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'We already gave him a response'.

'We have already given him a response'.

Do 'already' and 'just' strictly require the present perfect?

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Formally, yes; colloquially, no; and the colloquial usage will probably be formally acceptable within a generation. –  StoneyB Aug 15 '12 at 23:45
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Not even formally. Already and just are complex temporal adverbs, but adverbs do not govern constructions; verbs do. In this case, there is no reason to require a perfect construction, though it's acceptable, as is the past tense. –  John Lawler Aug 16 '12 at 0:34
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Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/76800/… British English does use the present perfect, almost exclusively. –  Andrew Leach Aug 16 '12 at 8:10
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@JohnLawler I shall have to be more careful: formal doesn't mean quite the same thing to a literary scholar as it does to a linguist. Although well-formed, "Milton already gave us his context in the preceding line" would have been regarded by the professors of my youth as unacceptably colloquial in a formal essay. –  StoneyB Aug 16 '12 at 13:08
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Even in British English, the past tense is possible with ‘already’ in some contexts. –  Barrie England Aug 17 '12 at 8:33
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Firstly, get the tense right for the purpose, then add just, already, yet, not yet, still, no longer, any more as appropriate.

If your purpose is to give news to someone, you will probably use present perfect in UK, past simple in US.

There is often a choice. E.g. we (have) already stopped sending her flowers = we no longer send her flowers = we don't send her flowers any more.

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The use of the past tense in this construction, especially when spoken, is often used to express emphasis and, perhaps frustration.

We already GAVE him a response.

We just GAVE him a response.

These forms are used to indicate that the recipient is somehow not being reasonable in continuing to seek further feedback. The sentences would have less "punch" if they were delivered as

We HAVE ALREADY GIVEN him a response.

We HAVE JUST GIVEN him a response.

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Counter-point: "We already send her flowers every week. Do we need to send a card, too?" –  Adele C Aug 16 '12 at 1:37
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Present tense works for emphasis too. We already SEND her flowers . . . Much better than We HAVE ALREADY BEEN SENDING her flowers . . . –  bib Aug 16 '12 at 1:52
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