I have already (past participle)

I already (simple past)

I feel like when I'm reading literature or any serious writing, the present perfect is always used with "already". I would guess that this use is preferred, and I always make the effort to use it over the alternative.

However, I often hear the simple past used with "already" in conversation, as in "I already saw the movie." What is the status of this usage? Is it "acceptable", colloquial-only, really bad? It sounds really grating to my ears, but I'd like to make sure.


It is correct to use "already" in both of your examples. While not considered colloquial to emphasize the past simple with "already," it is uniquely American to do so when the past simple occurs before something else happens.

For example, it would be uniquely American to write "I already saw the movie before I had gone to bed." The Brits would say only "I saw the movie before I had already gone to bed."

  • 1
    "I have already seen that movie" does not necessarily mean you watched it many times on separate occasions. It never has meant this. This is incorrect. Dec 13 '14 at 3:09
  • Your first sentence is true. I re-read my postscript and deleted it, realizing that it was not written well. Thank you for pointing that out. However, your second sentence is false. Here’s a clear example: simply saying "I have already seen that movie" when you have already seen a movie six times. I think you started off fine, but you let your emotions derail you. Dec 13 '14 at 3:24
  • 1
    And another thing: while the web page you link to says that you should not use the past simple with already, one of the examples they give actually does: "We already knew that he was coming to visit." So things are actually more complicated than the simple proscription they give. (This is because "know" is a stative verb.) Dec 13 '14 at 3:25
  • 1
    No, you simply don't understand. They say they don't use already with past simple only for something completed before something else happened. With that said, using it in the sentence you quoted is perfectly okay. But I can tell you're trying, and that's commendable. Dec 13 '14 at 3:32
  • 1
    Not like that, though. I might say "I had already seen the movie before I went to bed" (although the past perfect and the "already" both seem unnecessary here), but not the other way around as you suggest. Dec 13 '14 at 4:13

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