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My question is which one is correct:

a) I have been awarded the science award 5 times
or b) I was awarded the science award 5 times

Thank you :)

  • They are both correct English (and they both claim that you received the award 5 times). – Drew Nov 27 '14 at 17:33
  • The second has an implication that you no longer receive science awards, that they are from an earlier time of your life. The first has no such finality. – IanF1 Nov 27 '14 at 17:48
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Both phrases are correct, but the meaning is subtly different.

"I have been awarded..." implies that the awards were fairly recent and/or you hope to receive further awards in future.

"I have been awarded a science prize five times so far in my career. If I work hard I may receive another next year."

"I was awarded..." has a feeling of being further back in time - it implies that the awards were in a previous phase of your life and are not expected to be repeated.

"I performed well when I was a schoolboy - I was awarded the science prize five times."

  • 1
    Alternatively, the distinction can also be whether the person being described is still alive or not. With the subject “I”, that will usually be a yes. But if we imagine a movie whose protagonist’s ghost/spirit is narrating the story even though the protagonist is actually dead (like Mary Alice on Desperate Housewives), that narration would never use “I have been…” since there is no possibility of any further adjustment to the statement. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 27 '14 at 19:10
  • I'd certainly call that "a previous phase of life" and "not expected to be repeated" :) – IanF1 Nov 27 '14 at 19:11
  • @Janus: I think that must win you today's "Most Neatly Contrived Context" award! Doubtless OP never thought it would be relevant that his example happens to use first person, but it would obviously be a lot easier to illustrate your point if it had been "He was/has been awarded...". I think you're substantially correct, but I can imagine a college dean gesturing at portraits of illustrious alumni (some still living, some deceased) while rattling off their achievements, and not necessarily adjusting the verb form depending on whether any specific referent is still alive or not. – FumbleFingers Nov 27 '14 at 20:56
  • @FumbleFingers The term of art for that is rescue reading. – tchrist Nov 28 '14 at 1:09
  • @tchrist: There's still a couple of copies left, if you wanna grab yourself a bargain! – FumbleFingers Nov 28 '14 at 1:38

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