English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My question is not whether the correct grammar is either "She has just had a baby" or "She just had a baby". I am aware that the official grammar is "She has just had a baby". But in a way that sentence sounds wrong. It is correct in the meaning that it follows the grammar rules and guidelines. However, when you "have just had a baby", somewhere in my mind it is as if that person is still having that baby. As in, the birth is still going on. But when you say "She just had a baby", the birth is done. It's finished. Which is (hopefully) the case.

So my question is actually more of a wiki-question expecting opinions on the implementation rather than a question expecting a valid and factual answer.

share|improve this question
The sense of have in the idiom have a baby is different from its normal sense of possession, in that possession is durative and does not "take place" as an event at a single time (though acquisition can). In other words, have here refers to a Change of State, rather than a State. That's the reason if feels strange to use the Hot News sense of the Perfect Construction with have a baby, because normally a durative predicate in the perfect continues in the present. But having a baby is an event; it only begins the duration. – John Lawler Nov 1 '13 at 14:27
up vote 1 down vote accepted

She has just had a baby is absolutely idiomatic in British English.

I observe that She just had a baby seems to be idiomatic in American English (and has been creeping into British use over the last few decades); I think she has just is also idiomatic in American usage, but I'm not so sure of that.

Your understanding of the perfect is not quite right (unsurprising, as it's very subtle). You're right that it means the speaker is thinking of the action as having present relevance; but it does not imply that she is still having it. It's more that the just brings the event so close to the present. I would hardly ever use the simple past with just - in my idiolect they are inconsistent.

[Of course there is a different meaning of just which I do use with the simple past, just meaning something like only, as in I just touched it and it fell!.]

And by the way, there is no such thing as "the official grammar".

share|improve this answer
Makes more sense now. So basically it would be more correct to say: "She (timeframe1) had a baby (timeframe2'"? Timeframe1: e.g.: recently. Timeframe2: e.g.: a few minutes ago. Also, if you use "just" as time indication in "I just touched it and it fell", it sounds so stupid that it makes me laugh :) so I'd never use it that way either. – MilanSxD Nov 1 '13 at 14:36
@MilanXsD: sorry, I don't understand what you are asking in that comment. And the just in I just touched it and it fell is not a time indication: that was my point. – Colin Fine Nov 1 '13 at 14:46
I know what your point was don't worry :) what I meant to say is: Instead of using "just", would it be better to use time indications such as "a few minutes ago" or "recently"? – MilanSxD Nov 1 '13 at 14:51
Sorry I was unable to pick your answer as solution becuase of the terribly slow internet connection at work. – MilanSxD Nov 1 '13 at 15:30
I have returned from my epic quest for reputation to give you an upvote :) – MilanSxD Nov 5 '13 at 14:03

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.