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The Perfect Tenses in English

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What could be simpler than grammatical tense—things happening now are in the present, things happening before are in the past, and things that haven’t happened yet are in the future. If only it were so easy. Consider the present tense. Its meaning often refers not to things happening right now but to some general state of affairs, as in Italians eat salad after the main course or Healthy people exercise regularly. If you want to indicate something actually going on in the moment, the present progressive is used: a present tense be verb followed by the –ing participle, as in Allison is visiting her sister or Carlo is eating a salad. We use a present tense form of the auxiliary verb have followed by the –en or -ed participle to create what is known as the present perfect tense, as in The lake has frozen or Dennis has eaten all the cookies. In these two examples, the combination of present tense and perfect aspect indicates a completed change of state in the first case—from unfrozen to frozen—and a completed action in the second—the cookies are eaten. One of the uses of the present perfect is to depict activities begun in the past and completed at present. The present perfect, however, can also be used to refer to activities begun in the past, true at present, and possibly continuing into the future: Carlsen has defended his championship again. The soccer team has won every match. For many years, children have eaten too much junk food. The meaning of the present perfect is that, as of the present moment, the activity described by the verb has been completed, for now. If you put the auxiliary verb in the past tense, then you get the past perfect: The lake had frozen or Dennis had eaten all the cookies. Here, an activity was completed in the past, even if that past is just a few seconds ago. The past perfect (also known as the pluperfect) often occurs with adverbial clauses or other modifiers indicating what happened next, as in The children had eaten a lot of junk food. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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