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I work (in the UK) with someone who habitually leaves the "been" out of the present perfect (or so it seems to me), using phrases like "Has an appointment created?" or "If an appointment has created..." rather than "Has an appointment been created?" or "If an appointment has been created..." She does this both in speech and in writing. Is this "correct" English in a way that I'm unfamiliar with? (Allowing for the fact that "correct" vs. "incorrect" are tricky concepts for English language use.)

I'm reasonably certain she's a native English speaker born and raised in the UK. She may have another native language as well, she'd probably tick the "British Asian"* box on the census and speaks of visiting family in India, but while her parents or grandparents may have been immigrants, I very much doubt she is. Other than this quirk, her speech is solidly and fluently British English, not Indian English. She doesn't, for instance, use "doubt" where I would expect "question."

I don't recall hearing anyone else do this habitually — in British English, American English (what I mostly speak, having spent 2/3rds of my life there), or Indian English.

I understand that the concept of "correct English" is a fallacy. Leaving that aside, is this a recognized form I'm simply unfamiliar with? Or a quirk of British English or Indian English I've somehow managed to miss when others do it? Or just a quirk of her own?

* (Americans: In this context, the "Asia" in "Asian" refers to India, Pakistan, and environs, not south-east Asia as it would there.)

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It is unquestionably a non-standard usage in the UK. Your colleague appears to have invented an idiosyncratic linguistic usage for herself. –  Erik Kowal Jul 28 '14 at 10:59
@ErikKowal: Thanks. That was sort of my conclusion as well, but you know how it is, there are dusty corners of grammar and I wondered if there was something new I could learn here. :-) –  T.J. Crowder Jul 28 '14 at 11:01
Do you think she would take offence if you asked her about it? I must admit, I'm curious as to how a native speaker might develop such a notably aberrant quirk in her speech. –  Erik Kowal Jul 28 '14 at 11:05
@ErikKowal: I don't think she'd take offense, no, but I think it'd be awkward. Unfortunately we only work together periodically, so although I've known her for years, we don't actually know each other very well. –  T.J. Crowder Jul 28 '14 at 11:08

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This is a "passive-voice disconnect" with the spoken form of several subcontinental languages. Let's see if we can put this in perspective...

In these languages, when something is done by somebody, a usage similar to "it is done" is used. Unlike in English (where it would readily be understood to mean 'something has been done' in most cases), it is quite common in South Asian languages to be literally spoken as 'it has done itself'.

Though the meaning remains the same (that something has been accomplished) and is understood correctly, the voice turns active instead of passive, with the object doing something to itself rather than having something done on it by the subject.

Let us look at the example of an appointment being created. For simplicity, I have retained the English words "create" and "appointment" across all languages.

Active Voice Example:

  • English: I have created an appointment.
  • Tamil: nAn oru appointment create seidhuvittEn (exact literal meaning as in English)
  • Hindi: Ek appointment create kar chukA hoon (exact literal meaning as in English)
  • Malayalam: ñyan oru appointment create chenju (exact literal meaning as in English)

Passive Voice Example:

  • English: An appointment has been created.
  • Tamil: appointment create Agiyirukku (literally, "an appointment has formed")
  • Hindi: appointment create ho gaya hai (literally, "an appointment has formed")
  • Malayalam: appointment create kaḻiññu (literally, "an appointment has formed")

Bottom Line: "Has an appointment created?" is certainly incorrect and shouldn't be used. But it isn't an idiosyncratic creation of someone either. It just has its root in the usual ESL characteristic of mother tongue's influence on sentence formation in English (as seen in Chris's post here).

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This is not uncommon in other languages, either. I'm familiar with the Austronesian situation. "Passive" is not a universal term. There are predicates in pretty much all languages that have transitive and intransitive uses, and several different patterns for object and subject of each use. Some linguists use "ergative" or (worse) "unergative" terminology for these verbs, but I think that's confusing and doesn't explain anything. –  John Lawler Jul 28 '14 at 16:44
Thanks. Yes, I was thinking it could be influence from another language (apparently that observation didn't make the final cut of my question), I'm just curious that in all the people I've known over the years with roots in that region, I haven't heard this from others. –  T.J. Crowder Jul 28 '14 at 16:53
In your passive voice examples, you include "create" in the example, but then also say afterward "an appointment has formed" (rather than "created"). Can you clarify? –  T.J. Crowder Jul 28 '14 at 16:53
@T.J.Crowder, the example shows the spoken equivalents in these languages for the given English passive voice example. Referring back to the 3rd paragraph of my answer (the voice turns active instead of passive), the spoken equivalents shown are in active voice whereas the implied meaning is passive voice, and the speakers understand it as such. Thus you see "create" instead of "created". Note that there are exact passive voice equivalents for these examples, which would be certainly used when writing. When spoken, the mutated active voice form is highly prevalent (colloquial). –  user82373 Jul 29 '14 at 7:59
@T.J.Crowder, I just up-voted your question as it certainly is deserving. Also, your subtle way of getting information across without being crass of offending is great. Wonderful way of expressing. Keep up the good work! –  user82373 Jul 29 '14 at 8:11

As a native English speaker, leaving out the word "been" in the present perfect isn't a standard thing to do and I'd go as far as to say that it's incorrect, even in an informal setting. Saying "Has an appointment created" would, at best, imply that the appointment somehow creates itself. At worst, it's nonsensical.

It sounds like a quirk of her own, so stick with using the word "been" in the present perfect.

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I know it's not a standard thing to do, I was just wondering if it was from some dusty grammar or syntax corner I didn't know about, rather than being something completely unique to her or "wrong." (And yeah, I wasn't going to start doing it. :-) ) –  T.J. Crowder Jul 28 '14 at 11:09

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