Which of these you <have> bought in the past <did> you ...?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by meijin, Dec 7, 2018 at 9:36 AM.

  1. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    Hi, please see the following questions I made up, imagining either appears in an online questionnaire.

    1.
    Which of the five skincare products you answered you have bought in the past six months did you last buy?
    2. Which of the five skincare products you answered you have bought in the past six months did you buy most recently?

    I think the two questions mean the same thing (I wrote both in case either is wrong), and I'm wondering if it's odd to combine the present perfect ("you have bought") and the simple past ("did you buy") like that. Should the last part be
    "have you last bought" or "have you bought most recently"?
     
  2. boozer Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgarian
    I think grammatically they are not wrong - justification can be found for using each of the verb forms you have used. However, the combination of past simple (answered) and present perfect (have bought) managed to raise my eyebrows (both :D ) and makes the whole a bit hard to follow.

    I think I would just get rid of two words: 'you answered'.
     
  3. SimonTsai Senior Member

    Taiwanese Mandarin
    Would removing the 'have' preceding 'bought' be helpful in making the sentence better?
     
  4. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    Thank you both very much for the replies. I've modified #1 as follows.

    1a.
    Which of the five skincare products you have answered you have bought in the past six months have you last bought?
    1b. Which of the five skincare products you answered you bought in the past six months did you last buy?

    Is either of these actually correct? I must say I don't like either, but don't really know how to improve them. Maybe it's better to add "that" just after "products"?
    As for the "you (have) answered" part, the questionnaires I translate from Japanese into English often include it in the sentence, so I prefer not to remove it when translating.
     
  5. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Cheshire
    English / England
    The “you have answered” thing certainly adds a layer of complexity that native speakers would stumble over.

    I feel that this is a (better!)possible English sentence for your context:
    Of the five skincare products you have (told us you) bought in the last 6 months, which one did you most recently purchase?
     
  6. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    I like the separation of "of" and "which", which makes the sentence easier to understand.

    I see that you've used "last" instead of "past", which is interesting, because it it were 1 year you'd say "in the past year", not "in the last year".
    I also see that you prefer "most recently" to "last". May I know why?
     
  7. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    The proposed question is only relevant as a follow-up in a questionnaire in which earlier questions have requested information about skin care purchases. I understand the question in the OP is about the form of such a question, but would suggest "Which of the products you listed above (in Q X) did you purchase most recently?"
     
  8. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Cheshire
    English / England
    Re last/past. I didn’t even think about it. Last six months just seems the natural phrase to me.

    I preferred “most recently” over “last” because it seems clearer and less ambiguous. Using “last” on its own to mean “most recently” isn’t common in my experience. Obviously it CAN be used that way, but my sense is that other options are better.
     
  9. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Cheshire
    English / England
    :thumbsup:
    Tidy.
     
  10. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    Thank you both very much. I understand your points. At the same time, if the sentence in the original post appeared in a Japanese questionnaire and I were asked to translate the questionnaire into Japanese, I'd prefer not to change the meaning of the sentence. So I have to ask this. Which of the two sentences below do you think is better in terms of the combination of the simple past and the present perfect? The sentences are very similar to Suzi's suggestion (I changed the "told us" part and also changed the "purchase" to "buy" to see if it would sound natural).

    3a.
    Of the five skincare products you have answered you bought in the last six months, which one did you most recently buy?
    3b. Of the five skincare products you answered you have bought in the last six months, which one did you most recently buy?
     
  11. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    It does not change the meaning of the sentence :( It expresses the same question in clear English. If you want poor English that mimics the Japanese sentence structure you are translating, you don't need our help :D Do your employers (or whoever wants you to translate) insist on such a translation strategy?
     
  12. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    They wouldn't mind changing "you have answered" to "you have told us" (which Suzi did in post #5). So, if "you have answered" is poor English and "you have told us" isn't, I'm happy to use "you have told us".

    On the other hand, they would mind if I changed the question to
    "Which of the products you listed above (in Q X) did you purchase most recently?". The respondent didn't "list" the products in the previous question. They just checked/ticked the boxes. Maybe "Which of the products you answered in the previous question did you purchase most recently?" would be best (since the original Japanese sentence uses the Japanese word for "answer"), although my client would probably wonder why I didn't translate the "you bought in the last six months" part.
     
  13. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    I used to work for a market research company in Sydney and I never encountered “you have answered” in any of the questionnaires I ever came across. The question usually comes immediately after the one that asks whether they have bought or used the particular product, so it’s not necessary. If it doesn’t come immediately after that one, the question might read, “You said that you bought/used XXX earlier. Can you tell me ............ ?
     
  14. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Fine - change listed to selected ( I did not know how they provided answers to that question - I assumed they provided a list.) Context, context, context:D
     
  15. meijin

    meijin Senior Member

    Tokyo
    Japanese
    It's very typical of Japanese questionnaires to include unnecessary phrases or explanations in their questions. I often advise them to omit those parts. At the same time, I wanted to know how to correctly translate the unnecessarily long question in the original post. :D

    OK. It's really good to know "answered" isn't a very good expression to use there. I'll use "selected" or "chose". :)
     

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