All the lessons I learned from my Twenty years of my life has boiled down to a big message that the process of self-perfection is highly entangled with the effort to define the self, i.e., to find self-identity. As this identity grows broad and broad, the definition of a better self becomes tricky.

I wonder which tense is better in the clause "all the lessons I learned". I think it may be more appropriate to use the past tense, because they happened in the past. But on the other hand, this lessons seem to be stable, and not subject to change, despite coming to form a bigger message. Besides, I use present tense for the main structure.

  • One might argue that many disciplines would advocate "losing the self" rather than "defining" it - in order to "perfect" it. FWIW. – Oldbag Jan 10 '15 at 14:27

IMHO simple past is fine, as you are talking about lessons you learned in the past.

But you need to adjust the next verb: use have ( not has), as it refers to "lessons", which is plural.


The past simple (lessons I learned) is acceptable as standard, at least to most users of US English. The related use of the past simple is sometimes described as relating finished past events.

But the meaning in context here seems to connect the results of the past process of learning to something in the present (a currently held conclusion).

The present perfect (lessons I have learned) is more often used for this purpose. I have read that this distinction is considered more important among UK English users, who may more often consider the past simple incorrect, nonstandard, or less preferred for this reason.

  • 1
    I think he's saying you might want to use "lessons I have learned". Another point: you need to say "broader and broader", not "broad and broad". – Brian Hitchcock Jan 11 '15 at 6:21
  • Yes. I've expanded the answer to include lessons I have learned. Thanks. – Jim Reynolds Jan 11 '15 at 7:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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