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I was wondering why the first sentence below (where the verb "have scored" is present perfect form) is wrong while the second sentence (where the verb "to score" is infinitive) is correct.

  1. He became the first 16 year old to have scored a goal for his country.
  2. He became the first 16 year old to score a goal for his country.
  • What makes you think 1. is wrong? – deadrat Aug 19 '15 at 4:45
  • @deadrat honestly, this is similar to a SAT question I got. And supposingly 1 is not correct while 2 is. – C_Beginner_Learner Aug 19 '15 at 5:11
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    @deadrat I don't consider the first example to be wrong. I think it's perfectly fine. – Mari-Lou A Aug 19 '15 at 5:45
  • @C_Beginner_Learner I don't doubt your honesty for a minute; it's your source I'm worried about. As Mari-Lou A points out, the perfect infinitive ("to have scored") is (if you'll forgive the pun) perfectly acceptable. It refers to time before and up to the action of the main verb. Perhaps it's a quibble about "first" and "became," which together preclude any goal scoring previous to the time of "became." – deadrat Aug 19 '15 at 5:59
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The first one, though it sounds good, is ungrammatical because the infinitive perfect is being used next to an already stated past tense. An infinitive perfect should be used with a present tense, to express an infinitive in the past. Otherwise it should just be a normal infinitive.

In the example, "He became (simple past tense) the first 16 year old", a simple infinitive is necessary to qualify the same time frame as when he became what he was. It was an instant moment, that he became what he was, and that he scored the goal.

Here are a couple of examples of when you would use the perfect infinitive. You will notice they are used next to a present tense to show a distinction between past and present.

"It is necessary to have scored a goal for your country before the age of 16, in order to qualify for this award."

"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

And here are some alternatives to the example in the original question that should qualify to use the perfect infinitive:

"I am the first 16 year old to have scored a goal for my country." – (it happened in the past, I am speaking in the present)

"He was the only 16 year old I knew to have scored a goal for his country." – (it happened before the event being told)

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"to have scored" is an infinitive perfect, not present perfect.

  • Neil Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon.

The infinitive present is the normal thing after "is/was the first". An infinitive perfect is not necessary.

  • Thank you very much! In which cases do you have to use an infinitive perfect – C_Beginner_Learner Aug 19 '15 at 5:36
  • Too broad a question. – rogermue Aug 19 '15 at 5:43
  • There's no doubt the "present" infinitive is fine, and the perfect infinitive isn't required. The question is whether the perfect infinitive is ungrammatical. @C_Beginner_Learner, for a nice discussion of the two infinitives, go here: grammarphobia.com/blog/2013/12/perfect-infinitive.html – deadrat Aug 19 '15 at 6:02

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