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I'm writing a report about actions that I have taken. Which form is the correct one?

were,
have been or
have?

I have used the first tense were in the sentence:

"The minutes of the first coordinating and consultative committees meetings were translated into English and then sent back to the manager"

If it's incorrect then how should I write it?

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    Both were and have been are grammatical along with are now. The choice really depends on context which you haven't provided. I also don't like the double plural committees meetings. – Jim Jan 5 '15 at 6:21
  • I don't think a context is needed in this point. It's pretty obvious.I don't remember the time I translated it but i still prefer to use Were. I'm still not sure though.do you think the verb tense that should be used in the below sentence is different from the sentence above ? "The minutes of the second coordinating committee meeting were written in french, based on the important notes that were taken during participation in the first meeting and then sent to the manager via email." I agree with your statement about "committees meetings" though. It doesn't sound right – john Jan 5 '15 at 6:46
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    The reason I talk about context is because of the subtle differences in choices. If you wanted to announce that the translations represent a major achievement or that you know people have been waiting for them I might choose are now If I just wanted to say that I completed my action item from the meeting I might choose * have been* and if I wanted to emphasize the fact that English was one of the languages they had been translated to I might choose were. – Jim Jan 5 '15 at 6:57
  • I just added a short sentence which I had totally forgotten about it. I think your opinion would change after seeing it – john Jan 5 '15 at 8:46
  • Context isn't obvious, because we don't know why you care. I'd guess you care about the fact that the translated minutes are now available, but you might care more about the process and that would lean one more toward one or the other of the two correct options. – Jon Hanna Jan 5 '15 at 11:03
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The minutes of the first coordinating and consultative committee meetings have translated into English and then sent back to the manager.

This means that the minutes transformed, by themselves, into English. It is unlikely to be what you meant; it probably wasn't the minutes that did the translation.

Of the other two options:

The minutes of the first coordinating and consultative committee meetings were translated into English and then sent back to the manager.

Uses the simple past to talk about the fact that this translation happened.

The minutes of the first coordinating and consultative committee meetings have been translated into English and then sent back to the manager.

Uses the present perfect to talk about the fact that this translation has happened.

In this case these are both perfectly grammatical, and both amount to the same thing.

If you were talking about the process that was followed you would likely favour the first, because it focuses more upon the action that took place in the past.

If you were talking about the fact that the translations are now with the manager you would likely favour the second, because it focuses more upon the fact impact that past event has on the present.

Neither would be incorrect in either case, but that slightly different focus would be a reason for favouring one over the other.

(Note incidentally, "committee meetings" rather than "committees meetings", when a noun is used as a modifier, it's used in the singular, "book shops" rather than "books shops" and even "trouser press" rather than "trousers press" despite trousers normally being plural).

  • so is this one correct? notice that I have used "were" in the second verb. when the first verb is present perfect should the rest of verbs be present perfect as well? "The minutes of the second coordinating committee meeting have been written in Persian, based on the important notes that were taken during participation in the first meeting and then sent to the manager via email." – john Jan 5 '15 at 11:39
  • It's correct. The simple present were would also be correct. A good guide to choosing is "do I care more about what was done, or what the current situation is now because it was done?" In the former use the simple past, in the latter use the present perfect. However, the difference is subtle enough for instinct to be a guide and the more complicated the sentence the more I'd lean to the terser simple. – Jon Hanna Jan 5 '15 at 11:47
  • Great answer. I don't hold that it's incorrect, but the inclusion of then suggests to me that this is more likely intended to communicate that two finished events transpired in sequence. (So it would most likely be rephrased a bit if we wanted to use a perfect aspect?) – Jim Reynolds Jan 5 '15 at 13:25
  • @JimReynolds not necessarily. The then gives us a temporal sequence as you say, and so does the same job for the second clause that the perfect does for the first. We certainly could rephrase so that the perfect was used in both, but the reason for favouring the perfect is still fulfilled. – Jon Hanna Jan 5 '15 at 13:52
  • So would we write: The children have been dressed and then driven to school. It seems peculiar. – Jim Reynolds Jan 5 '15 at 14:18
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Since the timeframe of the past action of translating the minutes is neither important nor specified, you should use have been, the passive present perfect tense. No question about it.

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The verb were is correctly used. You need to add 's to committees:

The minutes of the first coordinating and consultative committees' meetings were translated into English and then sent back to the manager.

We generally want to use the past simple tense to set a finished past event as a main, reference, or anchor time period in a narrative.

We also usually use the past simple to describe sequences of events when we use terms like then to establish the order of multiple events.

There are many other ways to show sequence, but listing events in order using the past simple is one of the most basic and useful patterns in English for talking about things that have happened: This happened and then that happened (or in the passive voice as your question is cast), Those were verbed and then [they were] verbed

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