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I’m wondering which one of the sentences is grammatically correct:

  1. Having taken into account both sides of the argument, I conclude that alternative therapies deserve continuous research funding.
  2. Having taken into account both sides of the argument, I concluded that alternative therapies deserve continuous research funding.

This is going to be part of the end for my essay and I was told that I’m supposed to use present tense whenever I present my conclusion. But I figured by writing “having taken into account both sides of the argument”, I would essentially imply that I have already done something in the past, so I’m not sure if that means my conclusion was made in the past (concluded) as opposite to as I’m writing (conclude.)

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, AmE speaker, David, Bread, Nigel J May 12 '18 at 22:13

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    "I was told that I’m supposed to use present tense whenever I present my conclusion." There's your answer. I suggest you use conclude in the present tense. – Bread May 6 '18 at 14:00
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    Having taken has a present relevance. You can use the simple present form conclude here with it. – mahmud koya May 6 '18 at 14:33
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First of all, you should of course follow the instructions you received. Having said that, however: grammatically, there is nothing wrong with using either the past tense concluded or the present tense conclude, or even the future will conclude.

Compare with the following examples from CGEL (p. 140):

[2]   i  He was believed [to have written it the previous week].         [Tr < past TO ]
      iii  He is believed [to have written it last week].                        [Tr < present TO]
     iiii  He hopes [to have written it by next week].                           [Tr < future TO ]

The point here is that the present perfect is normally non-deictic. I will explain below what this means, precisely, but for now: the present perfect says that some two events (one happening at the 'time referred to', Tr—in [2], the time of the writing—and the other happening at the 'time of orientation', TO—in [2], the time of the believing) stand in a relation of 'one being before another' (namely, Tr < TO). But then some other information is used to locate TO relative to 'now' (i.e. relative to the 'time of utterance').

This is in contrast to the simple past tense, in which TO is (normally) automatically identified with 'now' (and so we say that it is interpreted 'deictically').

So in your example, the having taken into account both sides of the argument locates this 'taking into account' (which is happening at Tr) as anterior to the time of concluding (which is at TO). And then the tense of conclude identifies where TO is relative to Tu, the 'time of utterance': if you say I conclude, then TO=Tu, whereas if you say I concluded, then TO < Tu.

Discussion

Let me start by explaining in more detail what deictic means. In addition, I'll need to explain what all these different times (TO, Tr, and also Td) are.

Consider the words like I, now, and here. These are paradigmatically deictic terms. By this we mean that their denotation changes depending on who is speaking, when, and where. For example, when John says I, then I denotes John; but when Kim says I, then I denotes Kim. You can think of deixis as being about the 'location' from which the speaker 'points' to things he or she is talking about (indeed, the OED's definition for deixis is 'indication, pointing out'). And note that in order to fully understand what the speaker is saying, we must know this 'location'.

Now, the simple past tense (the preterite), in its basic use, is usually interpreted deictically. So when we say I finished the book, the 'time referred to' (Tr), which is here the time of me finishing the book, is anterior to now.

More precisely: in this basic use, the preterite says two things. First, it says that Tr < TO, where TO is the 'time of orientation'. Second, it says that TO=Tu, where Tu is the time of utterance, i.e. now.

In written language, instead of the 'time of utterance' we have either the 'time of encoding' or the 'time of decoding'. When I write "I'm writing this letter while...," then the closest analog to the 'time of utterance' is the time of my writing the letter, which we may call the 'time of encoding'. In contrast, if you see a road sign that says 'You are now leaving Berlin', the closest analog to the 'time of utterance' is the time of your reading the sign, which we may call the 'time of decoding'. It is useful to have a term that will denote either the time of encoding or the time of decoding, depending on which is appropriate to the situation; this term is the deictic time, Td. So: in written language, Td is either the time of encoding or of decoding, as appropriate, while in spoken language, Td is normally the time of utterance.

We say that a tense is interpreted deictically when TO=Td. It is imprtant to realize that not all tenses are interpreted in this way, however:

[5]   i  If she beats him he'll claim she cheated.                                    [non-deictic past]
       ii  If you eat any more you'll say you don't want any tea.    [non-deictic present]

The preterite and present tense inflections on cheat and do indicate that Tr is respectively anterior to and simultaneous with TO but here TO is clearly not Td. The time of the (possible) cheating is not anterior to the time of my uttering [5i], but to the time of his (possibly) making a claim of cheating. Similarly in [5ii] the time of your not wanting any tea is not simultaneous with my utterance but with your future utterance. This is why we need to distinguish the concepts of TO and Td: they do not necessarily coincide, even though they usually do. (CGEL, p. 126.)

And now we are ready to revisit the examples in [2]:

[2]   i  He was believed [to have written it the previous week].         [Tr < past TO ]
      iii  He is believed [to have written it last week].                        [Tr < present TO]
     iiii  He hopes [to have written it by next week].                           [Tr < future TO ]

Here the past TO in [i] is established by the preterite in the matrix clause, the present TO in [ii] by the present tense in the matrix clause, and the future TO in [iii] by the lexical properties of the verb hope (in combination with the adjunct by next week). The perfect tense itself expresses "Tr < TO", and the temporal identification of TO is given by the larger context; this latter aspect of the interpretation is discussed further in §7.

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"Having taken" is a Perfect Participle, (having + the past participle)

We use "perfect Participle" when the action is active and when it was completed before the main verb action.

so I believe, both tenses (present and past) are appropriate. The point is the time you are referring to. If you have concluded something already, well then use past. If you are talking to someone and using this sentence, since it is now, use the present tense. For your case, however, I believe the present tense must be used since it is your conclusion and you are concluding something at the moment - while you are writing, after "Having taken into account both sides of the argument", and not before that.

  • I agree that both forms are grammatical, but "having taken" doesn't look like gerund to me. Aren't gerunds supposed to function as nouns? I'd understand "having taken" as a participle phrase, modifying "I". – Andreas Blass May 6 '18 at 22:52
  • @AndreasBlass Yes, absolutely. A gerund functions as a noun and may be used as a subject, an object, or an object of a preposition. Let me provide some examples: "Fishing is a pleasant activity". a gerund subject is used here. "Having taken" is also the perfect form of the gerund. You might say: Our having read the book spoiled the film for us. (It is easily seen that "having read" functions as a noun - is a gerund). Reference: English Grammar Digest by Trudy Aronson – Pouya May 7 '18 at 10:27
  • I agree that "having taken" can function as a gerund in some sentences. But it doesn't in the sentences in the question. – Andreas Blass May 7 '18 at 11:29
  • @AndreasBlass why is that? could you explain? to me, the structure of perfect gerund in the examples, illustrated by the book, is exactly like the ones in here. is it different in here because of its context? would be grateful if you could explain. – Pouya May 7 '18 at 13:37
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    In your examples, "fishing" and "our having read the book" function as nouns, specifically as the subjects of "is" and of "spoiled", respectively. In the OP's examples, "having taken into account both sides of the argument" functions as an adjective, applying to "I". Gerunds function as nouns; participles can function as adjectives. – Andreas Blass May 7 '18 at 22:47
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"have concluded" (present perfect tense) because the act of concluding has finished and you are writing the results. One should write some essays in the third person (all the way through), "due to the biggest item in the debate it (IT) is concluded", "it can/may be concluded". "I" is first person and not normally used in an assay where one is supposedly making an impartial judgement.

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