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Is it correct to ever use has been and prior to in the same sentence?

For example:

The symbol has been respected prior to its official use on the state flag.

I'm hesitant to instead write "had been respected" because I feel that would imply the symbol is no longer respected following its inclusion on the state flag, but at the same time I cannot think of an example where "has been" has been properly used in conjunction with "prior to" or "before."

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The present perfect ('has been') is used for a past event with continued relevance to the present. It describes either an unspecified time in the past ("I've met him before" is fine but "I've met him yesterday" isn't) or a duration that continues to the present ("I've been married since 1945" is fine but "I've been married until 1945" isn't).

"The symbol has been respected prior to its official use on the state flag" is therefore incorrect, since "prior to its official use" no longer holds in the present. Instead you could say:

The symbol was (already) respected prior to its official use on the state flag.

Including already would emphasize that the symbol is still respected. Alternatively (and demonstrating that it is possible to use 'has been' and 'prior to' in the same sentence), you could say:

The symbol has been respected for a long time, including prior to its official use on the state flag.

though this shifts the focus of the sentence onto the fact that the symbol is still respected.

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    In regard to the constraint that the present perfect be used for a past event with continued relevance to the present, would "The symbol has been respected even prior to its inclusion on the state flag" thus be valid? Mar 14, 2015 at 21:51
  • Yes. In fact, that phrasing sounds better than both my suggestions!
    – Uri Granta
    Mar 14, 2015 at 22:04

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