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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 12th, 2006, 03:11 pm
Sue
 
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Default The Present Perfect in American English

Iím interested in when American speakers use the Present Perfect Simple and when the Simple Past. It seems to me that itís only the final category below where the use differs from British English but I may be wrong, so Iím including examples of all uses. If youíre an American, let me know how you feel about the following :

Category One : Past and Present events

a) With non-ambiguous time phrases

Iíve lived here since 2001. I havenít seen John for the last two days

Here, for a British speaker the simple past is not an option.

b) With ambiguous time phrases

Iíve had a headache all day. Iíve lived here for 6 years.

The time phrases are ambiguous because seen alone all day could mean all today or all last Tuesday; for six years could mean since 2000 or from 1992 to 1998. It's the verb form which disambiguates - the use of the present perfect indicates the first meaning, the use of the simple past the second. Therefore again they are not alternatives.

Category Two : Past Events with Present Results

The taxi has arrived. Iíve cut my finger.

Here, The taxi has arrived has no alternative Ė the speaker is inevitably saying ďthe taxi is here nowĒ. But the second example might be expressed in the simple past, and would become more and more likely to be expressed in the simple past as time passed.

Category Three : Past Events in Past and Present Time Reference

Iíve seen three films this week.
Have you ever ridden a camel?
I havenít prepared the lesson yet.
Iíve never read ďWar and PeaceĒ
Iíve already done this exercise.


Here, there is the alternative of using the Simple Past, even for British speakers. Itís a matter of frequency Ė I donít know if any research has actually been done but letís hypothesise itís about 80% use of the Present Perfect, 20% Simple Past. Iím interested in knowing whether you feel American speakers would never use the present Perfect for this use, or whether for Americans too itís a matter of frequency Ė but with the Simple past being used more often than the Present Perfect.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Oct 14th, 2006, 06:23 pm
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

Those seem good to me and I'm American. We use them all in the same manner.
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Unread Oct 15th, 2006, 01:20 pm
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

Quote:
Quote mesmark
Those seem good to me and I'm American. We use them all in the same manner.
Odd - a lot of American speakers have been adament that they'd never say something like Have you ever ridden a camel? but only Did you ever ride ....

What do other people think?
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Unread Oct 16th, 2006, 06:47 am
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

I had this come up in our teachers office once. It's was a discussion between a Canadian and two Brits. I think the Canadian said something like "Are you finished?" and the brits were saying "Have you finished?"..... or it was the other way around.

I still don't understand why English people say "I was sat at the counter." or "I was stood outside."
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Unread Oct 16th, 2006, 11:26 am
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

That's interesting Simplyesl because I think there's the same explanation for both the points you raise.

Yes, Brits do say Are you finished ? (as well as, not instead of Have you finished?). By using it like this we turn it from a past participle into an adjective which describes a state rather than an action. (Compare it with : Are you ready?) This often happens with other past participles (tired, interested, excited etc) which are all used with BE to describe state. In other words, if we wanted to focus on the action we'd use it as a verb Have you finished? but using it with the verb BE we're talking about the person's state of being finished with the task, and not what they actually did.

And I think the same thing is happening with I was stood/sat ... Instead of describing it as an action, we adjectivalise the past participle and see it as a state. Interestingly this is exactly how other languages conceptualise it. French :J'étais assis Italian : ero seduto both mean literally I was sat

PS: You know we can also say I was just stood standing there ? But I don't think I want to get into that one ...
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Unread Nov 26th, 2007, 03:05 am
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Question Re: The Present Perfect in American English

I looked "I was stood" up ub the corpus and it only found 6 entries. Is it not just an example of the English using incorrect spoken English? Just watch Eastenders to get plenty more examples such as "they was..." I even caught myself (and my mother) saying "Where's the keys?" I know it's wrong but somehow my brain chucks it out. I'd be intereded in your thoughts.
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Unread Nov 26th, 2007, 07:38 am
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

I would agree that 'I was stood' or 'I was sat' is simply incorrect. But, generally, when something becomes common enough, it starts to make it into dictionaries and then becomes acceptable?

We had an (almost) anthem back in 1988 that went 'cause Ireland are the greatest football team' and I sang it many a time before a foreigner pointed out it should be 'Ireland IS...'

An example I hate that seems to be getting common is
'I could of eaten a horse' instead of 'I could have...'

Sorry, just went completely off topic
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Unread Nov 26th, 2007, 08:20 am
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Default Re: The Present Perfect in American English

the question is when does something become correct? When it gets in the dictionary or when people use it enough? I can't imagine that "I could of eaten a horse" is ever going to be grammatically correct although many of us use it. "could eat a horse" is in the dictionary by the way. We certainly are going off topic here but it's an interesting question none the less.
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