Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it?

This is a Canonical Post, intended as a reference and resource for both Questioners and Answerers.The English “perfect” is deeply puzzling for learners. Nearly one Question in every twenty here asks about perfect constructions, and every Answer seems to raise new Questions. Even very advanced learners often misuse the perfect, or fail to use it when they should. If it makes you feel better, the experts are baffled, too. Grammarians and linguists have been quarreling about the perfect for more than two hundred years. There are several large book...Read more

motion - Present Perfect Tense Asking

I am a beginner for English grammar.I read following paragraph in my grammar book. I got your long email about two weeks ago and have been trying to find time to write you back ever since. I have been vary busy lately. In the past two weeks, I have had four tests, and I have another one next week. In addition, a friend has been staying with me since last Thursday. She wanted to see the city, so we have been spending a lot of time visiting some of the interesting places here. We(be) _________ to the zoo, the art museum, and the botanical garde...Read more

perfect constructions - Book Recommendations Re: accessible English Tenses System

I would like to know some of the best books (or other accessible materials) out there with a thorough treatment of English tenses and in particular the perfect state. The book should be accessible to advanced learners* of English language.I've found @StoneyB's article of great help, but I would like to check out more. I like/am interested in the descriptive approaches to English grammar. The following quote from StoneyB's article caught my attention: Recent studies look at how rather than what the perfect means and suggest that meaning is not...Read more

perfect constructions - he had it checked by the manager

He had it [checked by the manager]. [passive]In the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language is on page 1174 written in connection with this sentence this: "The past participle form of the verb has two uses, perfect and passive. Clauses with a perfect past participle as head occur as complement to auxiliary have, and accept progressive and passive be, while those with a passive past as head accept no auxiliaries". Is the above sentence really example of a passive past perfect? I consider it more likely as the causative, i.e. the struct...Read more

Use of Perfect Infinitive

1 He is understood to have left India for good last year.2 The scientist claim to have discovered cure for AIDS and the medicine will be put on sale very soon.3 He pretended to have lost her contact number.4 We hope to have finished the project by the end of march.5 I'm sorry to have disturbed you.In all these sentences its use "to have", but purpose is different. For example in 4 it uses for future perspective while in 3 for past. Can someone explain the concept of "to have"? I find it difficult where to use "to have" or not. For example I wou...Read more

Do I have to use the perfect infitnitive

I was taught, that if we had some action which can hhapen before some moment in the future, I had to use Perfect. For example: I will have done it by the morning.Some days ago I had to say a sentence like this: I will want to (come) by the beginning of the meeting.And I was stuck because I thought the action "to come" had to be with pefect because it could happen before some moment in the future. It would look like this: I will want to have come by the beginning of the meeting.But then I thought it would mean something different because the ...Read more

perfect constructions - How about "When I saw Debbie, she had played golf"?

Oxford Guide to English Grammar; John Eastwood; Oxford University Press 1994-09Page 94 Compare the past continuous and past perfect continuous. When I saw Debbie, she was playing golf. (I saw her in the middle of the game.) When I saw Debbie, she'd been playing golf. (I saw her after the game.)I think "When I saw Debbie, she had played golf" can also express "I saw her after the game". Am I right?Is there any difference in meaning? Does the perfect continuous imply that "I saw her right after the game"?relative: Is "Outside the hous...Read more

perfect constructions - “Had been + ing” or “have been + ing”

I’ve learned to use present perfect continuous for an action that began in past and is still continuing and past perfect continuous for an action that began in past and ended in past too before something else happened. So my question is that how precise one would have to be if he were to use it in sentences: I’ve been waiting to drive the car since morning, I’m glad I’m driving it now I’ve not been watching since morning, I’ve just switched it on I had not been studying since morning, got back on it an hour ago/few minutes back.” So the u...Read more

Past Continuous and past perfect continuous for native English speakers

According to Martin Hewing's Advanced English Grammar:The difference between past continuous and past perfect continuous is as follows: When we met Simon and Pat, they had been riding.(=we met after they had finished) When we met Simon and Pat, they were riding.(=we met while they were riding)If we keep in mind this difference, will native speakers consider sentences like:"Jane had been suffering from flu when she was interviewed," to mean that Jane had recovered before the interview?...Read more

perfect constructions - Having vs. doing

I'm learning the -ing clauses and I have a question about an explanation on this website:(1) When one action happens before another action, we use having (done) for the first action, for example, "Having finished her work, she went home."(2) If one short action follows another short action, you can use the simple -ing form (doing instead of having done) for the first action, for example, "Taking a key out of his pocket, he opened the door."My question: Is it optional when we use "having" or "doing" in both cases (1) and (2)? Is "Finishing her w...Read more