Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Here's a conversation:

Speaker1: I have already seen this film.
Speaker2: When have you seen it? [OR] When did you see it?
Speaker1: Last month.

Are both of the responses from Speaker2 correct?

share|improve this question
    
This might answer your question : english.stackexchange.com/questions/1357/… –  Laure Jan 1 '12 at 15:00
    
So might this: english.stackexchange.com/questions/53180/… –  John Lawler Jan 1 '12 at 16:54
    
And this english.stackexchange.com/questions/25709/… –  Feral Oink Jan 2 '12 at 13:45
    
Excellent question...but already addressed by others (in the links). –  Mitch Jan 3 '12 at 18:50
add comment

3 Answers

Both versions of (b) are valid, but one difference is "When did you see it?" is far more common...

enter image description here

Only my opinion, but on average I feel that "when have you seen it?" is more likely to be accusatory or incredulous. There's often a sense of "I don't believe you! Prove it by telling me exactly when!".

share|improve this answer
add comment

The normal response would be When did you see it? The statement which prompts it uses the present perfect construction because the speaker is relating the fact that he has already seen the film to something happening at the time he is speaking. He may, for instance, be in the cinema watching the film for a second time, or someone may have suggested that they see it together. The subsequent question would normally have the verb in the past tense, because the second speaker is not concerned with relating the previous viewing of the film with the present, but wants to know at what particular time in the past the first speaker saw the film. Identifying an event at a time in the past is one of the main uses of the past tense.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The present perfect is rarely used with an adjunct specifying a time, perhaps because its use is in some way to relate the past event to the present, so specifying the location in the past is somewhat inconsistent.

"When" is effectively a temporal adverb, so the same applies.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

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.