Past Perfect and Present Perfect

Anushka Athukorala

Senior Member
Sinhalese
Hello Members

The sentence below is from my “Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use Book”. The words which in italics was the answer given in the book.

“In last night’s final Mark Peters defeated Ed Myers in three sets. It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion.”

My answer was “had beaten” instead of “has beaten” so could you please tell me if my answer was wrong. If so could you please explain the reason why “Present perfect” is used?

In the same book they have said “Notice, however, that after It/This/That was the first time…. We generally use the past perfect

Eg. It was the first time I’d talked to Ella outside the office.

It is very confusing because their explanation contradicts their answer. Could you help me with this?

Thank you
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I think their explanation is correct and their answer is wrong.
    Present perfect would be right if the second sentence had begun with the present: This is the first time that Peters has beaten the world champion.
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Couldn't the Past Perfect be somewhat misleading though, in this particular context?

    Peters has made six attempts to beat Ed Myers. But only in the last one he finally beat him.
    It was the first time in six attempts that Peters had beaten the world champion.:confused:

    To me, this suggests that he beat him in the first attempt out of six, while I understand the original sentence means he beat him in the last of the six attempts.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    It doesn't suggest that to me, kayve. We would say, for example, "the first time in six years", which would mean he had been trying for six years to beat him.
    To give your meaning, I think it would need to be "It was in the first of six attempts that...", but that doesn't make any sense. If he beat him in the first attempt, what is the point of mentioning the other attempts?

    That said, I agree it could have been phrased better, and with a different preposition, e.g.: "After five failed attempts, it was the first time that Peters had beaten the WC."
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    To give your meaning, I think it would need to be "It was in the first of six attempts that...", but that doesn't make any sense. If he beat him in the first attempt, what is the point of mentioning the other attempts?
    Okay, I see, thank you very much, Edinburgher!

    I don't understand what "It was the first time in six attempts that" here means at all:( Could anyone tell please?
    I read it to mean there have been as many as six attempts, in the first five attempts Peters lost, but in the sixth one he finally succeeded
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I read it to mean there have been as many as six attempts, in the first five attempts Peters lost, but in the sixth one he finally succeeded
    That is "attempt" refers to a "whole game", like, "last night’s final" is the sixth attempt, right?
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    My feeling is the same as pob's. Each of the five earlier attempts were part of a completely different match/competition.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    Thank you everyone!

    Well, then I believe the present perfect is correct, since he is now the champion, as the result of "beating" the previous champion:confused:
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    In theory the second verb should have been past perfect "had beaten", but the apparent tense discrepancy doesn't grate on the ear because the event only took place last night so it has only just finished, and it has a relevance to the time the statement is made in the sense that there has not been another match between the two since last night, so it is still the first time in six attempts and not, for example, the second time in seven attempts, which might be the case if the two had played again in the meantime.

    Also, the text reads like a sports report on the radio, and in journalism they often prefer present perfect in this kind of context as it makes the information sound fresher, newer and more dramatic than if they used the past perfect. If this had been an entry in, say, a sports almanac or some kind of written record in which everything is seen as "happened in the past and is now finished", I'm sure the past perfect would have been used.

    Note that the book says "Notice, however, that after It/This/That was the first time…. We generally use the past perfect". That's "generally" but not necessarily "always".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hello Members

    The sentence below is from my “Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use Book”. The words which in italics was the answer given in the book.

    “In last night’s final Mark Peters defeated Ed Myers in three sets. It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion.”

    My answer was “had beaten” instead of “has beaten” so could you please tell me if my answer was wrong. If so could you please explain the reason why “Present perfect” is used?

    In the same book they have said “Notice, however, that after It/This/That was the first time…. We generally use the past perfect

    Eg. It was the first time I’d talked to Ella outside the office.

    It is very confusing because their explanation contradicts their answer. Could you help me with this?

    Thank you
    The sentence says that Peters had not beaten the word champion before that, that Peters did beat the word champion that time, and that there have, as of now, been (at least) six attempts. The "has beaten" clause is not about any time before "that" but about six attempts including that time.

    If we were to replace "first" with "only", and if we knew that Peters has now beaten the word champion more than that once, then "has beaten" would be wrong and "had beaten" would be right.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    In theory the second verb should have been past perfect "had beaten", but the apparent tense discrepancy doesn't grate on the ear because the event only took place last night so it has only just finished, and it has a relevance to the time the statement is made in the sense that there has not been another match between the two since last night, so it is still the first time in six attempts and not, for example, the second time in seven attempts, which might be the case if the two had played again in the meantime.

    Also, the text reads like a sports report on the radio, and in journalism they often prefer present perfect in this kind of context as it makes the information sound fresher, newer and more dramatic than if they used the past perfect. If this had been an entry in, say, a sports almanac or some kind of written record in which everything is seen as "happened in the past and is now finished", I'm sure the past perfect would have been used.

    Note that the book says "Notice, however, that after It/This/That was the first time…. We generally use the past perfect". That's "generally" but not necessarily "always".
    http://forum.wordreference.com/members/enquiring-mind.439164/
    Hello Enquiring mind


    Your knowledge of English grammar is excellent and I really admire it. Your explanation is very much the same as the one given in my book.

    I just read in my “Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use Book” it says "In news reports, you will often read about or hear recent events introduced with present perfect, and then the simple past or other tenses are used to give details."

    For example "The film star Jim cooper has died of cancer. He was 68 and lived in Texas.....


    The sentence I posted in my first thread was given under the exercises "Here are some extracts from a television news report. Choose the more appropriate tense- present perfect or past simple." which means the answer given in the book should be correct because they expect us to use either present perfect or past simple so in that context present perfect is the only option we have got.


    I would also like to know “the text reads like a sports report on the radio, and in journalism they often prefer present perfect in this kind of context as it makes the information sound fresher, newer and more dramatic than if they used the past perfect”. If they wanted it to sound newer why they did use was as in “It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion.” I would like your opinion on that as well because I would love to learn it logically rather than just memorize it.

    Thank you
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    The sentence says that Peters had not beaten the word champion before that, that Peters did beat the word champion that time, and that there have, as of now, been (at least) six attempts. The "has beaten" clause is not about any time before "that" but about six attempts including that time.

    If we were to replace "first" with "only", and if we knew that Peters has now beaten the word champion more than that once, then "has beaten" would be wrong and "had beaten" would be right.
    Hello Forero

    Thank you very much for your answer.

    I just read in my “Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use Book” it says "In news reports, you will often read about or hear recent events introduced with present perfect, and then the simple past or other tenses are used to give details."

    For example "The film star Jim cooper has died of cancer. He was 68 and lived in Texas.....


    The sentence I posted in my first thread was given under the exercises "Here are some extracts from a television news report. Choose the more appropriate tense- present perfect or past simple." which means the answer given in the book should be correct because they expect us to use either present perfect or past simple so in that context present perfect is the only option we have got. so what do you think about it?

    Thank you
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hi AA, it was the first time in six attempts that ABC has beaten XYZ. The first was is clearly a simple description of an event in the past, which the speaker - at the time he made the statement - saw as a completed event in the past. Has beaten happened in the past too, but there are several possible "prompts" or justifications for the present perfect:
    (1) the action has happened recently (cf: ABC has beaten XYZ, it happened very recently (last night))
    (2) the action can be seen as having a relevance to the present (ABC has beaten XYZ, this is a new state of affairs, at this time yesterday morning, I could not have made this statement, because ABC still had not beaten XYZ).
    (3) "Journalism mode" has just kicked in - make it sound fresh, make it sound new, don't make it sound as if it is a completed event in the past. Old stuff isn't "news". People don't listen to the news to hear history.

    But note too:
    (a) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (as we're discussing here)
    (b) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters had beaten the word champion :tick: (the "correct" backshift)
    (c) It is the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (even fresher and more "newsy" than (a))

    And note too that some (but not all) American English speakers don't use the present perfect in the same way as BE speakers. Some AE speakers may say I just ate breakfast where BE speakers say I have just eaten breakfast.
     

    Anushka Athukorala

    Senior Member
    Sinhalese
    Hi AA, it was the first time in six attempts that ABC has beaten XYZ. The first was is clearly a simple description of an event in the past, which the speaker - at the time he made the statement - saw as a completed event in the past. Has beaten happened in the past too, but there are several possible "prompts" or justifications for the present perfect:
    (1) the action has happened recently (cf: ABC has beaten XYZ, it happened very recently (last night))
    (2) the action can be seen as having a relevance to the present (ABC has beaten XYZ, this is a new state of affairs, at this time yesterday morning, I could not have made this statement, because ABC still had not beaten XYZ).
    (3) "Journalism mode" has just kicked in - make it sound fresh, make it sound new, don't make it sound as if it is a completed event in the past. Old stuff isn't "news". People don't listen to the news to hear history.

    But note too:
    (a) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (as we're discussing here)
    (b) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters had beaten the word champion :tick: (the "correct" backshift)
    (c) It is the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (even fresher and more "newsy" than (a))

    And note too that some (but not all) American English speakers don't use the present perfect in the same way as BE speakers. Some AE speakers may say I just ate breakfast where BE speakers say I have just eaten breakfast.

    Hello Enquiring mind

    Thank you so much. your explanation on that was excellent especially the way you explained how "perfect tense" is used in English to talk about various situations, it is much better than the one in my book. I wish if the book also used "It is the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion" to give the news as you mentioned. I have no more questions to ask and I'm really looking forward to learning from you.

    Thank you.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hello Forero

    Thank you very much for your answer.

    I just read in my “Cambridge Advanced Grammar in Use Book” it says "In news reports, you will often read about or hear recent events introduced with present perfect, and then the simple past or other tenses are used to give details."

    For example "The film star Jim cooper has died of cancer. He was 68 and lived in Texas.....

    The sentence I posted in my first thread was given under the exercises "Here are some extracts from a television news report. Choose the more appropriate tense- present perfect or past simple." which means the answer given in the book should be correct because they expect us to use either present perfect or past simple so in that context present perfect is the only option we have got. so what do you think about it?

    Thank you
    A news report is an update, a summary of events since the last edition, and the first sentence is often meant to summarize the whole report, so present perfect is appropriate in the first sentence. It is not appropriate in the second sentence because "was 68 and lived in Texas" is implicitly modified by "when he died".
    Hi AA, it was the first time in six attempts that ABC has beaten XYZ. The first was is clearly a simple description of an event in the past, which the speaker - at the time he made the statement - saw as a completed event in the past. Has beaten happened in the past too, but there are several possible "prompts" or justifications for the present perfect:
    (1) the action has happened recently (cf: ABC has beaten XYZ, it happened very recently (last night))
    (2) the action can be seen as having a relevance to the present (ABC has beaten XYZ, this is a new state of affairs, at this time yesterday morning, I could not have made this statement, because ABC still had not beaten XYZ).
    (3) "Journalism mode" has just kicked in - make it sound fresh, make it sound new, don't make it sound as if it is a completed event in the past. Old stuff isn't "news". People don't listen to the news to hear history.

    But note too:
    (a) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (as we're discussing here)
    (b) It was the first time in six attempts that Peters had beaten the word champion :tick: (the "correct" backshift)
    (c) It is the first time in six attempts that Peters has beaten the word champion :tick: (even fresher and more "newsy" than (a))

    And note too that some (but not all) American English speakers don't use the present perfect in the same way as BE speakers. Some AE speakers may say I just ate breakfast where BE speakers say I have just eaten breakfast.
    On first reading, I did not know what exactly the sentence was meant to be saying, so the first part of my last post may not make much sense.

    But as usual I have problems with these "prompts".

    (1) I don't know what "recent" is supposed to mean here, but what I have just said about a news report applies to this one too.
    (2) Anything worth mentioning has a relevance to the present, so that is not saying much. I do agree that a news report is meant to inform us about "current" events and changes, not things that were true before.
    (3) I don't think present perfect sounds "fresh". In fact it has the same problem a passive voice would. If it is appropriate in the sentence we are discussing here, it is because the clause in question is meant as a summary of a period of time that extends up to the present (i.e. up until press time).

    "It was the last time Peters has beaten the world champion" would tell us that Peters has not beaten the world champion since then. Ditto for "... the only time ...".

    It would also make sense to say "It was the first time Peters has beaten the world champion", which suggests the opposite, that perhaps Peters has beaten the world champion since then.

    But with "in six attempts", it probably only means Peters has not made any more attempts since then, which is not saying much, let alone anything newsy.
     
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