I would use the present perfect in the following sentence:

As of now, we have received 100 ticket requests.

If the present time was currently Wednesday morning, and if I was to replace the word "now" with "Wednesday morning," I would write the sentence like this, still using the present perfect:

As of Wednesday morning [that is, now], we have received 100 ticket requests.

Those reading that sentence on Wednesday morning would, correctly, understand the sentence to mean that currently we have received 100 tickets.

But what happens tomorrow when Wednesday morning represents the past? Had I written that same sentence on Thursday, thus referring to the past, I would have used the past perfect, especially if more tickets had come in since Wednesday morning:

As of Wednesday morning [that is, yesterday], we had received 100 ticket requests.

So my question is, do some sentences, such as the one I have illustrated, begin their lives grammatically correct, but become grammatically incorrect as time passes? Or perhaps some sentences require their reader to know the date and time they were written. What are your thoughts?

  • 1
    No. "As of Wednesday morning we have received 100 ticket requests" remains grammatical even if its presuppositions become false to fact. – Colin Fine Oct 19 '16 at 17:42
  • All of your sentences are grammatically correct. There's a thing called the timeline in English. All verb tenses are measured in response to this "imaginary" timeline. When is a speaker speaking? The line is past_present_future. Your sentences are in tune with it. – Lambie Oct 19 '16 at 18:16
  • Yes. Expressions which have different interpretations depending on who says them when or where display deixis (if you've need of a technical term). (See Silenus' answer below.) – Greg Lee Oct 19 '16 at 18:17

Sentences (or better, strings of words*) like "I am become death" were once grammatical in English.

As time passed, however, and our syntactic rules for present-perfect changed, these sentences became ungrammatical (arguably—some would say that they are not ungrammatical, but simply archaic).

Given examples like these, a case can be made that sentences can lose their grammaticality as time passes. Unfortunately, this isn't an interesting claim: it amounts to the obvious claim that languages (and their grammars) can change with time.

Your example, however, is not like the example of "I am become death." Your sentence is grammatical (relative to current English grammar). It might be ungrammatical relative to English grammar in 500 years, but tomorrow, next week, and even next year, it will still be well-formed.

Regarding the question of whether "some sentences require their reader to know the date and time they were written", the answer is unequivocally yes. For example, some sentences contain indexical expressions like "now", "here", and "I". In order to understand such sentences, the reader must be able to figure out the referents of these expressions. That means that they need to know where the text was written (for "here"), when it was written (for "now"), and who wrote it (for "I").

* If you take "sentence" to mean "grammatical string of words" (which many do), the question of whether a sentence can lose its grammaticality is not even coherent. Something can't lose a property it has by definition.

| improve this answer | |

The post clearly describes a point of time reference to the sentence when written and the reader at a later date, not the organic change of language over time. To answer that specific question, no, a sentence doesn't become grammatically incorrect as time passes.

| improve this answer | |

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.