2015 was an interesting year. We (have) witnessed

atakeris

Senior Member
Latvian
Hello,

2015 was an interesting year. We (have) witnessed a number of events that shaped us.

The first sentence implies that in the second one I'm talking about events that occurred throughout 2015. Can I still use the present perfect in that case? Or only is the past simple allowed there?

Thanks!
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Yes, if you're saying it on 31 December, you're evaluating the year we're still in. And you could also say 2015 has been an interesting year. But '2015 was' is saying the year is over now (as good as over: we don't expect any more events of importance to happen). We have witnessed the events; we are still here thinking about them all. Or we witnessed the events: in April we witnessed the events that happened in April.

    Once it's 1 January, the year really is over, and it was an interesting year, and in that (past) year we witnessed . . .
     

    atakeris

    Senior Member
    Latvian
    Yes, if you're saying it on 31 December, you're evaluating the year we're still in. And you could also say 2015 has been an interesting year. But '2015 was' is saying the year is over now (as good as over: we don't expect any more events of importance to happen). We have witnessed the events; we are still here thinking about them all. Or we witnessed the events: in April we witnessed the events that happened in April.

    Once it's 1 January, the year really is over, and it was an interesting year, and in that (past) year we witnessed . . .
    So if I'm writing this sentence now—and not mentioning "in that year", "in 2015"—but still thinking about those events, should I use the present perfect? What I want to ask exactly is: if you are not indicating time in the sentence, but the reader can understand it from the context or the last sentence, is it grammatically correct to use the present perfect for reasons this tense is used for.
     
    Last edited:

    atakeris

    Senior Member
    Latvian
    So if I'm writing this sentence now—and not mentioning "in that year", "in 2015"—but still thinking about those events, should I use the present perfect? What I want to ask exactly is: if you are not indicating time in the sentence, but the reader can understand it from the context or the last sentence, is it grammatically correct to use the present perfect for reasons this tense is used for.
    Any follow up? Thanks!
     

    Nomenclature

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    English is rather flexible with the present perfect, and the sentence doesn't sound horrible to me, but the simple past still is the tense that should be used here. I'm afraid I don't quite understand your subsequent response, but I am fairly confident that the past simple still would be your only choice. If you want to emphasize the current and ongoing nature of these events, I would recommend adding a second adjective clause with a verb in the simple present e.g. "We witnessed a number of events that shaped us and that remain in our minds / continue to develop / etc."
     

    atakeris

    Senior Member
    Latvian
    English is rather flexible with the present perfect, and the sentence doesn't sound horrible to me, but the simple past still is the tense that should be used here. I'm afraid I don't quite understand your subsequent response, but I am fairly confident that the past simple still would be your only choice. If you want to emphasize the current and ongoing nature of these events, I would recommend adding a second adjective clause with a verb in the simple present e.g. "We witnessed a number of events that shaped us and that remain in our minds / continue to develop / etc."
    I really want to understand how to use the present perfect correctly. That's why I gave this example. What I don't understand is whether you should use the past simple throughout all paragraph or even further if you have identified the time period in the first or any other sentence sentence, for example.

    This is an example:
    2015 was an interesting year. <sentence 1.> <sentence 2.> <sennence 3.> We <have> witnessed a number of shifts in...

    So in the first sentence, I've identified the time (2015). But in the fourth sentence, I haven't, but the reader can understand it from the context. So should I use the past simple in such cases?
     

    Nomenclature

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    So in the first sentence, I've identified the time (2015). But in the fourth sentence, I haven't, but the reader can understand it from the context. So should I use the past simple in such cases?
    Yes, the past simple will always be the verb that you use in this situation.


    There is nothing wrong with using it throughout the entire paragraph. The original response from entangledbank pointed out that if you were writing and publishing this article on Dec 30. then you could use the present perfect in both clauses. "2015 has been an interesting year, we have witnessed..." However, if you are writing this in 2016 or any time after that, you must use the simple past in both clauses "2015 was an interesting year, we witnessed...". This rule remains the same even when there are sentences between them.
     

    atakeris

    Senior Member
    Latvian
    Yes, the past simple will always be the verb that you use in this situation.


    There is nothing wrong with using it throughout the entire paragraph. The original response from entangledbank pointed out that if you were writing and publishing this article on Dec 30. then you could use the present perfect in both clauses. "2015 has been an interesting year, we have witnessed..." However, if you are writing this in 2016 or any time after that, you must use the simple past in both clauses "2015 was an interesting year, we witnessed...". This rule remains the same even when there are sentences between them.
    Thanks!
     
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