have/had always wanted to

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Phoebe1200

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
Self-made.

For instance, I have a celebrity crush and of course dream of meeting him some day. Imagine that it actually happens today and tomorrow I tell my friend all about it. I'm interested in which tense I should use with this sentence:

"I have/had always wanted to meet him."

Note that I want to use the sentence the next day after I've already met him.
Could you help me?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    You need more than one sentence, for this sentence to make sense. For example you cannot say "him" without a previous sentence that says who "him" refers to.

    If your first sentence is:

    I met Brad Pitt yesterday, in person.

    Then your second sentence is:

    I had always wanted to meet him.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    You could equally well say I have always wanted to meet him.
    It depends partly on what you go on to say.

    For example: I found him charming and easy to talk to. (I would then prefer I have always wanted to meet him.)
     
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    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    The past perfect feels like a derivative from the present perfect, so it's normally only used if necessary to specify that what you're saying would not work in the present perfect. For example, you could use it to explain why something happened then that might not happen now, or to describe a change in conditions. Otherwise, if nothing changed at the time you're talking about, so that that time and the present are fundamentally the same for the subject you're talking about, the present perfect is the simpler default form. For example:

    "France joined the war for another opportunity to fight the British because they'd been enemies for so long"... wouldn't work as "they've been" because they're allies now.

    "I hadn't seen rain in five months, so when my plane landed here, I just stood outside in the rain for a while"... explains why (s)he stood in the rain at that time even if (s)he might not do the same today... wouldn't work as "haven't seen" because today it hasn't been so long since the last time (s)he saw rain.

    So the question, for the girl who met a celebrity, is whether anything is different now from when she met him (like it was a disappointment because he was unfriendly, or her desire to meet him has been fully satisfied) or needs to be explained as a result of her having always wanted to meet him (like that she got too nervous to speak to him). If so, then she'd use past perfect to distinguish the past (when she met him) from the present (when she's talking about it).

    If not, so the difference in time between when it happened and when she's talking about it makes no difference in what she's saying (it was a good experience and she is still excited about it and would be happy if it happened again), then both forms can work, but the present perfect would come more naturally, and the past perfect might make a listener wonder if something has changed that she has not told yet.
     
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    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thank you so much for your very helpful replies.

    Please tell me if I understand it correctly.
    So you mean if the experience is bad (and I mean not just meeting someone you've always wanted to meet but even talking about wanting or dreaming to do something) then I use past perfect but if it was good and I feel the same way about it then present perfect?

    e.g. I have always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and liked it)
    I had always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and but was disappointed, didn't like it)

    I have always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York and like it)
    I had always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York but don't like it)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    In my opinion Phoebe's proposed rule in #5 (use past perfect for a bad experience, present perfect for a good experience) is not a standard rule or convention in AE.

    The past perfect feels like a derivative from the present perfect, so it's normally only used if necessary to specify that what you're saying would not work in the present perfect.
    I think in this and the rest of his post, Delvo is describing how he chooses between two meanings (and thus chooses to use past perfect or present perfect, which have different meanings). I don't think all AE speakers make the same choices as Delvo, or for the same reasons.

    For example, it is true today that "I have always been fascinated by roulette". But if I am telling a story about my first visit to Las Vegas, I can say "I had always been fascinated by roulette". In the story, I want to tell people how I felt about roulette back then, not how I feel about it now.
     
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    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    For example, it is true today that "I have always been fascinated by roulette". But if I am telling a story about my first visit to Las Vegas, I can say "I had always been fascinated by roulette". In the story, I want to tell people how I felt about roulette back then, not how I feel about it now.
    But what if my first visit to Vegas was just one or two days ago. Do I still use past perfect?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If you are in story-telling mode, you would be more likely to say I had always been fascinated by roulette.

    But you might also say Two days ago I paid a visit to Las Vegas. I have always been fascinated by roulette and when I got there the casino lived up to my expectations.
    In this sentence you are still fascinated by the game.

    If your experience changed your mind, you could have said I had always ...... roulette, but when I got there I lost more than I could afford. Roulette is now a no go for me.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Phoebe -

    Since you are telling the story, you get to decide which you will say. There is no rule!

    The two verb tenses say different things. You understand that now. You choose whatever meaning you want to say, and you say it.

    In post #7 you are asking a personal style question. There is no "correct" answer. It is not a grammar question.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Could you please tell me what tense you would choose to use in my examples?

    e.g. I have always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and liked it)
    I had always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and but was disappointed, didn't like it)

    I have always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York and like it)
    I had always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York but don't like it)
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    These are examples of present perfect vs past perfect. They are unusual examples, because they use "always" and they talk about wanting to do something after already doing it. But all four are correct and idiomatic.

    Here is how I would use these 4 sentences (my style, my usage, not universal rules):

    1. I would not say "I want to do X" once I have already done X. I would only say "I want to do X again". So I would never say "I have always wanted to see that movie" if I already saw it 6 months ago. To me, "always wanting to" ended 6 months ago when I actually did it.

    2. Similarly, if I have been living in New York for a year now, am I still "dreaming of living in New York"? How is it still something "I am dreaming about doing" if I do it every day? I might say "living in New York feels like a dream", but that is "feeling like", not actually dreaming. There is a common expression in English, "It feels like a dream come true".

    3. I don't see any connection between liked/disliked and the verb tense you use.

    4. If you are writing about something that happened a year ago, and you want to explain your mental state up until that time you use past perfect. It does not matter whether your mental state was the same later. If you want to explain your mental state up until now you use present perfect.
     
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    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    So I would never say "I have always wanted to see that movie" if I already saw it 6 months ago. To me, "always wanting to" ended 6 months ago when I actually did it.
    And if I saw it yesterday or days ago or very recently and I'm excited that I've finally got a chance to watch it, then which tense would you use?
    Please tell me.

    if I have been living in New York for a year now, am I still "dreaming of living in New York"? How is it still something "I am dreaming about doing" if I do it every day?
    You're right about this example. It's silly. But if I want to express that it was a dream of mine to live in New York before I actually started living there, which tense should I use?

    Past perfect or past simple?
    I had always dreamed of living in New York.
    I always dreamed of living in New York.
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    Could you please tell me what tense you would choose to use in my examples?

    e.g. I have always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and liked it)
    I had always wanted to see that movie. (I've already seen it and but was disappointed, didn't like it)

    I have always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York and like it)
    I had always dreamed of living in New York. ( I'm already living in New York but don't like it)
    Don't get too caught up in distinguishing between them based on whether the experience changed anything. I think getting stuck on verbs like "want/dream" and/or the adjective "always" has distorted the perspective here. The defining difference between past & present perfects is just time. In one case you're saying that something is true now, and in the other you're saying that it was true at some time in the past... but if the same thing both was true then and is still true now, then both verb forms are correct.

    An example without "always wanted" or "always dreamed":

    1: I have eaten at that restaurant before.
    2: I had eaten at that restaurant before.

    The second one only means that, at a past time which would be referred to in simple past tense in the same conversation, the first statement was already true. When the verb isn't "want/dream" and doesn't have "always" attached, it has nothing to do with whether you liked the restaurant, or would want to go back in the future. It's only a matter of whether, and when, something happened.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    This question has been added to the previous thread.
    See Phoebe's explanation of her question in her post below.

    Cagey, moderator.

    Self-made.

    I saw a movie with my friend and I'm excited that I've finally got a chance to watch it. When I tell my friend the sentence below, which tense should I use?


    I have/had always wanted to see that movie.
     
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    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Are you suggesting past perfect because I used "an hour ago" in my context? I edited it a bit because I want to know which tense to use if I'm watching it with a friend and say that sentence right after or even during the movie.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    In what way is your question different from your previous thread present perfect/past perfect ?


    < This newer thread has now been added to the previous thread.
    Cagey, moderator. >
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    If you have just seen the movie, or have seen it an hour ago, you would say "I have always wanted to see that movie."

    It's not possible to make a rule that will always tell you whether something is recent enough to take the present perfect. If you are talking to the friend who saw the movie with you, you would probably use the present perfect. If you are talking to someone else about what you did the previous day, you would probably use the past perfect.
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    The present perfect is used for something which, in the mind of the speaker, is related to the present. As Cagey says, there is no rule for how close to the present moment something has to be to justify this association - it varies depending on the speaker and the context. For a movie I agree with Cagey that the period is generally short, but for other activities it could be considerably longer.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thank you Cagey and Glasguensis.

    Could I also ask you to answer the following question? Because this one's still unclear to me.
    But if I want to express that it was a dream of mine to live in New York before I actually started living there, which tense should I use?

    Past perfect or past simple?
    I had always dreamed of living in New York.
    I always dreamed of living in New York.
    Or maybe present perfect can be used here too?

    Gratefully.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Then I suppose that present perfect would be better if I just started living there very recently; past simple either the same as present perfect or after a significant amount of time has passed and past perfect would be better after a year or so has passed. What do you think?

    And also would my liking or disliking living in New York affect the choice of tense here?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    All these questions have already been addressed. There is no magic formula for which form should be used in what circumstances.
     
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