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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 7th, 2016, 05:48 pm
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alexlearner is on a distinguished road
Default Which tense(s) is/are correct?

I would like to make up two sets of similar sentences in different tenses.

(1a) Over the last five weeks, Joe has earned $5000.
(1b) Over the last five weeks, Joe has been earning $5000.
(1c) Over the last five weeks, Joe earned $5000.

(2a) Over the last six months, May has written ten essays.
(2b) Over the last six months, May has been writing ten essays.
(2c) Over the last six months, May wrote ten essays.

I am not sure what tense to use when relating it to "Over the last ...". Please explain my question. Thank you very much.

Last edited by susan53 : Jun 21st, 2016 at 10:26 am.
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 21st, 2016, 10:52 am
Sue
 
Join Date: Oct 8th, 2006
Location: Milan
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Default Re: Which tense(s) is/are correct?

First of all, distinguish between verb forms and tenses. English only has two tenses - present and past - but also has three forms of aspect - simple, progressive (or continuous) and perfect.

So - in these verb forms you need to ask yourself a) what does the tense (present or past) indicate? and b) what does the aspect indicate?


Let's take the easiest ones first
1c) Over the last five weeks, Joe earned $5000.
(2c) Over the last six months, May wrote ten essays.

Here the speaker perceives both the time period and the events (earning and writing) as past and finished. It might be said for example at the beginning of August and the context might be something like...

2c) Mary has to submit her next essay on August 31st, but it shouldn't be a problem. She wrote ten between February and the end of July, and if she managed to write ten over the last six months, a complete month should give her plenty of time for just one.

Now ...
(1a) Over the last five weeks, Joe has earned $5000.
2a) Over the last six months, May has written ten essays.

Here the aspect is perfect simple, indicating that the speaker sees the event (earning/writing) as complete/finished - ie Joe has earned a total of $5,000 and Mary has completed a total of 10 essays (probably one after the other) in the time period. However, the tense is present - indicating that the time period is seen as including both past and present - ie running up to today.

Contrast this with :
(1b) Over the last five weeks, Joe has been earning $5000.
(2b) Over the last six months, May has been writing ten essays.

Here we have present tense again, suggesting the time period runs up to today, but perfect progressive aspect - suggesting that the event has been on-going and may continue. Here the meaning would be :
(1b) Over the last five weeks, Joe has been earning $5000 a week. If that goes on, he's going to be rich soon!
(2b) Over the last six months, May has been working on ten essays simultaneously. - but she hasn't submitted any of them yet.

So it's not a matter of "which is correct?" but of which verb form expresses the meaning that the speaker wants to convey.

Last edited by susan53 : Mar 8th, 2021 at 06:15 am.
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  #3 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 7th, 2021, 07:30 am
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Default Re: Which tense(s) is/are correct?

Wow! thanks Suzan I rarely see people with such deep understanding of English grammar.

Last edited by susan53 : Mar 8th, 2021 at 05:37 am.
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  #4 (permalink)  
Unread Mar 8th, 2021, 11:15 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Which tense(s) is/are correct?

Thank you roozbehrah. I hope you find the answers useful. If you've got any of your own, don't hesitate to post them.
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  #5 (permalink)  
Unread Aug 24th, 2021, 11:17 pm
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Default Re: Which tense(s) is/are correct?

Great answer. Very thorough. Good to see a discussion of tense and aspect. I would just add a couple of things. First with the present perfect there always a sense of current relevance. The speaker/writer perceives that an event/action done or begun in the past is relevant to the present. "I've eaten lunch" (I'm not hungry any more). "Over the last five weeks, Joe has earned $5000". (So he's feeling pretty happy, etc., etc.) Secondly, with the progressive, there is also the sense that the situation is somehow temporary. "I'm living in Bangkok" is not the same as "I live in Bangkok." To me, "Over the last five weeks, Joe has been earning $5000" seems a bit strange. A more realistic sentence would be something like, "Over the past five weeks, Joe has been averaging over 1200 dollars a week." That situation may or might not continue, but it is not finished,
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