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My knowledge of English grammar is very basic. I learned English mostly from movies and a lot of times I choose a specific way to say something in English based on intuition or the feeling that it seems right, but I get confused sometimes.

A friend is coming to a meeting. He was late, and I thought he was still at his house. What is the right way to say the following sentence, and why?

It seems you didn't leave yet

Or

It seems you haven't left yet

3 Answers 3

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The choice here is pretty close. The negative simple past ("you didn't leave") says that an event did not happen in the past while the negative past perfect says that an event didn't complete in the past ("you haven't left").

In this case, it pretty much amounts to saying the same thing in different ways, and both would be likely from native speakers. I think I would be slightly more likely to say "you haven't left" because I'm more likely to be interested in the change of state (are they still here or not?) than the event of leaving, but there isn't much to choose between them here.

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Part of the problem may lie with the adverb yet. If you remove it, you can see that the two constructions are opened up to slightly different interpretations:

  1. It seems you didn't leave.

There is some suggestion that the person is not going to leave, for whatever reason.

  1. It seems you haven't left.

This is more open-ended. The person might leave, or might not. The only fact in evidence is not having left. There is almost an implied yet at the end.

If the above shadings are accurate to your inner listener, adding yet would merely enhance the unfinished nature of 2 while work at cross purposes to 1, possibly the point of negating it. That may be the slight discordance some of us hear when adding yet to 1: its finality is taken away.

Note that either case could easily go the other way and still be expressive and grammatical. We're talking about fine shadings of meaning, superimpositions on a somewhat arbitrary structure.

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The word did is used when the verb that follows is in present tense, while have is used when the following verb is in past tense. Since leave is present and left is past, both of your sentences appear to be grammatically correct.

However, to my native speaking (American English) ears, I would rather say

It seems you haven't left yet

because I'm not talking about a specific point in time. Since we're discussing whether or not the event (leaving) occurred, using a form of have is preferable.

Source: English Forums

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  • "You did leave" is simple past the same way that "you left" is. It allows the negation to "you didn't leave".
    – Jon Hanna
    Dec 29, 2014 at 17:29

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