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According to many grammar textbooks, present perfect tense should not be used with specific time expression. Therefore, it is grammatically wrong to say "I have sold my house on 10 December 2018." However, I often see this type of sentence in the writings from the United States: In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the Official Seal of said City this 26th day of August, 1954. Questions: Does the word 'this' make it an exception that 'present perfect tense' can be used with specific time expression in this construction? or Is the use of present perfect tense with specific time expression allowed only in American English?

  • The tense seems redundant if you mention a specific date. "I sold my house on 10 December 2018" says the same thing in fewer words. In regards to the American English usage, I wouldn't say its common. The example you gave seems to be very formal, perhaps a speech or legal statement, which may bend the rules to add emotion/emphasis/flow/procedure. Also - your example seems to come from 1954, usage rules have evolved a lot since then. – Balaz2ta Dec 27 '18 at 5:43
  • We are required to show background research effort to avoid the question being closed. – Kris Dec 27 '18 at 9:04
  • This is not much of American English. – Kris Dec 27 '18 at 9:04
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The signer of a legal document is not narrating a past event, as in your example

I sold my house on 10 Dec. 2018.

but testifying that he/she has very recently signed and applied an official seal to the document on a specific date.

This usage is called the present perfect of the recent past. The whereof and hereunto are also clues that legal jargon is filled with 18th and 19th century forms which have no bearing on present day English.

  • Jargon apart, it's still a valid and necessary structuring. Btw, this is present perfect, not past perfect. Also, rather than a recent event, it's an event that has relevence to the present (context). – Kris Dec 27 '18 at 9:03
  • Oops, past perfect of the recent past would be an interesting tense. Corrected. I disagree with your analysis, as the relevAnce of the document doesn't affect how the event is depicted. Validity also doesn't enter into the mix because simple past would be just as valid if custom didn't suggest otherwise. – KarlG Dec 27 '18 at 13:46
  • @KarG Note the "necessary" in my comment above. – Kris Dec 28 '18 at 5:46
  • Re: In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the Official Seal of said City this 26th day of August, 1954. I randomly picked this sentence as an example. The year suggests that it's archaic usage. I work as a translator. I often see use of present perfect tense with specific time expression in modern day notary public forms from the United States. Any suggestions? – Tanchnit Rhutnkzin Dec 31 '18 at 4:00
  • @TanchnitRhutnkzin: That would depend on the target language. Slavic languages, for instance, would use a perfective verb. Just use a formal register or compare similar legal language. – KarlG Dec 31 '18 at 4:24

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