Say, you ask the father...

A: How is Mary?
B: She is fine, but she put on some weight.

Say, you ask someone who just saw Mary after a long time...

C: How is Mary?
D: She is fine, but she has put on some weight.

In the given context, would it be correct to say that the Present Perfect tense in the second example implies that we haven't actually witnessed her gaining weight week by week?


E: How is Mary?
A: Apparently, she has put on some weight.

Even though the "apparently" makes it somewhat clear, does the use of Present Perfect imply that we haven't seen but heard from someone?

If I'm correct in my assumptions, what is the name of this type of use of Perfect tense in grammar?


Thank you all for sparing your time.

From the answers I have a nagging feeling that my question might have been slightly misunderstood.

My intention was not whether Present Perfect Tense has such and such connotations, but whether such uses may have above mentioned implications. (The answer seems "no".)

Still, how about these examples:

F: What happened to him? G: He had an accident.

H: What happened here? I: There has been an acident.

Comparing these two examples, is it not the case that "I" implies that he has not witnessed the accident happening? (This does not mean that the first example implies that G has actually witnessed the accident.)

Isn't it similar to TV news: "According unverified sources there has been a nuclear leakage in Saturn..."?

  • 2
    No, Present Perfect doesn't particularly imply anything about not having seen someone - in this or any other context. What it does imply is a strong connection between "time of speaking" and whatever was done in the past. The word apparently here also implies the same (currently, it appears she has put on weight). Thus it wouldn't be appropriate to say "She has put on weight last Christmas, but apparently lost it over summer", because the weight gain no longer has any significant connection to the present. Nov 11, 2013 at 14:43

3 Answers 3


No. The use of the perfect tells you nothing about whether the event was witnessed or known from hearsay.

In British usage, she put on some weight (simple past) is very unlikely in both these examples, because the enquiry or statement is about her present condition, and her having put on weight is presumably also in reference to her present state.

I believe that this is less true in American English.

  • I don't really see that it's "unlikely" in BrE. If anything, I'd say Present Perfect is more likely than Simple Past in OP's context, since the implication is that at time of speaking it would appear Mary must have gained weight (before now, but after some earlier time when both conversants were familiar with what she looked like). Nov 11, 2013 at 14:50
  • I think you're agreeing with me. I'll edit the reply to make it clearer.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 11, 2013 at 14:54
  • Sorry - I obviously wasn't paying attention. You're quite right as regards BrE. I don't know about AmE, but might it not be that AAVE ("My man done me wrong") accounts for your (our?) sense that US usage may differ? It would surprise me if "standard/careful" American speakers were different in this respect. Nov 11, 2013 at 15:40
  • As far as American English usage goes, I would say that the simple past as a standalone use sounds incorrect. Then again, there is some sampling error... by the very nature of my being here, I would say that I'm what @FumbleFingers is calling a 'careful' speaker of the American version of the English language.
    – THEAO
    Nov 11, 2013 at 16:03
  • I know there are cases where AmE uses a simple past which is impossible in BrE (at least, in my BrE): specifically, with temporal just. I don't know how widely that difference spreads.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 11, 2013 at 22:23

I don't think Past Simple would be suitable in the meaning you provided. If we imply that a person was slim earlier and now is overweight, we say "He/she has put on some weight" (Thus the first sentence seems incorrect to me). Past Simple would be suitable, for example, in such cases:

"She put on some weight, then took up exercising and lost it" (it was in the past, now she's not overweight)

"She put on some weight last year" (she gained some weight last year, we want to stress this fact - clear indication of time frame)


The use of present perfect implies that this event was completed, not having to do with witnessing the event. What you probably should use is just "put" or "had put" because those imply that it already happened. If you want to say that it was completed in the present, then you can say "has put".

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