Present Perfect vs Present Simple - Time Clauses
Thread poster: Julia Julia

Julia Julia
Poland
Local time: 20:44
English to Polish
Nov 6, 2017

I have just come across these examples and I don't know why it would be incorrect to use Present Simple instead of Present Perfect:

1) When we have taken our exam we'll have a holiday. -> When we take our exam we'll have a holiday.
2) When he has sold all his newspaper he'll go home. -> When he sells all his newspaper he\'ll go home.
3) Hotel receptionist: When you have signed the hotel register the porter will show you the room. -> When you sign the hotel register the porter will show you the room.
4) When everybody has left the park the park-keeper will lock the gates. -> When everybody leaves the park the park-keeper will lock the gates.

According to the key, only present perfect forms are correct in these sentences, however, when it comes to the following examples both tenses are allowed:

1) When I finish the book I will lend it to you. = When I have finished the book I will lend it to you.
2) These gates will remain shut until the train passes. = These gates will remain shut until the train has passed.
3) That road will not be safe till the floods subside. = That road will not be safe till the floods have subsided.

What is the grammatical difference between these sentences that doesn't allow using these two tenses interchangeably?


 

MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:44
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
to avoid ambiguity Nov 6, 2017

In the first set, there´s no sense of completion of the conditional verb (takes, sells, ...), so it sounds like the second clause could take place during, as well as after, the first clause. They could take holiday while taking exams (grammatically, although common sense would say afterwards).

The second set already implies a completed act, especially No. 1 (finished), so it reduces the ambiguity. I think present perfect sounds better, though, in all 3 of these instances. The first sentence (present simple) could have a slight meaning of immediacy--as soon as I finish the book. The second version of that sentence could mean any time after having finished the book, not necessarily right away. The same with the subsiding of the flood. But not everybody distinguishes them that way. It's a subtle difference, and even though many people use them this way, they might not be able to explain it.

Actually, the first version of the 2nd sentence is ambiguous: "passes" can mean that the train is passing/going by, or it can mean that it has passed by. So present perfect would be better there, if they don´t open the gate until after it has completely passed by.

I hope this helps.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:44
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
Present Perfect Nov 7, 2017

I would have used the Present Perfect and nothing else in all those examples.
I would also use "once" rather than "when".

But then I'm a Brit, Americans don't use the Present Perfect nearly as much and I've noticed they don't use "once" like this either, or not nearly as much.

It's a long time since I've taught English though and I don't feel like trying to explain. As a teacher I gave up with the Present Perfect and told students to just use the Past Simple instead, in that nine times out of ten, if they weren't sure, the Past Simple would be OK (the French overuse the Present Perfect because it's formed the same way as their equivalent to the Past Simple). 9/10 is pretty good don't you think?

Of course, for a translator you do need a better command of the language than for any other profession.... but for the instances you cite, the Present Perfect is always correct, no need to even contemplate any other tense.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 19:44
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Seconded Nov 7, 2017

MollyRose wrote:
the first version of the 2nd sentence is ambiguous: "passes" can mean that the train is passing/going by, or it can mean that it has passed by. So present perfect would be better there, if they don´t open the gate until after it has completely passed by.

I definitely prefer the present perfect for that one. I remember being fascinated by miles-long goods trains in Germany as a kid and the present tense conjures up pictures of the level crossing gates opening as the first wagon passes, and all the traffic driving into the side of the train icon_smile.gif.

Although I personally would always use the PP for all the sentences given, as an editor/proofreader I might well stet 1 and 3 of the second set unless it was a very formal text. Both are certainly acceptable in speech.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:44
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The difference between one occasion and a regular occurrence Nov 7, 2017

This is particularly the case in example 3)
Hotel receptionist: When you have signed the hotel register the porter will show you the room.
This is to a guest who is there, about to sign the register.

She could (in theory at least) be explaining the hotel routine, as it happens every time:
When you sign the hotel register the porter will show you the room.

When the children have finished eating, they will go out and play. (today, as it is not raining...)
When the children finish eating, they go out and play. (usually.)

I'm with Sheila about the gates and the train, too, remembering my son, aged five or six, rushing down to the level crossing several times a day to watch the trains!

These gates will remain shut until the train passes. = These gates will remain shut until the train has passed.

These gates remain shut (every time) until the train has passed. (And if you are VERY lucky, until another train has passed the other way too. icon_wink.gif )


 

MollyRose  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:44
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Once Nov 8, 2017

That is something that came to my mind immediately, too (as Texte Style says), when I first read the question. I reworded them in my head like this: Once we have taken our exam, we'll have a holiday. That sounds more natural. Or rather, the first thing I thought was: After I have read the book, I will lend it to you (or whatever the rest of the sentence was).

[Edited at 2017-11-09 03:01 GMT]


 


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Present Perfect vs Present Simple - Time Clauses

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