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A few days back, I asked a question - why in reported speech is the present perfect tense sometimes not back shifted to the past perfect tense ? For example:

He said that he has painted the door.

Someone said - "if the situation is still relevant and the results of it can be seen, heard or felt then the present perfect tenses are not back shifted to past perfect tenses." And this was all about indirect speech, and I totally agree with what was said.

Now let's take a case which is not indirect speech. For example:

1) He noticed that he has finished painting the house.

My question is, is this sentence correct under the condition that finishing the painting has some present relevance ?

2) The president learned that the earthquake has caused havoc across the country.

My question is, is this sentence correct under the condition that the earthquake has recently come and the effects of it can still be seen ?

3) I realized that he has left his wallet.

4) It was unclear that she has painted the door.

Are these 4 sentences correct or do I need to use 'had' in place of 'has' ?

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Someone said - "if the situation is still relevant and the results of it can be seen, heard or felt then the present perfect tenses are not back shifted to past perfect tenses." And this was all about indirect speech, and I totally agree with what was said.

That is an obsolete and incorrect rule or explanation. A more practical and effective rule is that you use the present perfect when you are speaking in general and not referring to a particular event/ action, this is clear in the negative, you say: "I haven't been to Rome" and don't say: "I was not in Rome", for example:

"Social worker said he has never seen someone as resistant to “engagement with clinical staff” as Varlamova

And less clear in the positive since you may say : "I've been to Rome" , "I was in Rome (last week/year) on business", "I went to Rome (last week/year) to see my parents"

You can see that how distant from the present, how relevant to the present the action/event/ situation is, it is not important in order to decide the right tense, even in direct speech. In reported speech the same principle applies:

  • "Kulkarni said he has learnt a lot from the likes of Shaun Pollock and Shane Watson"
  • "Grower Daniel Tabone said he has watched the price of fresh limes drop since he started growing in 2002 and he wanted to diversify".
  • " He said he has been watching Ravens Steelers since he was a little kid. "

In the first example you probably might also use 'had'. But if you refer to a specific event that happened before the time you are speaking:

  • " A defence solicitor said he had been at a cousin's birthday and said he did not have much to drink"
  • "50 Year Old Man Said He Had $ex With His Unconscious Neighbour In Order To Save Her Life!"
  • "Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said he had visited the heads of Tesla Motors and Apple during a recent .."

The rule applies to all kind of sentences:

  • He noticed that he (has) had finished painting the house.
  • The president learned that the earthquake (has) had caused havoc across the country.
  • I realized that he (has) had left his wallet.
  • It was unclear (that) wether she (has) had painted the door
  • But many people on this forum have said that 'has' is only possible if effects of earthquake can still be seen or havoc is still going on. – iamRR May 11 '15 at 9:27
  • I remember that today I asked a question about sentence - "I noticed that the clock has stopped." Some one replied -For ex- you are in a train station and want to let the station official know that the clock has stopped. You could say, "I noticed that the clock has stopped." If, on the other hand, you were telling a story about a day (in the past) when the clock stopped in the station, you would say, "I noticed that the clock had stopped." How correct is this explanation ? – iamRR May 11 '15 at 9:28
  • @iamRR, correct! but probably when you are still in the station you would say: "I ' [ha] ve noticed ..." – surf May 11 '15 at 9:32
  • What would you say about the grammar guideline -- ' a past tense in the main clause will be followed by the past tense in the subordinate clause." ? Is this correct and how strictly one has to follow this guide line ? – iamRR May 11 '15 at 10:20
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I wouldn't recommend "has" in any of your last four examples. That is, I cannot think of any situation that would make "has" more apt than "have" in these examples.

I don't exactly agree with the answer you got for your first example either. Although it could be left unshifted, it serves no semantic purpose—the only difference in the reader's parsing of has v.s. have is "huh?"

  • Okay but why in many noted news articles I see that present perfect tense is used even when the verb in the main clause is in the past tense ? And how good is this rule ' a past tense in the main clause should be followed by the past tense in the subordinate clause.' ? – iamRR May 11 '15 at 8:24
  • Many noted newsmen/women, particularly in broadcast journalism, seem to not observe that distinction. This does not mean that you should ignore it. I hope that you aspire to write, and speak, better than many American news stories. – Brian Hitchcock May 11 '15 at 8:37
  • Yes I do aspire but that wouldn't be possible without your support. And not only in news articles but I often notice this flaw in colloquial language. Anyways let's say that if someone happens to use 'has' in the above examples, then will that be grammatically incorrect or will that be acceptable although unnatural ? One more query -And how good is this rule ' a past tense in the main clause should be followed by the past tense in the subordinate clause.' ? – iamRR May 11 '15 at 10:21
  • I would tend toward "acceptable though unnatural". Or maybe "less preferred". It seems to be evolving toward "natural as well as acceptable", but nobody knows when or whether it will get there. As for your second question, I pass. – Brian Hitchcock May 11 '15 at 11:05
  • What would you say about this - you are in a train station and want to let the station official know that the clock has stopped. So under this condition can one say, "I noticed that the clock has stopped." ? – iamRR May 13 '15 at 2:57

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