English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Iversen » Tue Jun 11, 2024 10:16 am

Iversen wrote:The opinion of a non-native speaker: the relevant thing for the services is that John's back has been injured and needs treatment NOW - not that he as a historical fact injured it some time ago while carrying furniture. He can use the simple past when he has returned home and tells his friends all about the drama while lying on a sofa and being pampered with cookies and beer.

Cainntear wrote:Yes, but the issue is that the present perfect is not universally used in such a way as to contrast with the past/preterite tense -- it's noticeably less common in the US than elsewhere. This is quite possibly due to mass immigration from all over Europe, because mainland European languages don't have this, hence in being one of the trickiest things for learners here. Areas which had a lot of German, French or Spanish speakers would have had native-language interference among the non-native English-speaking population appearing so often that it would have become a feature of the local dialect.


The general pattern in well nigh all the languages in Western Europe is that the simple past tense (the simple perfect) denotes something that happened at a certain time or during a certain period, and that the compound past tense ('present perfect') with the present of an auxiliary (to have or - in certain languages - to be) plus a past passive participle indicates that something happened that still have an effect today. And in the Romance languages there is also an imperferfect that is used for background information. In the Germanic languages (including my own Danish) there is only one one-word past tense, and it's sometimes called imperfektum but it is better to use the unequivocal term preteritum* since it covers the roles of both the Romance imperfects and perfects.

And then there is the compound past tense, which in principle should be used for past things with repercussions up to now, but it's more and more being used just for anything in the past. In Swiss German it's even said to have pushed the preterite tense out of existence, whereas it's the simple perfect only that has come under pressure in the Romance languages - with French as the most extreme case, since the passé simple there now practically has been eliminated from the spoken language. In the other Romance languages that form is still used in the spoken vernacular, but my unfounded and unscientific impression is that it even there is under pressure from the compound perfect.

I have no opinion as to whether any differences between British English and American English are due to an influx of continental Europeans. I just know that both simple and compound perfects can be used on both sides of the Atlantic.

*and yes, I know that Irish operates with a socalled preterite (an aimsir chaite) versus an imperfect (an aimsir neamhfhoirfe), but there is already enough chaos in the names for verbal forms. The one and only simple past tense in any Germanic language should be called preterite (or a derivation thereof), and then there simply is no imperfectum to muddy the waters.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby AvidLearner# » Wed Jun 12, 2024 10:54 pm

If I change the context to make the situation even more immediate: say John and his friend are carrying a couch. John suddenly feels a sharp pain in his back. He drops his end of the couch and curls up on the floor. His friend rushes over to him. John says that his back is hurting like hell. Then John's friend calls 911. They ask him about his emergency, and he says:

1. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I have been carrying a couch, and my friend has hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

2. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I were carrying a couch, and my friend hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

From the responses I've received, it's clear to me that if John's friend is a British English speaker, then he would say #1. But if he's an American English speaker, would he say #1 or #2? I'm wondering because in this case the carrying and the hurting are much closer to the present than in the original scenario in the opening post.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby tritiumoxide » Thu Jun 13, 2024 12:32 am

AvidLearner# wrote:If I change the context to make the situation even more immediate: say John and his friend are carrying a couch. John suddenly feels a sharp pain in his back. He drops his end of the couch and curls up on the floor. His friend rushes over to him. John says that his back is hurting like hell. Then John's friend calls 911. They ask him about his emergency, and he says:

1. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I have been carrying a couch, and my friend has hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

2. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I were carrying a couch, and my friend hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

From the responses I've received, it's clear to me that if John's friend is a British English speaker, then he would say #1. But if he's an American English speaker, would he say #1 or #2? I'm wondering because in this case the carrying and the hurting are much closer to the present than in the original scenario in the opening post.

Thanks in advance.


As an American from the Northeast, I am sure that I would only ever say #2 in this second scenario. #1 just sounds off to me, at least in an emergency (though none of them sounded outright wrong to me in the first scenario you posed, despite having preferences). To my ear, the extra words actually make it seem less urgent (it's only two extra syllables, I know), though I understand the grammatical argument for the opposite. If I were John, I would possibly even be a bit annoyed hearing #1 from the friend who's responsible for getting me help now.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jun 13, 2024 11:40 am

AvidLearner# wrote:If I change the context to make the situation even more immediate: say John and his friend are carrying a couch. John suddenly feels a sharp pain in his back. He drops his end of the couch and curls up on the floor. His friend rushes over to him. John says that his back is hurting like hell. Then John's friend calls 911. They ask him about his emergency, and he says:

1. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I have been carrying a couch, and my friend has hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

2. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I were carrying a couch, and my friend hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

From the responses I've received, it's clear to me that if John's friend is a British English speaker, then he would say #1. But if he's an American English speaker, would he say #1 or #2? I'm wondering because in this case the carrying and the hurting are much closer to the present than in the original scenario in the opening post.

Thanks in advance.

I would say that it's even possible to say "...were carrying a couch, and my friend has hurt..." for all the reasons I said before. The only thing that seems like practically no-one would ever say it is "*have been carrying...my friend hurt..." As I was trying to say, people who say "have been doing" type constructions almost invariably use "have done", but there are loads of people who use "have done" who don't use "have been doing". This means that when I see a "have been doing", any "did" construction looks like a deliberate choice not to say "have done", so I try to interpret the intended meaning as such.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Tumlare » Thu Jun 13, 2024 2:25 pm

AvidLearner# wrote:If I change the context to make the situation even more immediate: say John and his friend are carrying a couch. John suddenly feels a sharp pain in his back. He drops his end of the couch and curls up on the floor. His friend rushes over to him. John says that his back is hurting like hell. Then John's friend calls 911. They ask him about his emergency, and he says:

1. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I have been carrying a couch, and my friend has hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

2. I need an ambulance at 67 Lime Street. My friend and I were carrying a couch, and my friend hurt his back. He can barely move. Could you please hurry?

From the responses I've received, it's clear to me that if John's friend is a British English speaker, then he would say #1. But if he's an American English speaker, would he say #1 or #2? I'm wondering because in this case the carrying and the hurting are much closer to the present than in the original scenario in the opening post.

Thanks in advance.


As an American, #2.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby AvidLearner# » Wed Jun 19, 2024 5:13 pm

In the examples we've considered so far, there were two events: one takes place while the other is in progress. However, if there's only one event, for example:

I. Imagine a boy launching a toy plane, which lands on the garage roof. He then approaches his older brother and urgently asks for help: "My model plane has landed on the garage roof. Can you help me retrieve it?"

II. Similarly, if he drops a pencil under the bed and can't reach it: "I've dropped my pencil under the bed. Your arms are longer than mine. Can you help me grab it?"

If the speaker wants to signal an emergency and that immediate action is needed to address the current situation, would American English speakers still use "landed" instead of "has landed" and "I dropped" rather than "I've dropped" in these examples? Thank you.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Cainntear » Wed Jun 19, 2024 5:49 pm

AvidLearner# wrote:If the speaker wants to signal an emergency and that immediate action is needed to address the current situation, would American English speakers still use "landed" instead of "has landed" and "I dropped" rather than "I've dropped" in these examples? Thank you.

Yes. It's not only in sequences that this happens.

But... CAUTION!! the term "American English" is problematic, because there are plenty of dialects that still have present perfect, even if there are others that don't. Basically any dialect that uses the present perfect in one situation is likely to use it in the other.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Tumlare » Thu Jun 20, 2024 8:00 am

AvidLearner# wrote:In the examples we've considered so far, there were two events: one takes place while the other is in progress. However, if there's only one event, for example:

I. Imagine a boy launching a toy plane, which lands on the garage roof. He then approaches his older brother and urgently asks for help: "My model plane has landed on the garage roof. Can you help me retrieve it?"

II. Similarly, if he drops a pencil under the bed and can't reach it: "I've dropped my pencil under the bed. Your arms are longer than mine. Can you help me grab it?"

If the speaker wants to signal an emergency and that immediate action is needed to address the current situation, would American English speakers still use "landed" instead of "has landed" and "I dropped" rather than "I've dropped" in these examples? Thank you.


I would use "landed" or "dropped" regardless of whether there was an emergency or not.
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Le Baron » Thu Jun 20, 2024 1:30 pm

AvidLearner# wrote:In the examples we've considered so far, there were two events: one takes place while the other is in progress.


Is it just that? I don't think it is. Both of the total events can be at the same point in time - namely the point you ask for help - but the 'reference' is to a point in time or event leading up to now.

- I dropped my pencil = previously, this happened when I was holding the pencil near my bed.

- I have dropped my pencil = pencil is there now and was dropped previously (as mentioned above).

This will run for as many examples you can think of. Also we can show how it is time-related and how one will not work when the time is specified:

1. I broke my finger last Tuesday.
2. I have broken my finger last Tuesday. (doesn't work)
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Re: English: I [have been]/[was] carrying and I [have] injured

Postby Cainntear » Thu Jun 20, 2024 9:23 pm

Le Baron wrote:
AvidLearner# wrote:In the examples we've considered so far, there were two events: one takes place while the other is in progress.


Is it just that? I don't think it is. Both of the total events can be at the same point in time - namely the point you ask for help - but the 'reference' is to a point in time or event leading up to now.

- I dropped my pencil = previously, this happened when I was holding the pencil near my bed.

- I have dropped my pencil = pencil is there now and was dropped previously (as mentioned above).

This will run for as many examples you can think of. Also we can show how it is time-related and how one will not work when the time is specified:

1. I broke my finger last Tuesday.
2. I have broken my finger last Tuesday. (doesn't work)

More specifically, it doesn't work it the time period has ended. I can only ask "what did you eat this morning?" after 12 noon, and I can only ask "what have you eaten this morning?" before noon. "have done" with a time is only for a time period that is still current.
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