time adverbial phrase' which doesn't include now, then the fact that my sentence (in brown) uses both the present perfect and a past time adverbial phrase without a now shows your rule not to hold in all instances. I was simply pointing out that the rule didn't apply generally and wasn't, therefore, obviously helpful.
     
  13. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Not according to Michael Swan (455.5):
    "time words: ever, before, recently etc
    When we talk about finished events with words that mean 'at some/ any time up to now' (like ever, before, never, yet, recently, lately, already), we normally use the present perfect." ,
    L.G. Alexander confirms this in Longman English Grammar, section 9.24:
    "The present perfect is used in two ways in English:
    1 To describe actions beginning in the past and continuing up to the present moment (and possibly into the future).
    2 To refer to actions occurring or not occurring at an unspecified time in the past with some kind of connection to the present."
     
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    My point was, as I tried to explain in post #12, that words describing such actions often do not include the word now, which was what I understood, maybe incorrectly, you to be saying in your post #7.

    If you look carefully, you'll see I'm not disagreeing with either Swan or Alexander, just with the form of words you chose to explain them.

    I suspect we are not disagreeing about anything substantive.
     
  15. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I'm sorry for the confusion, Thomas. In post #7, I should have written: When you use the present perfect, a past time adverbial phrase has to encompass now, the present. I didn't mean the time phrase has to contain the word now.
    I wonder if "a while ago" could count as an unspecified time in the past. I read the examples of sentences with ago + the present perfect in the French article, to which you provided the link in this thread http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2324354 , post #15. Anyway, Swan advises against using them.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012

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