I was wondering how to express the sentence correctly:

I remembered seeing him before. or I remembered having seen him before.

And what if remember wouldn’t be in past tense but in present tense? I remember seeing him before. or I remember having seen him before.

Thanks in advance :)

  • 2
    Perhaps it depends on when you saw him, and under what circumstances. – Rob_Ster Mar 28 '18 at 15:25
  • Not an answer, but I prefer the latter. Both imply and could take the insertion of "my" after remembered, as in "I remembered my seeing him before." Its elision seems less problematic in "having seeing" since, to me, the "having" makes it more clear that omitted word is "my" and directly implicates the speaker. Without context, the elided word in "I remembered seeing" could almost as easily be "your." – MDHunter Mar 28 '18 at 17:15
  • To me, 'having seen him' pertains more to the distant past. Like 'I remember having seen him at the carnival' . And 'seeing him' pertains more to the recent past like 'I remember seeing him at the supershop yesterday'. 'Having seen him' sounds more formal while 'seeing him' sounds more colloquial. But maybe that's just me. Also the graph Mr.FumbleFingers provided shows the decline in usage of the phrase 'having seen him' , maybe as english got appropriated to accommodate day to day dialect , it got reduced to 'seeing him'.Or maybe that's just me , english isn't my first language :P. – user323059 Nov 27 '18 at 17:47
  • There is a subtle distinction in meaning where 'seeing' has a special sense, as in 'seeing a doctor'. 'I remember seeing him before' carries an implication of continuity, and therefore possibly the quality of the experience, either over several appointments, or during one of them. 'I remember having seen him before' recalls the fact of the event(s). (Of at least one appointment.) – Robin Betts Nov 27 '18 at 19:13

The question goes much deeper than it may seem at first…

It is as simple as this…

Simply put, there was a time – before Fordism, let us say – when the most important thing in life was not to hunt down redundancy!

But nowadays

I remember having seen him.

can – and will – be simplified to

I remember seeing him.

and it makes some sense, because if I say or write 'I remember', then, of course, the thing I remember must have happened earlier... so why – Fordist minds reason – say or write 'having seen', 2 words ("What an effort! Ouch!") when just 1, 'seeing', would do, since the job of making the reader or listener realise that the action of 'seeing' or 'having seen' came before the action of 'remembering' is already done by the meaning of the verb 'remember' itself.

Let us then 'sack' the Gerund Perfect and keep the cheaper – only 1 word to write or say instead of 2 – Gerund Simple… the shareholders will be grateful for it!

Let us remember, too, that in English 'to be made redundant' is a euphemistic way of saying 'to be laid off', 'dismissed', 'sacked', 'fired'!

The tense the verb 'remember' is in does not have any importance, by the way.


'He went out after he had put on his coat', or 'He went out after having put on his coat'

can – and will – be simplified to

'He went out after he put on his coat', or 'He went out after putting on his coat'

since the conjunction 'after' already does the job of indicating to the reader/listener that the action of 'putting on the coat' happened earlier than the action of 'going out'. The Past Perfect or Gerund Perfect, 2 words each, can be replaced with a 'cheaper' Past Simple or Gerund Simple, 1 word each.

The French, instead, say or write

'Il sortit après qu'il eut mis son manteau' or 'Il sortit après avoir mis son manteau'

and it would not come to their minds – and it would be grammatically incorrect* – to say or write

'Il sortit après qu'il mit son manteau'* or 'Il sortit après mettre son manteau'*.

Very 'square' and 'tame', I must admit, like a garden 'à la française', compared to the wilder – because it obeys the Law of the Jungle? – English garden… Is it because the French put up with a certain amount of redundancy that they have come to… what they have come to?

Languages reflect states of mind! Language IS political, whether we like it or not!

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I was going to just comment with something along the lines of "It's six of one and half-a-dozen of the other". But I checked Google NGrams first, and was quite surprised to find...

enter image description here

I've no idea what might have caused such a marked usage shift, but I'm quite happy with the "direction of travel" (when there's a choice, always prefer simpler tenses).

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  • What is remarkable is that one form of the construction, which used to be extremely popular compared to the other, declined rapidly after 1940 and ended up just as (un)popular as the other, whose (un)popularity didn't increase or decline over a 100 years: but why has the whole "remember seeing him" usage declined in both its forms so drastically in the last 80 years? – English Student Apr 28 '18 at 19:54

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