Tenses

Lancel0t

Senior Member
Philippines - Filipino/English
I do have some confusions when it comes to construction of different tenses. I hope you could help me with this.

With the construction of the Past Perfect Tense it would be have + the past particple of the verb right? (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

e.g.
I have made a big mistake a while ago.
The children have given a lot of support to the project of their school.

1st question: Are my sentences correct?
2nd question: Is it possible to use the past participle of the verb without using "have + past participle" pattern?

Thanks in advance
 
  • zebedee

    Senior Member
    Gt. Britain - English
    Lancel0t said:
    I do have some confusions when it comes to construction of different tenses. I hope you could help me with this.

    With the construction of the Past Perfect Tense it would be have + the past particple of the verb right? (Please correct me if I'm wrong)

    e.g.
    I have made a big mistake a while ago.
    The children have given a lot of support to the project of their school.

    1st question: Are my sentences correct?
    2nd question: Is it possible to use the past participle of the verb without using "have + past participle" pattern?

    Thanks in advance
    Hi Lancelot,

    The important thing to remember with the present perfect as opposed to the past is that it's the time that's important rather than the action.

    With the present perfect the time is not finished (today, this week, this month, in my life - ever, never etc.) When the time is finished, you use the simple past (yesterday, last week, last year, in 1985, X days/months/years ago...)

    Eg: Last week I ate in a restaurant 3 times.
    This week I've eaten in a restaurant 3 times.

    So your example of:
    I have made a big mistake a while ago.
    is not correct because a while ago is a time that is finished.
    I made a big mistake a while ago would be correct.

    Your second example of:
    The children have given a lot of support to the project of their school.
    is correct if you want to imply that the timespan of the project is not finished. If the time of the project is over it would be:
    The children gave a lot of support to the project of their school.

    That's why you say I've been to Paris twice in my life.
    Although the action (going to Paris) is finished, the time (your life) is not finished so we use the Present Perfect.
    Compare with Charlie Chaplin never used a computer in his life.
    His life (unfortunately) is over so we use the Past.

    If you need more help just let me know. I'm not quite sure I understand your 2nd question :eek: to help you with it!

    regards,
    zeb
     

    Lancel0t

    Senior Member
    Philippines - Filipino/English
    zebedee said:
    Hi Lancelot,

    The important thing to remember with the present perfect as opposed to the past is that it's the time that's important rather than the action.

    With the present perfect the time is not finished (today, this week, this month, in my life - ever, never etc.) When the time is finished, you use the simple past (yesterday, last week, last year, in 1985, X days/months/years ago...)
    Thanks for the info Zeb.

    Another question

    Is it possible to use either Present/Past Perfect if there is no time included in a sentence? or simple past will be used instead.

    e.g.
    :arrow: According to our records, you have bought 5 sets of computers from our company.
    :arrow: According to our records, you had bought 5 sets of computers from our company.
    :arrow: According to our records, you bought 5 sets of computers from our company.

    Are these sentences incorrect? If yes, what would be the correct construction. :)

    Thanks in advance.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Lancel0t said:
    Is it possible to use either Present/Past Perfect if there is no time included in a sentence? or simple past will be used instead.
    Lancelot, the past perfect has a very different meaning from the present perfect. They are never interchangeable.
    We use the past perfect to speak about an action that began in the past and was concluded before another action that also began in the past. E.g.:

    As soon as the parents had left, the children asked the babysitter to watch TV. (The parents had left before the children made the request.)
    It had started to rain when I left the house. (It started to rain before I left the house.)
    When I met my sister again, she had married. (My sister married before I met her again.)

    Lancel0t said:
    :arrow: According to our records, you have bought 5 sets of computers from our company. :tick:
    :arrow: According to our records, you had bought 5 sets of computers from our company. (...) Before what? The sentence is possible with more context, but sounds incomplete.
    :arrow: According to our records, you bought 5 sets of computers from our company. :tick:
    See also the following thread, about the present perfect tense.
     

    Lancel0t

    Senior Member
    Philippines - Filipino/English
    Outsider said:
    Originally Posted by Lancel0t
    :arrow: According to our records, you have bought 5 sets of computers from our company. :tick:
    :arrow: According to our records, you had bought 5 sets of computers from our company. (...) Before what? The sentence is possible with more context, but sounds incomplete.
    :arrow: According to our records, you bought 5 sets of computers from our company. :tick:
    Outsider thank you for enlightening about the Past perfect. You agreed that the construction of my 1st and 3rd sentences were correct. Another question, is my 1st sentence construction can be considered a Present Perfect tense eventhough the time is not mentioned?

    May I ask the opinion of other Natives and Linguist regarding my question.

    Thank you guys in advance.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Lancel0t said:
    Another question, is my 1st sentence construction can be considered a Present Perfect tense eventhough the time is not mentioned?
    Yes. The term "present perfect" merely describes the syntax (structure) of the tense:

    present perfect = present tense of verb "to have" + infinitive of main verb
     

    Lancel0t

    Senior Member
    Philippines - Filipino/English
    Outsider said:
    Yes. The term "present perfect" merely describes the syntax (structure) of the tense:

    present perfect = present tense of verb "to have" + infinitive of main verb
    Thanks for the explanation.

    Isn't it the proper syntax for present perfect is this: have + the past participle of the verb?

    What can you say about this one?

    Zebedee said:
    With the present perfect the time is not finished (today, this week, this month, in my life - ever, never etc.)
    and in my sentence:
    According to our records, you have bought 5 sets of computers from our company
    there is no time specified.

    So does it mean that eventhough there is no specific time indicated in a certain sentence but it follows the syntax (to have + p participle), It would be considered a Present Perfect Tense?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Lancel0t said:
    Isn't it the proper syntax for present perfect is this: have + the past participle of the verb?
    Yes, you're right! I made a mistake. :eek:

    Lancel0t said:
    So does it mean that eventhough there is no specific time indicated in a certain sentence but it follows the syntax (to have + p participle), It would be considered a Present Perfect Tense?
    Yes. I think Zebedee spoke about "time specified" just to explain when one should use the present perfect.
     

    zebedee

    Senior Member
    Gt. Britain - English
    Lancel0t said:
    Thanks for the explanation.

    So does it mean that eventhough there is no specific time indicated in a certain sentence but it follows the syntax (to have + p participle), It would be considered a Present Perfect Tense?
    Yes, because although in your sentence there is no specific time indicated, the time is actually implied as unfinished: "You have bought x sets of computers for your company [so far/ in your lifetime]".
    Otherwise it would be:
    "You bought x sets of computers for your company last week/last month/in 1994/yesterday [etc other examples of finished time]"
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I would rather say "defined" or "determined" or "specified" instead of "finished", in this case...
     

    zebedee

    Senior Member
    Gt. Britain - English
    Outsider said:
    I would rather say "defined" or "determined" or "specified" instead of "finished", in this case...
    Outsider,

    A time can be defined, determined and specified but not finished: this week, this month, today for example are all defined, determined and specified but they take the present perfect because they're times that are not finished.

    This week (hasn't finished yet): Present Perfect
    Last week (finished): Past
    This month (hasn't finished yet): Present Perfect
    Last month (finished): Past
    Today (hasn't finished yet): Present Perfect
    Yesterday (finished): Past
    never (depends if the person's life has finished or not)
    I've never been to Australia. My great-grandmother never went to Australia.

    Hope I've explained what I mean a bit more clearly now.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    As others have pointed out, the time and context determine which tense you will use.

    1. Our records show that you bought 5 computers from us. (last year, to be used in your office.) Action completed.

    2. Our records show that you had bought 5 computers from us. (but you were't happy with them and you returned them all.) Action completed.

    3. Our records show that you have bought 5 computers from us. (over the last 5 years and you will probably buy another one in the future.) Continuous action.

    Just another opinion. :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Zebedee, the problem I see with the word "finished" in this context is that I learned that perfect tenses, like the present perfect, are employed when speaking of finished events. But I can speak about an event started last week that hasn't finished yet, or about an event started this week that has already finished.
     

    zebedee

    Senior Member
    Gt. Britain - English
    Outsider said:
    Zebedee, the problem I see with the word "finished" in this context is that perfect tenses, like the present perfect, are employed when speaking of finished events. But I can speak about an event started last week that hasn't finished yet, or about an event started this week that has already finished.
    Exactly! You're right! Which is why, if you go back to my first post, you'll see that I advised Lancelot that the important thing to think about when he's doubting between using the Present Perfect and the Past is not whether the event/action is finished, but rather whether the timespan of the event is finished or unfinished. Maybe this example will help you to see what I mean.

    I've been to Paris three times. I'm not in Paris now so the event of 'going to Paris' is finished. But the timespan (my lifetime) is unfinished so we use Present Perfect not the Past.

    It's far more difficult for me to explain this here through posts than in front of a class which is how I normally explained it!
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    O.K., but wouldn't it be safer to say that the event of going to Paris is 'finished' and the timespan is 'unspecified', to avoid any confusion?
     
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