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I've just seen that example of usage "I wasn't finished with that" http://9gag.com/gag/aep02N5

And it seems incorrect to me.

Why wouldn't I use "I haven't finished with that" instead? Is it correct to use passive voice there?

  • Neither of the above is a passive construction. 'I was finished ...' is interpretable either as a rare be-perfect still in use, or as a participial adjective construction (he was preoccupied with ...). 'The housework was finished' is passive, as 'housework' is not the agent. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 26 '15 at 22:18
  • I haven't ever read about that style of using present perfect (I was + 3d form). Could you provide some links please? – BergP Jun 27 '15 at 14:55
  • @EdwinAshworth Also, how can I distinguish that "specific present perfect usage" from the "passive voice"? f.e. "I wasn't asked about that", how can I figure out the meaning, if it could be about me being asked or about some one else being asked? – BergP Jun 27 '15 at 15:01
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    (1) See Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”?, and here (but note that 'He is finished' is also still used synonymously with 'He has finished') // (2) The be-infinitive is used with very few verbs nowadays. 'He is finished' is ambiguous; contextual cues usually disambiguate. Note also the ambiguity of 'the window was broken': participle adjective, or passive construction? – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '15 at 21:33
  • @EdwinAshworth Thank you. If you made an answer from your comment I would accept it. – BergP Jun 27 '15 at 23:53
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Neither of the variants is a passive construction.

'I was finished ...' is interpretable either as a rare be-perfect (strictly, a be-past-perfect) still in use, which some might label as 'archaic' or perhaps 'colloquial' – or as a participial adjective construction (compare 'he was preoccupied with ...'). See Is it acceptable to use “is become” instead of “has become”?, and Winter is gone and spring is come {duplicate} (but note that 'He is / He's finished / done [with the computer now]' are also still used synonymously with 'He has finished [...]', in more than one register. Collins actually classes 'be done with' and 'have done with' as fixed (apart from verb inflections) idioms.) On the other hand, 'The housework was finished' is a passive construction (unless interpreted as a participial adjective following the copula), as 'housework' is not the agent.

The be-infinitive is used with very few verbs nowadays. 'He is finished' is ambiguous; contextual cues usually disambiguate. Note also the well-known ambiguity of 'the window was broken', where the be-perfect cannot apply: is this an example of a participle adjective, or a passive construction?

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To my British English-tuned ears, I haven't finished sounds like the correct usage. If you flip the sentences then I have finished makes sense while I was finished sounds like you were fatigued or dying. Or American.

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IT is a slight difference in tense, with the understanding that the person thought you were finished with that some time ago. I started using this thing a week ago, and haven't used it in a couple of days, so a coworker grabbed it saying that they assumed I was finished with that. I wasn't finished with it, but I understand why the person assumed that I was.

As opposed to something that I just stopped using and the question relates to whether I am or am not now finished with it, to which the answer is that I'm just going to grab a coffee, and no I haven't finished with it yet.

  • So "I wasn't finished with that" the same with "I didn't finish with that" ? – BergP Jun 26 '15 at 18:37
  • No ! "I wasn't finished with that ! " is the same as "I haven't finished with that ! " Use 'I didn't finish...' with "..until..." (until yesterday, until the time was up, all in the done-and-dusted past.) – Hugh Jun 26 '15 at 23:08

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