Sometimes, I got really confused by the use of the Present Perfect tense. Given the fact, that we don't have this structure in Russian, all we can is to base our knowledge on grammar rules.

The rules are quite simple:

  1. Experience: I have been to London twice.

  2. Unfinished actions: I have lived in Moscow since I was born.

  3. Close connection to the present situation: I have just cooked dinner.

However, when it comes to simple questions, all that grammar rules are not so obvious. For example, if I am not sure and want to re-ask, could I say something like

Have you meant? or Did you mean?

Another case:

I've sent you the letter and I sent you the letter.

Does the first mean that I have just done it and the second that it was some time ago? How do you use it?

  • Related question, Present perfect for past action with present effect. – user140086 Feb 4 '16 at 11:19
  • The verb to mean is mostly used as a transitive verb and Have you meant? and Did you mean? don't make any sense. What difference do you think is there between I've just cooked dinner. and I've just sent you the letter. – user140086 Feb 4 '16 at 12:17
  • "I've just cooked dinner. and I've just sent you the letter." - Both are in the Present Perfect. No difference in terms of tenses. – user1425 Feb 4 '16 at 12:32
  • As a Russian person I can't see any difference between that two sentences, Would you be so nice to explain it to me, as well as why Did you mean(Have you meant) that...? doesn't make any sense? – Kseniya Polevaya Feb 4 '16 at 12:32
  • 1
    A person's intentions behind doing a past action remain in the past, they don't really extend to the present. So, "Have you meant to post this question twice?" sounds really odd. The intentions behind past actions stay in the past... – CDM Feb 4 '16 at 13:42

Have you meant? or Did you mean?

Definitely you would say “did you mean … ?” or “do you mean … ?”

I've sent you the letter and I sent you the letter.

They are the same. The former is British English, the latter is American English. In Britain I would say “I’ve sent you the letter” and in the Americas I would say “I sent you the letter,” but what I’m really saying is “I[’ve] sent you the letter.” The “have” has been contracted even further until it is non-existent. There are a lot of shorthands and omitted words in American English.

One thing to remember is that English has no rules, only conventions, and the conventions vary from place to place. From what I understand, it helps to laugh about it a little bit while you’re learning.

  • +1 I think you are right about the conventions. – Norbert Willhelm Dec 23 '18 at 16:00

There are quite a few factors at play here and it's not so easy to find the right way sometimes. The problem is even more difficult than native speakers may imagine as they don't understand how it feels when translating two different sentences, like "I have sent it to you" and "I sent it to you", you get the same sentence in Russian for each of the two.

As I understand it

1) I've sent you the letter. = 1) The letter is on its way to you now. 2) I am telling you a piece of news.

2) I sent you the letter. = 1) The letter might not be on its way to you any longer, because it happened when I was living in London and it was 2 years ago. 2) It may mean a specific situation in the past. "Do you remember us visiting the post office in the morning today. I want you to know that when we were there I sent you the letter.

There others nuances exist as well.

(My first language is the same as yours)

  • Yes, I understand your explanation) And so, the point is in finding out how native-speakers are feeling about it. However, thank you very much! – Kseniya Polevaya Feb 4 '16 at 11:35
  • How does this post answer the question? – user140086 Feb 4 '16 at 12:13
  • Because, I know the rules and I use it rather well. However, today I had a conversation with a native-speaker and when I re-asked him, using Have you meant....? He responded that it was rather strange and I should have sad Did you mean... Such cases are not so obvious than those ones which are given in books. I used it, implying What have you JUST meant?.according to rule: use the Present Perfect with already, just, yet for recent events...So, it is not about rules, it is about being natural when I speak – Kseniya Polevaya Feb 4 '16 at 12:20
  • Have you meant...? without JUST refers to a recent past. "Did you mean" implies the specific situation in the past. I think "Have you JUST meant" is acceptable. – user1425 Feb 4 '16 at 12:30
  • Exactly, that's how we--Russian--understand it. However, native-speakers suggest that Have you meant is incorrect – Kseniya Polevaya Feb 4 '16 at 13:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.