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Example:

"So," I said, after deciding on a topic of conversation, "do you like karaoke?"

"So," I said, after having decided on a topic of conversation, "do you like karaoke?"

What's the difference? Is having decided an uncommon usage?

6 Answers 6

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There is no difference. After deciding is much more common, but after having decided is also fine. (As is having decided on its own, without the after.)

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Jano Chen,

English is not my native language but I believe that this is the difference:

after deciding is suggesting that you have made the decision but not so long ago

after having decided is a more strong way of saying: the decision has been made...

Both ways of describing it are very correct English and both are used but after deciding is saying that you decided not so very long ago after having decided means it is more in the past

I will try to find the exact differnce in a dictionary and let you know what I find.

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  • 1
    I think this is unlikely, but I could be convinced otherwise by evidence. A look at both phrases in the Ngram viewer turns up (not surprisingly) legal references to court decisions, and both phrasings are employed.
    – deadrat
    Jul 11, 2015 at 3:56
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After having decided appears slightly non-standard to me. It's as if the speaker had trouble choosing between after deciding or having decided. The difference between after deciding and having decided can be illustrated by these examples:

  • Having decided where to go, we lost no more time and left. [The outcome of the decision matters.]
  • After deciding where to go after the meal, we started to actually enjoy it. [The act of deciding matters.]

It's only a slight difference in what aspect of the decision making is stressed - the talking or the resulting decision. If you switch the two examples, the result is still perfectly normal English, just not very good style.

After having decided ... is what comes out when a speaker originally intends to say After deciding ... but then suddenly realises that Having decided ... would have been a better way to start the sentence. Technically, it could be interpreted as referring to a point in time that lies after a point in time that lies immediately (or shortly) after a decision, but I think this is too complicated to occur in practice, and so in reality this is almost never the intended sense.

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There's is not difference though, at least not in meaning, the only difference I've seen is you're using a helping verb in the second one which doesn't change neither the meaning nor the concept. I hope it helps you.

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Briefly, 'said' is past tense, and 'after deciding' speaks more to the present tense. The tenses don't match.

'After having decided' speaks to the past tense. It matches with 'said'.

I think that it's the word 'after' which might be causing confusion. It should be removed from both sentenced. The first sentence is still wrong either way because of the tenses.

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Taomerline

I believe that it is possible to use both present and past tense in 1 sentence without making a grammar error.

That becomes more obvious if we slighty mix up the sequence of the words in the sentence. For example:

I decided on a topic of conversation and then I said: "So, do you like karaoke ?"

I had decided on a topic of conversation and then I said: "So, do you like karaoke? "

The second version of the sentence is just suggesting that the decision making proces is further in the past, but that does not mean that sentence number 1 would be wrong or would be a language error.

It is very narrow difference. That is why I prefer to look it up in a dictionary to figure out the exact difference.

That becomes even more clear if we use a synonim for the word decide for example:

I made a choice on a topic and then said: "So, do you like Karaoke ?"

I had made a choice on a topic and then said: "So, do you like Karaoke? "

Once again both versions are correct but the second version is clearly more in the past and is also putting more emphasis on the fact that a choice or decision had to be made before being able to go on with the conversation .....

I went and translated the 2 versions into my native language and there it becomes more obvious to me what the difference is.

I decided on a topic - suggests that the choice was made a very short moment ago......and immediately thereafter the person acts upon the choice that he has just made

I had decided - is putting the decision making proces more in the past - therefore the choice what topic to talk about could have been made last week or a month ago......and you now meet again and start to converse about a topic that you have decided on a while ago.

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  • The two samples in the question used different tenses: decidING and decidED. You are comparing decided to decided. Those would be fine, but decidING is present tense, and said is past tense. The same goes for 'I made' and 'I have made'. They are not the same as 'making' vs 'made'.
    – Taomerline
    Jul 11, 2015 at 12:36
  • @Taomerline: "Deciding" is absolutely not present tense. It's completely tenseless; any sense of time must be provided by the context (cf. "after deciding" vs. "before deciding", "regret deciding" vs. "consider deciding", "was deciding" vs. "will be deciding", etc.). Maybe you've been misled by the term "present participle"? If so, then -- you're really best off just thinking of that as an opaque and arbitrary name for the form, rather than reading into it and seeing some sort of "present"-ness where none exists.
    – ruakh
    Jul 18, 2015 at 5:27
  • Verbs are never 'completely tenseless' by the mere fact that they are Action or State of Being. In your examples, After and Before are mere prepositions before the gerund 'deciding'. Regret and Consider are the verbs before the gerund (as direct object). Was and Will Be are Helping/Auxillary verbs before the main verb deciding. Most people tend to forget about Progressive/Continuous tense which is NOT the same as the gerund nor the participle. Good Luck! en.bab.la/conjugation/english/decide
    – Taomerline
    Jul 26, 2015 at 12:17

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