1

In a sentence like

I have eaten a red apple.

does the sentence translate to

I have eaten an apple that is red.

or

I have eaten an apple that was red.

In other sentences with present perfect like "I have found someone who has a car for us to drive," present tense verbs like "has a car" seem to be used, but I'm not sure if that applies to adjectives. Perfect aspects refer to the past, so it would seem strange to use "is red" rather than "was red" and I'm not sure why people tend to use present tense with present perfect like "has a car" rather than "had a car" in the first place, even if the former feels much more natural.

  • 1
    "Where is the green apple I kept here? You have eaten it, haven't you? - I have eaten an apple that was red." "You have already taken one apple. - Yes, I have taken one that is red, now I need a green one." The contexts determine the tenses. – mahmud koya Feb 11 '17 at 2:57
  • It can mean either. Adjectives do not have tense. – sumelic Feb 11 '17 at 3:10
  • Are you talking about the same apple that you ate, or another red apple? Is it not possible that I have eaten a red apple before means I have eaten [an apple that is read] before? – AmE speaker Feb 11 '17 at 19:14
0

Perfect aspects refer to the past, so it would seem strange to use "is red" rather than "was red"

Perfect refers to completed actions, no matter when the action takes place.

"I have found someone who has a car for us to drive,"

In the above sentence there are two actions, one complete (I have found), and one incomplete (has a car). There is only one perfect action in the sentence, the finding of someone, which has been done. The possession of the car by that someone continues, so it is not perfect.

Perfect action may take place in the future:

By Friday, I will have eaten all those apples.

The action takes place in the future, and the action is perfect, as it is complete.

I have eaten a red apple.

Translates to nothing more than "I have eaten a red apple".

I have eaten an apple that was red.

This means "I have eaten an apple that was red (opposed to an apple of another color). "Red" , as an adjective, has nothing to do with tense. "Was" defines when.

I have eaten an apple that is red.

This means that "I have eaten an apple which is now red". I'm not sure I wish to imagine the situation that this statement might apply to.

I believe this question is partly based on a misunderstanding of what perfect means, and partly on a misunderstanding that adjectives can convey tense. I hope the misunderstandings are resolved.

0

The matter seems to revolve more around the state of the object being described (particularly, whether it continues to exist), rather than the action being described.

The action, however, may affect the state. So, "I have eaten a red apple" (or, more naturally in most situations, simply "I ate a red apple") results in the apple's being eaten, at which point it ceases to exist. Therefore "that was red" (i.e. before I finished eating it) makes sense, but "that is red" does not, because the apple isn't anything any more.

As for the expression "I have found someone who has a car for us to drive", the assumption is that finding the someone did not cause the car to cease to exist. Therefore, (modifying the sentence slightly to make the effect clearly w/r/t the question),

"I have found someone who has a car that is red for us to drive"

makes intuitive sense, while

"I have found someone who has a car that was red for us to drive" is problematic. Technically, it is more correct, because the speaker can only vouch for the car's condition as it was described or observed at the time of the finding, which is in the past. It could have been painted a different color, or even destroyed, in the interval between the moment the someone was found, and the moment the speaker makes this statement.

However, for practical purposes, this is seen to be quibbling. For one thing, if the car has been destroyed, it isn't available to be driven. So, the underlying assumption for the whole exercise to make sense must be that the car still exists.

So, "...that is red..." is used in practice.

  • Your explanation makes sense. However, for it to work, it must be true that "a red apple" can mean "an apple that was red" in a present tense sentence, and I'm not sure if that works. Sure, if the sentence is past tense like "I ate a red apple" it would be "I ate an apple that was red" but in a sentence like "that is a red apple" it doesn't seem to mean "that is an apple that was red." – lsquirrel Feb 11 '17 at 5:56
  • Another thought occurred to me. In a sentence with passive voice like "the red apple has been eaten" do the same rules apply? As in, it'd be "the apple that was red has been eaten" and not "the apple that is red has been eaten." – lsquirrel Feb 11 '17 at 8:17
  • You are making difficulties where none exist. An apple that exists now is red, one that has been eaten was red. That's all. – Kate Bunting Feb 11 '17 at 8:55

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.