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If I worked on something yesterday but it was not finished, which tense should I use?

I didn't finish it yet
or
I haven't finished it yet

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  • 1
    Per Difference between 'haven't …yet' and 'didn't… yet', the presence of "yet" at the end of both these alternatives makes a huge difference to how "acceptable" they are. So unless you think it's somehow important to your question about didn't finish/haven't finished, you might consider editing the word out. Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 22:46

3 Answers 3

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  • If you worked on it yesterday, stopped yesterday before finishing then, and don't want to say anything else about whether you will or can continue or not, but more likely that you are done for good (like a one-time test), then:

    I didn't finish it.

  • If you worked on it yesterday, stopped yesterday before finishing, and want to imply that you are still planning on working on it, then:

    I haven't finished it.

    or with a bit more emphasis on the expectation of continuing

    I haven't finished it yet.

  • The sentence

    *I didn't finish it yet.

sounds off, because "didn't" isn't particularly continuous, but "yet' implies an expectation or possibility, and so also a continuing act.

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  • This is a very clear and precise explanaton, Thanks Mitch. Commented May 11, 2011 at 3:58
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    "I didn't finish it yet" is very odd in UK English. I have the impression that it is rather more normal in US English, but I don't know: can anybody comment on this?
    – Colin Fine
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 11:27
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    In US (spoken) English, didn't is used much more frequently that havent't done. Also, in US English you almost always say I don't have rather than I haven't got.
    – Phonon
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 16:28
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    @Colin Fine - Not normal in US English either (at least to this USAite.)
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 0:20
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The sentence "I did not finish it yet" is incorrect because of mismatched tense. The phrase did not finish is in the past tense, while the word yet indicates that the task is ongoing (present tense), which creates a contradiction.

The sentence "I have not finished it yet" is correct because the phrase have not finished is in the present tense and can be safely used with "yet". In fact, the word "yet" is not strictly necessary. "I have not finished" would carry the same meaning.

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  • I believe this explanation is slightly misleading. You can say I did not start it yet. It's not the past tense/present tense conflict that is wrong here, but the expectation that the task is not ongoing. Commented May 11, 2011 at 10:45
  • Strictly speaking "I have not finished it" is in the Present Perfect tense: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Present_perfect . Present would be "I finish" or "I do not finish".
    – Lunivore
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 10:46
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“I haven't finished it yet” is definitely a much more natural-sounding version but “I didn't finish it yet” might also be acceptable (though a bit more awkward).

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  • It's certainly true your first version is more natural-sounding, but as @e.James indicates above, the second version is a bit worse than "awkward". Most native speakers would say it's just plain "wrong" - even if they couldn't explain exactly why as eloquently and succinctly as @e.James does. Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:34
  • Anecdotally, the second sounds completely natural to this native speaker.
    – recursive
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 18:27

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