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The Present Perfect

§ 15.The Present Perfect is an analytical form which is built
up by means of the auxiliary verb to have in the Present Indefinite
and the participle of the notional verb (e.g. I have worked. He has
etc.)- (On the formation of the participle see "Verbs", § 5
and Appendix.) The same auxiliary is used to form the interroga-
tive and negative forms (e.g. Have you worked? Has he worked?
It has not worked. They have not worked).
In spoken English the
contracted forms I've, he's, she's, it's, we've, you've and they've
are used in affirmative sentences and haven't and hasn't in nega-
tive sentences.

§ 16. The Present Perfect falls within the time sphere of the

, present and is not used in narration where reference is made to

past events. It follows from that that the Present Perfect is used

inpresent-time contexts, i.e. conversations, newspaper and radio

reports, lectures and letters.

The Present Perfect has three distinct uses. They will be fur-
ther referred to as Present Perfect I, Present Perfect IIand
Present Perfect III.

1) Present Perfect I isthe Present Perfect proper. It is used to
express an accomplished action which is viewed from the moment
of speaking as part of the present situation. Attention in this case
is centred on the action itself. The circumstances under which the
action occurred appear unimportant and immaterial at the moment
and need not be mentioned.

e.g. He is very sensitive, I have discoveredthat.

I've hada talk with him. He says he has all the proof he wants.
Such news! We've boughta racehorse.
"I've spoiledeverything," she said.

His secretary said tactfully: "I've put offyour other appoint-
ments for a while."

It should be especially noted that though the action expressed
in the Present Perfect is regarded as already accomplished, it be-
longs to the present-time sphere and is treated as a present action.
It becomes obvious from the periphrasis:

I've heardthe doctor's opinion —> I knowthe doctor's opinion.
She's gone off to the woods —> She isin the woods.

A similar idea of an accomplished action is also traced in such
expressions referring to the present as He is awake. I'm late.The
is done.The door is locked,etc.

Since it isthe action itself that the Present Perfect makes im-
portant, it is frequently used to open up conversations(newspaper
and radio reports, or letters) or to introducea new topicin them.
However, if the conversation (report or letter) continues on the
same subject, going into detail, the Present Perfect usually changes
to the Past Indefinite, as the latter is used to refer to actions or sit-
uations which are definite in the mind of the speaker. Usually (but
not necessarily) some concrete circumstances of the action (time,
place, cause, purpose, manner, etc.) are mentioned in this case.

e.g. "You are all right. You are coming round. Are you feeling


"I'm quite all right. But what has happened? Where am I?"
"You're in a dug-out, You were buried by a bomb from a


"Oh, was I? But how did I get here?"
"Someone dragged you. I am afraid some of your men were

killed, and several others were wounded."

"Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat,

Where have you been?" What did you see there?"

"I've been to London "I saw a little mouse

To look at the Queen." Under her chair."

As is seen from the above examples, the Present Perfect is
used to name a new action, whereas the Past Indefinite is used to
refer back to a definite action and the attention in this case is of-
ten drawn rather to the circumstances attending the action than to
the action itself.

Note. The functions of the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite may be in a
way compared with those of the indefinite and the definite articles.

The indefinite article is used when an object is just named (e.g. Glue me a
book. She is a teacher. I have a brother). Likewise the Present Perfect serves to
name an accomplished action (see the examples above).

Both the definite article and the Past Indefinite are used when an object or an
action, respectively, is definite in the mind of the speaker (e.g. Thebook is on the
table. The teacher returned the compositions,)

As has been said, Present Perfect I is mainly used to introduce
a new topic. But it may also be used to sum up a situation.

e.g. "I've done bad things," I said, "but I don't think I could have

done some of the things you've done."
"You've so often been helpful in the past." "I've tried," said


We've all been young once, you know. We've all felt it, Roy.
"I'm afraid I've been horribly boring and talked too much,"

she said as she pressed my hand.
"Agatha has told me everything. How cleverly you have both

kept your secret,"
"You and your wife have been very good to me. Thank you."

In accordance with its main function — just to name an ac-
complished action — the Present Perfect is generally used when
[the time of the action is not given.

e.g. He sat down. "You have not changed," he said. "No? What

have you come for?" "To discuss things."
"Mr Руке has told me such wonderful things about you.

"I haven't thought about it," she returned.

However, sometimes, even though there may be no indication

of past time in the sentence, the Present Perfect cannot be used

because reference is made to happenings which are definite in the

mind of the speaker (either because the action has already been

mentioned or because the situation is very well known to the lis-

tener). In this case the use of the Past Indefinite is very common.

e.g. Did you sleep well? I didn't understand you.

Did you enjoy the play? Did you have a good journey

Did you like the book? (trip, ride, flight, day, time)?

What did you say? Did you see the accident?

Did you hear what he said? I'm sorry I lost my temper.
I didn't hear your question.

It is possible, however, to use the Present Perfect when there
is an adverbial modifier of time in the sentence that denotes a pe-
riod of time which is not over yet, e.g. today, this morning, this
week, this month, this year,

e.g. What Rosanna has done tonight is clear enough, (Tonight is

not over yet.)
This year
we have taken only one assistant. (This year is not

I have had only one new dress this summer," exclaimed

June. (This summer is not over yet.)

Conversely, if the period is over or reference is made to a par-
ticular past point of time within that period, the Past Indefinite

is used.

e.g. "Did you see the letter in the "Times" this morning? (It is
no longer morning.)
"No. I haven't had time to look at a
paper today," (Today is not over yet.)

"Whom do you think I passed in Richmond Park today!" (To-
day is not over, but the action took place at a particular
point of time within today, namely when the person was in
Richmond Park.)

"I wasn't very well this morning, but I'm perfectly all right
now." (This morning is over.)

Note. It should be noted that sometimes an adverbial modifier of place points
to a past period of time.

e.g. Didyou see him at the theatre? (= when you were at the theatre)
I ran into her in Oxford Street. (= when I was in Oxford Street)

The Present Perfect may be found with certain adverbs of in-
definite time and frequency such as just ('только что'), not ... yet,
already, before, always, ever, never, often, seldom, recently, late
ly, of late,

e.g. She's just missed being run over.
I haven't even had coffee yet.

He has never made a sixpence by any of his books.
Have you heard of him lately?
"What is the point?" "I've made it clear enough before."

However, the use of the Present Perfect is by no means obliga-
tory with the above mentioned adverbs, because any other finite
form may be used with these adverbs if it is required by the situa-

e.g. He was studying to be a pianist, but he never touches the pi-
ano now.

He noticed that the leaves of the chestnut were already begin-
ning to turn yellow and brown.

His room was not yet furnished, and he liked it to remain

Note 1. Note the use of the Past Indefinite with just now.
e.g. I toldyou just now I had never had time for much fun.

Note 2. Russian students of English, under the influence of the Russian lan-
guage, tend to use the adverb already nearly in every sentence containing the
Present Perfect. That is not characteristic of the English language as it is suffi-
cient to use the Present Perfect alone to express an accomplished action. The addi-
tion of already appears redundant in many cases.

It follows from the rules above that the Present Perfect is not
used when there is an indication of past time in the sentence. It is
the Past Indefinite that is used in this case because the mention
of the definite past time ties the action to the past-time sphere as
it were, and it cannot break through to the present.

e.g. "Put on your clothes at once and come with me." "But what
is it? Has something happened?" "I'm afraid so. Your
husband was taken ill this afternoon."

"M. Poirot, you have no idea of what I have gone through."
"I know your wife died just over a year ago."

Similarly, it is the Past Indefinite that is used in questions in-
troduced by when.

e.g. When did you actually arrive?

When did you change your mind?

The Past Indefinite is also used in special questions beginning
with where and how when they refer to the past events. The
Present Perfect is not common here because the attention in such
sentences is drawn to the circumstances of the action rather than
to the occurrence itself, which means that the speaker has a defi-
nite action in mind.

e.g. "Where did your uncle receive his guests?" "Right here."

"How did he get in?" I asked, and Evans said, "Oh, he has a

"Where is my hat? Where did I leave my hat?"

Note. The question Where have you been? can be asked of the person who has
just come.

e.g. 'Hello, Mum. I'm sorry I'm late" "Where have you been?"
In all other cases it should be Where were you!

e.g. "Did the party go off nicely?" "I don't know. I wasn't there." "Where were


In special questions beginning with interrogative words other
than those mentioned above (e.g. who, what, why, what ... for and
other), both the Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite are possi-
ble. The choice depends on the meaning to be conveyed. If refer-
ence is made to an action which is past or definite in the minds of
the people speaking, or if there is a change of scene, the Past In-

definite is used; if reference is made to an action which is still
valid as part of the present situation, the Present Perfect should
be used.

e.g. "What have I done against you?" she burst out defiantly.

"Nothing." "Then why can't we get on?"
"I know she gave him a good scolding." "What did he do?"
Looking up at her he said: "Dorothy's gone to a garden par-
ty." "I know. Why haven't you gone too?"
Why didn't you speak to my father yourself on the boat?

Note 1. As to general questions, the Present Perfect as well as the Past Indefi
nite may be found in them because they may inquire either about new facts which
are important for the present or about events that are definite in the mind of the

Note 2. In the following example the verb to be is used in the meaning 'to vis-
it', 'to go'. Hence it takes the preposition to after it. It is noteworthy that to be ac-
quires this meaning only if used in the Present Perfect or the Past Perfect.

e.g. Renny said: "He has been to Ireland too"

"Have you been to a symphony concert?" he continued.

Note 3. The combination has/have got may be used as the Present Perfect of
the verb to get (which is not very common, though).

e.g. I don't know what's got into Steven today.

He has got into financial difficulties and needs cash.

But it is often used as a set phrase which has two different meanings — 'to
possess' (a) and 'to be obliged' (b).

e.g. a) "Have you got a telephone?" she looked round the room.

"I don't think we've got any choice," said Francis,
b) "No" he said loudly, "there are some risks you've got to take."

"It doesn't matter what caused it," said Martin. "We have got to take the

In this case the time reference also changes — has/have got is the Present Per-
fect only in form; it actually indicates a present state of things.

Note 4. She is gone is a survival of the old Present Perfect which was formed
with certain verbs by means of the auxiliary to be. In present-day English it is to be
treated as a set phrase meaning 'she is not here any longer'.

2) Present Perfect II serves to express an action which began
before the moment of speaking and continues into it or up to it.
This grammatical meaning is mainly expressed by the Present Per-
fect Continuous (see "Verbs", § 18). However, the Present Perfect
Non-Continuous is found in the following cases:

a) Its use is compulsory with stative verbs (see "Verbs", §2, 2).

e.g. I've known the young lady all her life.
I've loved her since she was a child.

"But we've been in conference for two hours," he said. "It's
time we had a tea break."

b) With some dynamic verbs of durative meaning the Present
Perfect is sometimes used instead of the Present Perfect Continu-
ous with little difference in meaning.

e.g. "It's a pretty room, isn't it?" "I've slept in it for fifteen

"I'm glad to meet you," he said. "I've waited a long while and

began to be afraid I'd not have the opportunity."
He's looked after Miss Gregg for many years now.

As to terminative verbs, they can only have the meaning of
Present Perfect I and never of Present Perfect II.

Since it is often difficult to draw the line between durative and
terminative verbs, it is recommended that students of English
should use the Present Perfect Continuous with all dynamic verbs
to express an action begun in the past and continued into the

c) The Present Perfect is preferred to the Present Perfect Con-
tinuous in negative sentences, when it is the action itself that is
completely negated (see also "Verbs", § 19).

e.g. "Shall we sit down a little? We haven't sat here for ages."

"I was just having a look at the paper," he said. "I haven't

read the paper for the last two days."
"She hasn't written to me for a year," said Roy.

It is noteworthy that Present Perfect II is associated with cer-
tain time indications — either the whole period of the duration of
the action is marked or its starting point. In the former case we
find different time indications. Some expressions are introduced
by the preposition for and sometimes in (e.g. for an hour, for
many years, for the last few days, for a long time, for so long, for
ages, in years, in a long while,
etc.)- Other expressions have no
prepositions (e.g. these three years, all this week, all along, so
long, all oneys life,

e.g. The picture has been mine for years and years.
I've felt differently about him for some time.
"Why haven't I seen you all these months?" said Hankins.
We haven't had any fun in a long while.
I've wanted to go to the sea all my life.

The starting point of the action is indicated by the adverb
since, a prepositional phrase with since or a clause introduced by
the conjunction since.

e.g. "But, Dinny, when did you meet him?" "Only ten days ago,

but I've seen him every day since."
The sun has been in the room since the morning.
But she has seemed so much better since you started the injec-

In the clause introduced by since the Past Indefinite is used to
indicate the starting point of an action (see the example above).

However, we sometimes find in both parts of such complex sen-
tences two parallel actions which began at the same time in the
past and continue into the present. In this case the Present Perfect
is used in both clauses,

e.g. I've loved you since I've known you.

It should be noted that the indication of time is indispensable to
Present Perfect II because otherwise its meaning in most cases
would be changed. It would come to denote an accomplished action
which is part of the present situation (for this see Present Perfect I).

Cf. I've been taught to do it for three years.
I have been taught to do it.
But we met him here about a month ago. We haven't heard

from him since.
We haven't heard from him.

Care should be taken to distinguish between the use of the
Present Perfect and the Past Indefinite when the period of dura-
tion is expressed by a prepositional phrase with for. If the period of
duration belongs to the past time sphere, the Past Indefinite should
be used. It is only if the period of duration comes close to the mo-
ment of speaking or includes it that the Present Perfect is used.

Cf. "I have lived like this," he said, "for two years, and I can't

stand it any more."
"I teach History at a secondary school. I went to the Universi-

ty here for four years and got a degree."
The same is true of questions beginning with how long.
"Are you married?" "Yes." "How long have you been mar-

"Are you married?" "No. I'm divorced." "How long were you

3) Present Perfect III is found in adverbial clauses of time in-
troduced by the conjunctions when, before, after, as soon as, till
and until where it is used to express a future action. It shows that
the action of the subordinate clause will be accomplished before
the action of the principal clause (which is usually expressed by
the Future Indefinite). This use of the Present Perfect is structur-
ally dependent as it is restricted only to the above mentioned type
of clauses.

e.g. "You'll find," said Fred, "that you'll long for home when you

have left it."
As soon as we have had some tea, Ann, we shall go to inspect

your house.
I'll take you back in my car but not till I've made you some


Sometimes the Present Indefinite is found in this type of claus-
es in the same meaning as the Present Perfect. The choice of the
form depends on the lexical meaning of the verb. With durative
verbs the Present Perfect is necessary.

e.g. When you have had your tea, we'll see about it.

I can tell you whether the machine is good or bad when I
have tried it.

With terminative verbs the use of both forms is possible,

Cf. He says when he retires he'll grow roses.

When I've finished this I must go and put the baby to bed.
Mother will stay at home until we return.

"Your mother wouldn't like me." "You can't possibly say that
until you've met her."

The Present Perfect Continuous

§ 17. The Present Perfect Continuous is an analytical form
which is built up by means of the auxiliary verb to be in the
Present Perfect and the ing-form of the notional verb (e.g. I have
been working. He has been working,
etc.). {On the formation of
the ing-form see "Verbs", § 11.)

In the interrogative form the first auxiliary verb is placed be-
fore the subject (e.g. Have you been working? Has she been work-
etc.). In the negative form the negative particle not is placed
after the first auxiliary (e.g. We have not been working. They have
not been working,
etc.). In spoken English the contracted forms
I've, he's, she's, it's, we've, you've and they've are used in affir-
mative sentences and hasn't and haven't in negative sentences.

§ 18. The Present Perfect Continuous falls within the time
sphere of the present. Hence it is not used in narration where refer-
ence is made to past events. It is found in present-time contexts, i.e.
conversations, newspaper and radio reports, lectures and letters.

The Present Perfect Continuous has two uses which will be
further referred to as Present Perfect Continuous I and Present
Perfect Continuous II.

1) Present Perfect Continuous I serves to express an action
which began before the moment of speaking and continues into it
or up to it. In this meaning it is parallel to Present Perfect II and
may be used with the same indications of time as described in
"Verbs", § 16.

e.g. He said he was in town and wanted to see me. That was a
couple of hours ago and I have been waiting ever since.

"We've been staying here nearly a week. "I hope you are not
thinking of leaving." "Her ladyship is waiting to see you and
Sergeant Cuff,", he said. "How long has she been waiting?"

I wish you'd go, Chris! We've been getting on each other's
nerves lately.

"I have been thinking about it for a long time," said Erik

I've been sitting here quite a while.

He's your elder brother. But you are the one who looks after
him. You've been making excuses for him all your life.

Present Perfect Continuous I may be used with both durative
and terminative verbs.

As has been said, Present Perfect II can also be used in this
meaning with durative verbs, though it is less common (see also
"Verbs", § 16, 2) and it is never used with terminative verbs.

It stands to reason that the Present Perfect Continuous is not
common with stative verbs.

2) Present Perfect Continuous II serves to express an action
which was in progress quite recently and which in one way or an-
other affects the present situation, explains or gives reasons for
the state of things at the present moment.

The precise time limits of the action (i.e. its beginning and its
end) are not specified. This use of the Present Perfect Continuous
seems to be prevailing over its use described under I. Besides, in
this meaning the Present Perfect Continuous is not parallel to
Present Perfect II.

e.g. "Your shoes are wet." "I've been walking in the rain."

She said: "I've been talking to your boy-friend, Adeline, and

I like him."

She's been washing her hair, but it may be dry now.
He began abruptly: "I've been thinking about what you told


Don't tell your mother what I've been saying.
He clasped the massive woollen underwear against his chest.

"Just what I need," he declared. "The moths have been

eating mine."

What have you been doing?
Then Phil called: "I'll be right down. I've been shutting the


The Present Perfect Continuous in this case is, as a rule, not
associated with any indications of time (see the examples above).
It is only occasionally found with indications of a recent period of
time or with the adverb just.

e.g. Augustus has been dining with us tonight.

I have been discussing it with Arabella this evening.

I've just been having such a delightful chat with Margaret.

§ 19. In negative sentences the Present Perfect Continuous is
not common. Present Perfect II is preferred in this case (for exam-
ples see "Verbs", § 16, 2c).

However, the Present Perfect Continuous is also found in nega-
tive sentences but in this case the negation does not refer to the
action itself but to the circumstances attending the action.

e.g. "We don't wish to overtire the boys." "A walk would only do
them good," Jenny said. "They haven't been sleeping at all
well recently." (which means that they have been sleeping
but their sleep has not been sound enough)

I'm sorry I'm late. I hope you have not been waiting for me.
(which means that I know you have been waiting but I hope
it is not for me)

§ 20. Present Perfect Continuous I and particularly Present
Perfect Continuous II are sometimes found with stative verbs.

e.g. "There's one thing I've been meaning to ask you, Miles," Fred

said one afternoon.
"Hello," she said. "I'm glad you're having lunch here. I've

been wanting to talk to you."
I've been noticing these changes in you ever since you got

that university degree.
A little break like this is what she's been needing all these

"Do you know Mr Nesfield?" "Oh, yes. We have been seeing

him every day."

§ 21. Note the following sentence patterns:

a) He has been reading since he came.

b) He has been reading since he has been working in the library.

In the first pattern the action in the subordinate clause intro-
duced by since is expressed by the Past Indefinite and serves to in-
dicate only the starting point of the action in the principal clause.

In the second pattern the action of the subordinate clause is
parallel to that of the principal clause as they both began at the
same time in the past and continue into the moment of speaking.
In this case the Present Perfect Continuous is used .in both claus-
es (or Present Perfect II, with stative verbs).

The Past Indefinite

§ 22. The Past Indefinite is a synthetic form (e.g. I worked.
He sang).
(On the formation of the Past Indefinite see "Verbs", §
ft 5 and Appendix.) But the interrogative and negative forms are
built up analytically, by means of the auxiliary verb to do in the
Past Indefinite and the infinitive of the notional verb without the
particle to (e.g. Did you work? Did he work? We did not work.
She did not work).
In spoken English the contracted form didn't
is used in negative sentences.

The Past Indefinite may have a special form which is used for
emphasis. This emphatic form is built up analytically, by means of
the Past Indefinite of the auxiliary verb to do followed by the in-
finitive of the notional verb without the particle to. The auxiliary
is heavily stressed in this case (e.g. I 'did insist on it. He 'did in-
sist on it).

§ 23. The Past Indefinite is commonly used to express a past
action. It may be found in present-time contexts as well as in past-
time contexts.

The Past Indefinite is used in the following cases:
1) To express a single action which took place in the past. The
time of the action is often indicated. It is usually an indication of
the past time. Yet the Past Indefinite may also be found with such
adverbial modifiers of time as this morning, today, tonight, etc.
(For details see also "Verbs", § 16, 1.)

e.g. Things came to a crisis in July.

My mother first heard of him when I was a mere child.

I only met her six months ago.

I had a letter from Willy yesterday.

Why, I saw the announcement in the paper this morning.

The time of the action may be implied in the situation through
the mention of the place of the action or other attending circum-

e.g. I ate turnips in Germany.

Did you belong to any society at the University?
"What a lot you know," said Miss Marple, "about the private
lives of film stars. Did you learn it all in California?"

Croft informed us at breakfast that you told him to bring

Mrs Warren and Vivie over here today.
He built that place for Lord Henry.

But sometimes the mention of the time or the place of the ac-
tion appears unnecessary because reference is made to a particular
action which is definite in the mind of the speaker and the hearer
(see also "Verbs", § 16, 1).

e.g. Sorry! I didn't mean to hurt you.
I slept very badly.
You told it beautifully, Grace.
"Did he say anything?" "I didn't quite catch what he said."

The definiteness of the action in the mind of the speaker is to
be regarded as the most prominent feature of this use of the Past
Indefinite. It becomes particularly obvious when compared with
the use of Present Perfect I (see "Verbs", § 16, 1).

2) To express an action which occupied a whole period of time
now over. That means that the action after taking place for some
time came to an end in the past. (Compare with the use of Present
Perfect II. See "Verbs", § 16, 2.) The period of time is usually in-
dicated in the sentence by means of adverbial phrases with the
prepositions for or during and synonymous expressions.

e.g. I admit I was wrong. Remember how we quarrelled about it?

We quarrelled for three days.
Last May I spent two weeks in London.
We stayed in the garden for a long time.

For twenty years you lived without your child, without a
thought of your child.

Note. Questions beginning with how long may accordingly contain either the
Past Indefinite or Present Perfect II depending on whether the period of time im-
plied is already over or has not yet expired,
e.g. Maurice turned on the light and saw his brother sitting in the armchair. "How

long have you been here?" he asked in surprise.
"We really had a wonderful time in Brighton." "How long did you stay there?"

3) In narration to express a succession of actions.

e.g. So I went up the stairs. I bathed. I changed. I made myself
up like the Queen of Sheba. Then I went downstairs and

cooked and served dinner for three. Then I entertained Mr
Stent. Then I wished him a very good night. Then I wished
Jack good-bye. Then I took my suit-case and walked out.

We went to the park and I sat down on a chair and took the
baby out of the pram and a big dog came along and put its
head on my knee and she clutched its ear, tugged it.

I found some matches, climbed on the table, lit the gas lamp,
then settled down to read.

Consecutive actions may be either single accomplished actions
(as in the examples above) or actions of some duration occupying
a whole period of time. The latter is usually indicated in the sen-
tence by means of prepositional phrases with for, during, from ...
to, or by means of the words all day, all night and the like.

e.g. She looked at him for a long time and then shrugged.

We marched all night and all today. We arrived only an
hour ago.

4) To express recurrent actions. As this meaning is not inher-
ent in the form as such, it is generally supported by the use of
adverbial modifiers of frequency such as often, never, now and
again, sometimes, for days,

e.g. You often mentioned her in your letters.
But sometimes he found his work difficult.
Martin spent many of his evenings reading case histories of
radiation illness.

5) To express permanent actions which indicate continuous,
uninterrupted processes in the past, giving a general characteris-
tic of the person or thing denoted by the subject.

e.g. She had a large, blunt, knobby nose, and her eyes protruded:
they were light blue, staring and slightly puzzled. She
wore her hair in a knob above the back of her head.

Dan worked in a factory twelve hours a day for nine shillings
a week.

The drive sloped downward to where the house stood.

She lived alone in London, and saw no one except me.

I knew they loved each other, but they always quarrelled.

Note. In English there are special means of expressing a recurrent or perma-
nent action in the past. They are used to + infinitive and would + infinitive. Used
(pronounced [ju:st]) to + infinitive has only one form — that of the past tense
which occurs in present-time- and past-time contexts. It generally serves to expres,
recurrent actions which may be either point actions or actions of some duration.

e.g. "She used to give me chocolate," murmured Imogen.

I used to meet him sometimes when he was working on the Chronicle here.
I liked reading in the garden. I used to take out a deck-chair, sit under one of
the apple-trees and read.

Sometimes used to + infinitive with a durative verb serves to express an ac
tion giving a permanent characteristic of the subject of the sentence in the past. In.
this case it implies contrast between the past and the present — what was typical
of the past is no longer true at present. This meaning is naturally found in,
present-time contexts.

e.g. "I used to be as sentimental as anyone a few years ago," said Ann.

You wouldn't have the same comforts in the country, dear, I know. I used to

live there as a girl.
I don't exactly hear as I used to.

The negative and interrogative forms of used to + infinitive are very seldom
found and there is fluctuation in the way they are built up.

e.g. Lena didn't use to like the clock, did she?

"I'm not mean." "You usedn't to be. But you have been lately, haven't you?"
Cedric, what's come over you? You used not to talk like that.
"And what did they use to give you on Sundays?" he was asking as I came in.
"Who do writers write for now?" "Who did they use to write for? People, of

Used you to climb the old apple-tree in the garden?

It is necessary to point out that occasionally used to + infinitive is found
where normally the Past Perfect would be used.

e.g. He ordered dinner, and sat down in the very corner, at the very table perhaps,
at which he and young Jolyon used to sit twenty-five years ago.

Would + infinitive is more restricted in its application than used to + infini
It is found only in past-time contexts and serves to express only recurrent ac-
tions. On the whole, would + infinitive is typical of literary style.

e.g. She would often wake up screaming in the night.

She seemed able to do nothing for an infinite time without feeling bored.

Sometimes I would go out and sit with her for a little on the grass.
He was usually active and interested, but sometimes he would have fits of


6) To express an action going on at a given past moment. Gener-
ally this meaning is rendered by the Past Continuous {see "Verbs",
§ 26). But we resort to the Past Indefinite in the following cases:

a) The use of the Past Indefinite becomes obligatory with stat-
live verbs.

e.g. She sipped her coffee and pulled a face. She thought it tasted


She was ill at ease, and he felt sorry for her. He wanted all
her troubles for himself at that moment.

b) The Past Indefinite may be used instead of the Past Continu-
ous with certain durative verbs. They are to sit, to stand, to lie, to
hang, to shine, to gleam, to talk, to speak, to wear, to carry, to
and some others. In such cases the action as such is only
named, and it is often the circumstances under which it takes
place that are really important.

e.g. Barbara and Basil sat in the garden after lunch. The smoke
from Basil's cigar hung on the humid air.

The lights in the house were out, but a rising moon gleamed
against one window in the room where little Mary slept.

We went to the bus stop. The full moon shone down on the
lightless blind-faced street.

His hair was newly cut, he wore a stiff white collar, a bowler
hat, a thin gold watch-chain and other marks of respect-
ability, and he carried a new umbrella.

He talked with acute intensity.

Her face was heavy, she spoke with deep emotion.

He walked between us, listening attentively to our conversation.

Note. Note that when we speak of inanimate things the Past Indefinite is the
norm with the verbs mentioned above.

e.g. On the table lay three rows of cards face upwards.

Outside, beyond the colonnade, the ground froze hard and the trees stood out
white against the leaden sky.

7) To express a future action viewed from the past. This use is
found in reported speech and is structurally dependent. It occurs in
clauses of time, condition and concession; the Future-in-the-Past or
modal verbs are usually used in the principal clause in this case.
(For conjunctions introducing these clauses see "Verbs'1, § 10, 4.)

e.g. He knew that she was determined to marry him, and would, if
she thought it useful, lie and cheat and steal until she
brought it off.

Probably she knew that, whatever happened,he would not
give her away.

8) To express unreal actions. (For this see "Verbs", §§ 122-
126, 132, 133, 144, 146-149, 153, 162.)

§ 24. For the use of the Past Indefinite in some sentence pat-
terns comprising complex sentences with clauses of time intro-
duced by as and while see "Verbs", § 28.

For the use of the Past Indefinite in some sentence patterns
comprising complex sentences with clauses of time introduced by
when, after, before, till/until, since, etc. see "Verbs", § 32.

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