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I have come across interesting cases several times where the Present Simple is used instead of the Present Perfect. For example:

1) Lately I get the feeling that I am not so much being pulled down as I am being pushed. (from the movie - "Friends")

2) Man, have you noticed how much more time Paul spends at the gym lately? (taken from this discussion Present continuous to discuss action's frequency)

As a rule, "lately" invites the Present Perfect which means that it would be more correct in accordance with grammar rules to say:

Lately I've got the feeling...

.. have you noticed how much more time Paul has spent/been spending...

I, by no means, intend to say that this usage is not idiomatic, as these sentences were uttered by native speakers, I just would like to get some of your thoughts and explanations why it is possible to use the Present Simple here. I'd like also to know if the Present Perfect would be a good substitution. Examples illustrating this usage are very welcome.

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3 Answers 3

  1. American speakers tend to use the present perfect much less than British speakers.
  2. Lately I get the feeling that... is just idiomatic AmE. It's not the same as, say, Lately I've been feeling sick ..., which is normal AmE: it's present perfect progressive because it's a consistent feeling. I use the present perfect much more than most AmE speakers, but I wouldn't say Lately I've had the feeling that... unless I didn't have it at the moment of speaking. Lately I've got the feeling... doesn't feel like AmE to me.
  3. ... have you noticed how much more time Paul has {spent/been spending}...? is idiomatic AmE, but I suspect that a lot of AmE speakers would say it in simple past: ... did you notice how much more time Paul {spends / has spent / has been spending}...?

The sequence of tenses is difficult for all speakers, native speakers included. What each tense, aspect, mood, voice, etc. is used for is a mystery to most. We just instinctively say what we say and use whatever tense seems to fit. IOW, I don't think it's possible to provide a rule-governed explanation of why people use one tense instead of another.

I agree with Reg Dwight that "there is no rule that 'lately invites the Present Perfect'." I'd say "Lately I feel sad about how vitriolic American politics has become" as soon as I'd say "Lately I've {felt / been feeling} sad about how vitriolic American politics has become". It'd all depend on whether I was feeling sad at the moment or whether I'd been riding a roller coaster of sadness and indifference.

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Nice answer + 1. The only thing is that when you say that:"there is no rule that 'lately invites the Present Perfect", I think you mean a circle of native speakers where this rule doesn't exist, but this rule exists among learners and it's not groundless. The rest is terrific! –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 17:11
    
Bill Franke, yeah, I think you wouldn't say "I see her lately", would you? –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 17:12
    
It all depends on the sentence & context. That sentence isn't possible for me, but I see her every day at lunch is just as likely as I've been seeing her every day at lunch & I've seen her every day at lunch. I never know what I'm going to say until I say it or what I think until it pops out of my head full blown like Athena from the head of Zeus. I was once as shocked as one of my former wives when, in the middle of a marriage counselling session, I blurted out "You whore!" (Ah, infidelity! Makes drama queens of us all.) Well, I honestly didn't know I'd ever say that. But I did. –  user21497 Oct 30 '12 at 17:27
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@user1425 Used to be she never came in more than once a month or so, but lately I see her every time I go down to Paddy's. –  StoneyB Oct 30 '12 at 17:37
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@user1425 "this rule exists among learners" I think it's good to distinguish between "rule" (hard and fast law of the language) and "rule of thumb" (imprecise guidelines designed to make language learning easier). "Lately" does not at all invite the present perfect intrinsically. Rather, the present perfect usually expresses things that have happened lately, so the two are often combined. The time referred to by "lately" and the present perfect overlap a lot. This can be helpful to students of English who don't understand what the present perfect signifies, but that's all, I think. –  Billy Oct 30 '12 at 19:25
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There is no rule that "lately invites the Present Perfect". In fact, with Present Perfect the sentence would mean something different.

  • "Lately I've got" — you got it once, and it's a completed action. (Whence the very name, "perfect".)
  • "Lately I get" — you keep getting it, and there's no end in sight.

Likewise with the second sentence, "Paul has spent" vs. "Paul spends".

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To be accurate, Past Simple is used for completed events. Present Perfect is 'until now'. "I have worked here for ten years" does not signal that your work is complete and you are leaving, it simply says "for ten years before now". Whether you continue working there after 'now' is left open. The 'perfect' in the name is from it having temporal boundaries (beginning to time of speaking), in contrast to continuous. "I am working here" has no end time in the way that perfective 'until now' has. –  Roaring Fish Oct 30 '12 at 16:11
    
RegDwighт, do you suggest that "lately" invites Present Simple? Lately is typically used with the Present Perfect. I have seen here lately. Where have you been lately? Whould you say: I see her lately. Where are you lately? –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 16:59
    
RegDwighт "Lately I've got" — you got it once, and it's a completed action./ That's right! I also think that when you get a feeling you get it once and in full measure, thus I don't quite understand why one should use: I get the feeling... What does it mean? Does it mean that you get it in portions? –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 17:02
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@user1425: I think you're overanalysing tenses used with "lately". In practice, I doubt many native speakers would say there's any difference between "Lately I've got the feeling [some feeling]" and "Lately I get the feeling...". Or indeed, "Lately I have the feeling...", "Lately I have had the feeling...". Not to mention "Lately I have been getting the feeling...", etc. –  FumbleFingers Oct 30 '12 at 17:16
    
FumbleFingers, unfortunatley, there is no other way to understand the why))) If you read Bill Franke's answer it will be clear that he finds differences between "Lately I've got the feeling [some feeling]" and "Lately I get the feeling...". And I get the feeling that you don't see the difference. It's also interesting. –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 17:21
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There are two issues here:

  • The particular verbs and verb phrases you use make discussion of perfectivity very complicated. Get may be used either as an inchoative or, in the phrase ‘have got’, to mean simply ‘have’. Have the feeling and spend time are both semantically progressive, regardless of grammatical form. In consequence, the ‘perfect’ forms in your examples don't necessarily reflect perfective aspect.

  • Lately refers to the recent past, which may regarded in any given utterance as belonging to either the past or the present or both. Let's substitute a simple transitive for the complicated verbs:

    • Lately I won a lot of races. — refers to the recent past, with no allusion to the present.
    • I win a lot of races lately. — refers to the present, which includes the most rest recent past.
    • Lately I have won a lot of races. — refers to the recent past continuing into the present; HOWEVER
    • Lately I have won a lot of races, but my last three I only came in second. — refers to the recent past continuing up to the present, which also includes the even more recent past!

So, Yes, lately may be used with simple past, simple present, or simple present perfect. And it works just as well with the progressive versions:

  • Lately I was winning a lot of races, until I sprained my ankle.
  • I'm winning a lot of races lately.
  • Lately I have been winning a lot of races
  • Lately I have been winning a lot of races, but in my last one I didn't do so well.
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+1 Lately /I won a lot of races. — What about: Recently I won? –  user1425 Oct 30 '12 at 17:25
    
@user1425 Exactly the same thing. "Latterly" and "of late" works, too. "These days" works with present constructions, but you have to change it to "In those days" with the won or was winning. –  StoneyB Oct 30 '12 at 17:34
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