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This is an excerpt from a newspaper:

They demanded the removal of Mr. X and Mr y, who have been accused of involvement in the pqr scam.

Why does the author use have been and not are accused?

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  • Using present perfect rather than simple present places a slightly greater distance between the speaker and the accusals (and by further implication, the substance of the accusations themselves). So it could be seen as a device to establish/reinforce "editorial neutrality" (the newspaper either holds no position, or seeks to suggest that these are "mere" accusations made by others, which the editorial staff might even disagree with). Jul 22, 2015 at 16:54
  • @FumbleFingers I'm skeptical. Here's a headline from The Chicago Tribune (7/2/15): "Walter Vali, 62, of Mundelein; and a formerly licensed real estate salesperson, Karin Ganser, 62, of Palatine, are accused of colluding with one another to encourage people to purchase the condos based on false promises...."
    – deadrat
    Jul 22, 2015 at 22:49
  • @deadrat: I don't understand your point. What does one citation (with unknown "nuance", if any) tell us? Both forms occur in newspapers (though simple present is significantly more common). And the standard textbook stuff about present perfect being used where the past event has some relevance to (or continues up until) the present moment isn't "directly" meaningful either. In newspaperland, we're only ever talking about ongoing accusations, and both verb forms apply equally well on that basis. Jul 23, 2015 at 1:56
  • ...obviously they could also use past tense were accused (since the accusal actually happened in the past). But they's normally only do that in contexts like ... who were accused yesterday, or if the accused had already been found not guilty. I don't know if there's any way to substantiate my claim, but I'll have a think about it. It won't be a consistently-applied nuance, so finding statistically significant support won't be easy. Or perhaps some other users here could wade in. Perhaps I might even be wrong, but you haven't made any case against my interpretation. Jul 23, 2015 at 2:03
  • @FumbleFingers You, wrong? Nah. Did I say even say that? I said I was skeptical. Sure, it's only the one citation I gave. How many do you want? I'm only saying that I can't seem to detect any "greater distance," slight or otherwise between the use of the two tenses, let alone an implication of "editorial neutrality." Am I supposed to conclude that the Trib isn't quite neutral in the real estate case? It's true I haven't made a case against your interpretation, but then again, it isn't my claim.
    – deadrat
    Jul 23, 2015 at 5:30

2 Answers 2

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"Have been accused" is in the present perfect, which means some past event that took place during an interval from some (perhaps unspecified) past time up to right now. You will often see this locution when the accusation refers to an indictment, which has some specific date, namely wheneveer the grand jury handed up the true bill to the trial court.

But it's fine to use "are accused," which is in the present tense, with an enduring aspect. Once indicted, the parties have been legally accused, stand accused now, and will continue to be accused until a trial determines the status of that accusation.

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To answer a question about the use of the present perfect one needs more information about what happened or will happen to the accused. Otherwise, all one can do is quote from textbooks about the use of present perfect passive as opposed to present passive and speculate. It would be like asking "Why did the speaker say "He has eaten the cake." Instead of "He ate the cake.""

Nevertheless I will speculate that in this case it could be that "have been accused" was used because the writer is connecting the removal of X and Y from their position to their current legal position.

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