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Suppose I received a document from my colleague, studied it and then gave him feedback in a letter. How should I construct the following sentense?

I have examined the document you gave me and...

or it should be

I have examined the document you had given me and...

and just in case (though I hardly believe it is correct)

I have examined the document you have given me and...

From one point of view both he and I know when he gave me the document so one should use past simple. On the other hand past perfect might be used here to indicate that the moment he gave it to me occurred before I read it.

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3 Answers 3

Most probably the first sentence "I have examined the document you GAVE me and..." would be the one to choose.

Have examined because the present conversation with your colleague is the result of examining the document, hence a past event with present results - present perfect. The actual giving, in contrast, is over and finished, so it it should be past simple gave.

To confuse the matter a little, there is an argument for "I examined the document you have given me". Examined because the examination is over and have given because the present ownership is the result of past giving.

Which one you choose depends on the context. If the conversation is about the results of the examination, reporting the conclusions for example, go with have examined. If the conversation is about your ownership of the document, perhaps because it is very old and interesting, have given me would be a better choice.

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You can use either the simple past (typical American English)

I examined the document you gave me and ...

or the present perfect and the simple

I have examined the document you gave me and ...

I've examined the document you gave me and ...

If you're writing to a colleague, there should be no reason not to use a contraction ("I've").

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Having as poor skill in Engligh as I possess one cannot afford himself to think of such subtleties in favour of basics. But thank you for the answer. –  krokoziabla Nov 22 '12 at 9:57

In most contexts the first of the three would be the one to use. The other two would be possible only in rather unusual circumstances.

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2  
I wonder, what would be the circumstances for "had given" - the document was given before the examination took place and both took place in the past, so the formal requirements for that tense seem satisfied... –  SF. Nov 22 '12 at 9:39

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