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I chatted on IRC and stumbled upon such a nice sentence:

On the opposite, Tom has been a good influence on my life since I met him.

For me it means that Tom is an influence, instead of Tom having influence. So I'd rephrase that as:

On the opposite, Tom has had a good influence on my life since I met him.

However then a native speaker said that the first sentence is more natural to him.

Which one is correct here?

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7  
"On the opposite" sounds very foreign to my ear. –  Robusto Feb 21 '12 at 18:46
1  
Ditto Robusto. A native speaker would not say, "on the opposite" but more likely "on the other hand" for a mild paradox, or "on the contrary" for a negation. –  Jay Feb 21 '12 at 18:52
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I agree with Robusto. I'd use "on the contrary". The rest sounds fine either way. –  Spare Oom Feb 21 '12 at 18:54
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We don't have OP's full context, but possibly it's one where most of us would say "Quite the opposite - Tom has had a good influence..." –  FumbleFingers Feb 21 '12 at 20:42
    
The earlier sentence of another user was: "Tom, you're encouraging him to procrastinate a lot." –  liori Feb 21 '12 at 21:22

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Along with others, I agree both OP's sentences are "valid", but neither existing answer seems to address the issue of whether either is "preferred". The mention of "perfect tense" in the title is irrelevant - usage is unaffected by "has been/has had" (present perfect) or "was/had" (simple past).

The issue under consideration is just "had" vs "was a good/bad influence". From Google Books:

  • "he had a bad influence on me" - 5 instances.
  • "I had a bad influence on her" - 1 instance.
  • "she had a good influence on him" - 6 instances.

but

  • "he was a bad influence on me" - 392 instances.
  • "I was a bad influence on her" - 1120 instances.
  • "she was a good influence on him" - 131 instances.

I think that's enough to establish that if we're talking about "influence" as something that causes positive/negative changes in the person being influenced, we normally speak of being an influence.


It's different if we're talking about "influence" where the moral development of the influenced party isn't central - for example, trying to persuade someone to do something. There, constructions like "he has influence with/over them" dominate. All variations of "he was an influence/influential with/over them" are either unusual or unknown.


TL;DR: You are an influence on [the moral development of] others (it's an ongoing state). Whereas more commonly you have influence you bring to bear on specific occasions, to persuade someone to adopt a particular course of action.

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Both are correct, in that influence is either the "capacity to be a compelling force" (Tom has had this), or "a person or thing that exerts influence" (Tom has been this).

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Influence may denote "a person who exerts influence" - a person or thing having influence.

My parents considered my friend to be a bad influence on me.

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