I recently came across this sentence from an e-mail I received and have pondering thoughts about it:

I have completed an evaluation of your application file and find that the items listed below must be submitted.

Should it be "have found" in place of "find" since the activity of completing the evaluation and finding the items occurred in the past?


4 Answers 4


I find that ...

is used in roughly the same way one would use

It occurs to me that ...

It's something you say or write as you are in the process of discovering a thing. The writer in your example could have used "have found" as well, but it is a stylistic choice what tense to use.

  • 1
    The writer could also have used "found" while still being grammatical. Apr 9, 2011 at 14:58
  • Oh yes, I find using "found" makes it more idiomatic and best suited to the sentence. The sentence doesn't sound fluent with "have found" in place of "find". But in whichever case, "found" should be the the correct word over "find" to be grammatically correct right?
    – Lynicate
    Apr 10, 2011 at 6:41

There is nothing wrong with,"I have examined your credentials and find them wanting." The examination preceded the finding. "Have found" is equally acceptable.


"Find" is in fact the better choice here. It is being used in the sense of "observe" (which is where we get the word "findings" from), and while the evaluation happened in the past, the observations are being made right now.

The writer could have used a past tense, but there's a mild impoliteness involved. He evaluated and observed, it would imply, but is only getting around to telling you now. It's a very minor point and wouldn't matter to most people, but in formal or official language it is the sort of issue that gets overstressed to avoid any appearance of impoliteness.


Actually, I think it's entirely possible that the sender of this email may have intended to use 'find' as an imperative, assuming 'you may' or 'please' was omitted before 'find'.

'Please find attached' is a rather outdated but nevertheless popular phrasing used in formal business emails, and the sender may have extended the use of 'find that' here. Similar to 'please note that...' in formal constructions, 'find' here is used to request that you, the receiver of the email, submit the items in the list. It is hence in present tense as the sender of the email is expects you to take note of the items in the list now and submit them in the near future.

Personally I do think that this is a very awkward and archaic construction, as popular as it may be. More context is necessary to determine the true intention of the sender, such as the purpose of the email, but I believe that this is a plausible explanation.

  • 1
    The sentence reported from the OP would not have any sense, in this case. Instead of writing "of your application file and find that the items listed," the writer should have written "of your application file; find that the items listed," otherwise the subject of find seem to still be I. Even in that case, it would not make sense, as who writes seems to refer to what he discovered, rather than to what who reads needs to do.
    – apaderno
    Apr 9, 2011 at 18:34
  • I completely agree that this is more likely to be what the writer intended if you take what was written at face value. However, there is the slight chance that the writer just happened to be careless or did not proofread his/her own email; errors occur in language use and the writer may not be proficient in English. I am just offering an alternative explanation. Thank you for your comment, I probably didn't make this clear beforehand.
    – demi
    Apr 10, 2011 at 2:35
  • Just to provide more information, the writer's intention was actually for me to submit the items that he found missing from my application file. From the comments on this page and assuming no change in sentence structure, can i conclude that the best word to use in the writer's sentence to be "found" instead of "find"?
    – Lynicate
    Apr 10, 2011 at 6:53
  • @Lynicate: Actually on second thought even if he wants you to submit the items on the list, the intended meaning of 'find' here is still ambiguous due to the contradiction of tense and subject. In other words, if he meant 'find' in the sense that he 'discovered' that your file was missing some items, the tense is obviously wrong. On the other hand if he meant it in the sense of 'please find that' as I explained, the subject of 'find' (which should be you) is not explicitly stated in the sentence, causing confusion as the subject you would normally infer for 'find' is the sender's 'I'.
    – demi
    Apr 10, 2011 at 7:24
  • Yes, i would presume that the subject for 'find' is the sender's 'I', thus, making the tense wrong. Would it be less ambiguous if the words in place were "and I found that the items...."?
    – Lynicate
    Apr 10, 2011 at 10:56

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.