Answers to Questions About Tense #2
Here are several readers’ queries about various aspects of tense, and my responses.
1. Which sentence is correct, “The teacher said to Peter, ‘I am proud to have a wonderful student like you,’” or “The teacher said to Peter, ‘I am proud to have had a wonderful student like you’”?
The first sentence, written in the present tense, is appropriate for a current student. The second one, written in present perfect, applies when the student is a former one or is about to become a former one.
2. How is the following idea properly and most efficiently expressed?
“I would have liked to have gone to the park with you.”
“I would have liked to go to the park with you.”
“I would like to have gone to the park with you.”
Each of these three sentences has a slightly different temporal connotation:
“I would have liked to have gone to the park with you” means that at some point in the past, including right up to the present, you would like to have experienced the action. (You didn’t necessary want to go to the park; you wanted to have had the experience of going to the park.) Because of the two layers of indirect reference, this sentence is awkward and unlikely.
“I would have liked to go to the park with you” refers to a past state of mind about an action occurring at the same time in the past. (Previously, you wished you could have accompanied someone to the park; that inclination may or may not persist.)
“I would like to have gone to the park with you” refers to a present state of mind about a past action. (Right now, you wish you could have accompanied someone to the park; you may not have felt that way until just now.)
3. Where I work, there is an ongoing debate on whether the word have changes a sentence to passive. Here is an example: Should a sentence read, “I provided your comments to our senior management team and they will be used to guide our ongoing improvement efforts,” or “I have provided your comments to our senior management team and they will be used to guide our ongoing improvement efforts”?
Neither of these sentences is passive. Passive voice involves avoiding naming the actor of an action (for example, “The message was sent”) or delaying naming the actor until the end of the sentence (for example, “The message was sent by me”); “I sent the message” is constructed in active voice.
Both of the sentences are correct (though a comma should follow “management team”), but “I have [past tense of verb]” is generally preferable to “I [past tense of verb]” because it’s in the present perfect tense — it’s pertinent to now, the moment of the communication, with the implication that there’s a momentum for action — whereas, for example, “I provided” is in the past tense, looking back.