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English Stack community, we're seeking help with an internal debate concerning tense use while considering the desired tone of an article.

In the following sentence, is the use of "we have stood" correct? There is argument that it is the correct present perfect tense and correctly conveys the author's reflective tone; however, others are arguing that this is incorrect:

"My husband and I are diehard Eagles fans. We have stood for hours in a field during the hot California summer just to hear them sing."

I believe that the use of "We have stood ... " is correct; however, if my colleagues and I are wrong, I'd love to be proven incorrect in order to bolster my own knowledge going forward.

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    Type "present perfect simple past" into the search box in the upper right and see whether any of the 491 previous answers helps. If you're still not sure -- and I wouldn't blame you -- edit your answer with your questions. – deadrat Mar 5 '16 at 0:27
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"We have stood for hours" implies that it was done more than once. If the sentence had read "We stood for hours" it would imply that they did it once. The first sentence is more effective if the writer is trying to underscore that they are "diehard Eagles fans". It's all about the writer's intent.

  • "We have stood" certainly implies that the standing for hours happened at lest once, but I don't see why it implies that multiple instances of standing for hours occurred. Can you explain your answer? – Sven Yargs May 17 '16 at 2:56
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I don't think we have stood is appropriate by itself in any context.

If the event happened once, then we once stood captures the reflective tone more appropriately.

If this phenomenon is recurring, then the present tense would be more fitting: each year we stand

If the phenomenon happened more than once, but is no longer ongoing, OR if the narrator is referring to an instance that the listener is already familiar with, then we stood makes the most sense - after all, we stood for hours, didn't we?, or every year for ten years we stood...

Thus the only remaining situation in which we have stood appears to make sense is if they are still standing in the field when this sentence is delivered. we have stood here for hours just listening to them (even then, we have been standing would seem a better fit).

Hope this helps.

  • @Karl Me too. 'We have stood' is a pretty dubious fit at best. – James Roberts Mar 6 '16 at 1:20
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    Sorry for deleted comment, James. I had somehow missed your paretheses at the end there. I can only think of using "we have stood" if the audience was waiting and waiting only to be told the event was cancelled and they had to go home. It still doesn't sit right with me for some reason, but grammatically it feels as though that should be correct. – Karl Mar 6 '16 at 1:22
  • @Karl True - it does have a hint of disappointment to it – James Roberts Mar 6 '16 at 1:24
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    In this case, James, the author is wishing to convey that she and her husband have, many times, and spanning multiple years, stood out in the fields during summer to get a chance to hear the Eagles sing. Does this help clarify? I'm still up in the air as to whether or not the "we have stood" is correct. – Jonathan LeRoux Mar 6 '16 at 2:10
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    I think, Jonathan, it is important to focus on the frequency of the standing rather than the accumulated hours. "We have stood here many times for hours on end" – Karl Mar 6 '16 at 6:35

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