In the following question the verb is present perfect but the question is framed with "What is..." Can anyone explain the grammar to me?

"What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited?...."


If you are wondering why the sentence contains "What is" and not "What was," the simple reason is that the "place" still is, in the present, the most beautiful place the person has ever visited.

In other words, the place is still beautiful, in the opinion of the person who visited it, and will never not be, unless of course the person happens to come across a place which is even more beautiful. Even then, the new "most beautiful place" still exists in the present, even though the person in the present might be looking back in time to his visit to the new most beautiful place he's visited.

Somewhat related is an incorrect use of "was," as in the following sentence:

Chester Mills was a former mayor in Boise, Idaho.

The corrected sentence:

Chester Mills is a former mayor in Boise, Idaho.

Why "is" and not "was"? Because Mr. Mills will never not be a former mayor. You can say of him, "He was the mayor," but you cannot say of him "He was a former mayor" since he always will be a former mayor. Another possible, correct phrasing is:

Chester Mills was formerly mayor in Boise, Idaho.

This sentence means that Mr. Mills at a former time was mayor but is no longer a mayor at the present time.

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