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tenses with "since"

 
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hela



Joined: 02 May 2004
Posts: 420
Location: Tunisia

PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 11:42 am    Post subject: tenses with "since" Reply with quote

Dear teachers,

It is usually said that only perfect tenses should be used with the "since time clause". However, is it possible to use the present tense in the main clause if the verb describes (a) a present fact or situation, (b) a habitual present occurrence ?

What do you tink of the following?

1) Is it acceptable in written English to say:

a) My mother looks younger since she dyed her hair.

b) My mother has looked (?) younger since she dyed her hair.
Is this sentence incorrect?

c) She doesn't phone since she got married.

d) I feel/am feeling much better since I moved house. (correct ?)
e) I feel/am feeling much better now that I have moved. (is preferred to (d) ?)
f) I have been feeling much better since I moved house.

Do sentences d, e, & f mean the same?


e) I have been feeling much better since I moved house.

2) How would you justify the use of the present with "since" in the following sentences?

a) Since when do you have the right to tell me what to do?

b) My kids think that the cell phone is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Is the use of the present in the main clause with "since clauses" only allowed with stative verbs? But the verb "have" above is not a stative verb, so when is the present possible ?

Thank you very much for your patience.
Hela


Last edited by hela on Mon Dec 11, 2006 7:04 am; edited 4 times in total
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2006



Joined: 27 Nov 2006
Posts: 610

PostPosted: Sun Dec 10, 2006 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

1a and 1b both correct but I prefer 1a because there is no need to use the more complicated perfect tense.

1c and 1d are both correct.

2a and 2b are both correct.

There is no need to justify using "since" with the present tense. Why do you think there might be a problem?

Using the present tense with stative verbs is not a problem. Why do you think it might be a problem?

(However, one usually cannot use stative verbs in the continuous tense.)
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battlecryorsilence



Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Hela,
Per your request, here are my views on your questions about the sentences with “since.”
This post is fairly long; I wanted to be specific in my answers.

In general, one should use a perfect (or perfect continuous) with “since” when it functions as the subordinator for an adverbial clause of time. (You have correctly ascertained, however, that there can be exceptions to this rule in the cases of some stative verbs. See my example under (1a) below.)

Examples:

A. I haven’t heard any cars on the road since the snow fell last night.
(In this sentence, it is clear that the speaker is telling us how long it’s been since he/she heard a car on the road.)

B. Since the snow fell last night, I do not hear any cars on the road.
(“Since the snow fell” might be misinterpreted as an adverbial clause of reason if used with the simple present.)

C. She hasn’t spoken to her friends since they visited last week.
(In this sentence, it is clear that the speaker is telling us how long it’s been since the subject last spoke to her friends. She might speak to them later today, or next week, or six months from now.)

D. She does not speak to her friends since they visited last week.
E. She is not speaking to her friends since they visited last week.
(In both of these sentences, the adverbial clause is clearly a time clause. However, the sentences convey a meaning very different from that of sentence C: they tell us that she is no longer speaking to her friends. Perhaps she and her friends had an argument. All we know is that, whatever the reason, she does not speak to her friends anymore. This is a fact of the habitual present, which began sometime during or after her friends’ visit last week.)

(1a) My mother looks younger since she dyed her hair.

In this sentence, the habitual present tense is appropriate for expressing this observation about how the mother has looked to the speaker since (the time at which) she dyed her hair. You are correct that stative verbs are often used in simple present with the “since” time clause. Here’s another example:

He seems more relaxed since we started taking him out to the clubs with us.

(1b) My mother has looked younger since she dyed her hair.
This sentence is technically correct, but sounds awkward compared to (1a).

(1c) She doesn’t phone since she got married.
This sentence is a little awkward and ambiguous due to the use of the simple present tense of a transitive verb with the “since” clause. A native speaker would be more likely to conform to the rule of using present perfect or present perfect continuous tense. “She hasn’t called since she got married” would mean that she has not called me at all since she got married. “She hasn’t been calling since she got married” would have a slightly different meaning: perhaps before she got married, she called me every day, and now she only calls rarely, if at all. In other words, the use of the perfect continuous tense would imply that her calling me was a common occurrence before she got married, and now it is not a common occurrence, whereas the perfect tense implies that, so far, she has not called even one time since getting married.
If you want to use the simple present tense in (1c), you can construct an unambiguous sentence by adding the adverb “anymore” or the idiom “no longer”: “She doesn’t call anymore since she got married,” or, “Since she got married, she no longer calls.”

(1d*) Until when are you going to stay here?
This sentence is correct. “Until when” is a prepositional phrase that performs an adverbial function in the sentence.
(*This sentence was in your post yesterday, but is no longer in it today. Perhaps you edited it?)

(1d) I feel/am feeling much better since I moved house.
(1e) I feel/am feeling much better now that I have moved.
(1f) I have been feeling much better since I moved house.

(1d-f) are all acceptable constructions because “feel” is a stative verb, and, as we have seen, the rules for stative verbs are somewhat flexible. You are also correct that (1e) is preferable to the others because it does not contain the phrase “moved house”. (This phrase is not common in American English, but might be common in British, Canadian, or Australian English; I’m not certain.)

(2a) Since when do you have the right to tell me what to do?
This sentence is correct. Idiomatically, this sentence implies that the speaker does not believe that the person addressed does in fact have the right to tell him/her what to do. It’s a somewhat sarcastic statement which implies that the person addressed is being pushy or controlling. Wink Here are some other examples of this sort of idiomatic expression:

Since when do you have the right to make that decision? (Implication: I don’t actually think that you have the right to make that decision.)
Since when are you the boss of me? (Implication: I don’t actually think you are the boss of me.)
Who put you in charge? (Implication: I doubt that anyone actually put you in charge; you’re just acting as though you’re in charge.) Wink
Sarcasm aside, there certainly could be a situation in which the speaker is sincerely asking a question like one of these and expecting an answer. Here is such a context:
“I heard that you had been promoted. Since when have you been the boss?”
Notice that when the speaker sincerely asks the question and expects a real answer, he/she would use the correct tense (present perfect).

(2b) My kids think that the cell phone is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
This sentence is correct and also involves an idiomatic expression: “the greatest thing (to have been invented) since sliced bread.” This expression means that something is really useful or innovative. Also, notice that the expression is a subject complement to “cell phone” in the subordinate clause “that the cell phone is the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

I hope these answers are helpful to you!
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hela



Joined: 02 May 2004
Posts: 420
Location: Tunisia

PostPosted: Mon Dec 11, 2006 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear battlecry,

Thank you for this long post. I have to rush to school now but I'll read it carefully this evening.

If I deleted my question about the sentence "Until when are you going to stay here", it's because everybody told me that it was incorrect. But now you tell me the opposite, so now I'm a little puzzled. Confused Is it correct in spoken AND written English?

All the best,
Hela
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battlecryorsilence



Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Hela,

I can't imagine why someone would think that the question is grammatically incorrect. It is correct both in spoken and written English, by both prescriptive and descriptive grammatical guidelines.

Consider the following sentence:
I am going to stay here until sometime next week.

Now consider how one should ask me for this information:
Until when are you going to stay here?

Could you perhaps say a bit more about why the question was deemed to have been constructed incorrectly? (Was this judgment based on the verb tense being used with "'until", for example?) If so, I'll be happy to consider the grounds given for this judgment and offer more commentary, and we'll see if we can settle the debate. Smile
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hela



Joined: 02 May 2004
Posts: 420
Location: Tunisia

PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear battlecry,

Here is one answer I received to my question about the sentence "Until when are you going to stay here?"

"This is not good. The ordinary way of saying this is How long are you going to stay here? Sometimes we might say what you have written, but we know it is not idiomatic, so we would say it for false humor or to emphasize a date by which we expect our guest to decide to leave."

Do you agree?
See you soon!
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battlecryorsilence



Joined: 07 Dec 2006
Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Hela,

Smile Ah, yes: I definitely agree with your other commentator that this construction is not nearly as common in ordinary spoken English as the “how long…?” construction. I actually took your sentence to be intended to emphasize the date, reading “until” as a preposition and “when” as the pronoun for that date. Since it is grammatically correct, it would never be wrong to use this construction. However, it would be more likely to be used in a business or formal setting than ordinary conversation. Think, for example, of making a hotel reservation by telephone. The person booking your reservation might ask you, “…And until when will you be staying here/with us?” A factory manager might say, “Until when are the repairs going to halt production if we get started on them today?”
So, again, your commentator is correct in that you would definitely be more likely to ask a friend, “How long are you going to stay here/how long will you be staying here?” As long as no one told you that the sentence was grammatically incorrect, I’d say there’s no debate at all. Very Happy
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hela



Joined: 02 May 2004
Posts: 420
Location: Tunisia

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello battlecry,

Quote:
However, it would be more likely to be used in a business or formal setting than ordinary conversation.

So the interrogative construction "Until when... ?" in is fact a formal construction, i.e., perfectly acceptable in written English, right?

All the best.
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