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Hello guys

This morning I got a question from a teacher who is now teaching 'present perfect tense' in a high school English class.

What he asked me is;

What is "I have eaten lunch" most likely to mean in the case no context is given?
Does it mean "I finished (eating) lunch just now" or "I ate lunch sometime in the past"?

I answered I choose rather the latter, but I was not so sure.

Could you tell me your choice and its reason?

paco
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Comments  
Considering that someone is more likely to want to know if you are hungry at the moment than if you have ever in your life had the experience of eating lunch, I would vote for the former. On the other hand, if the sentence is "I have eaten buffalo tail," it is more likely to mean "Once, long ago, on a dare, when I was drunk, I ate buffalo tail."

(By the way - I was going to use "squid" for my alternate example, but it occurred to me that perhaps you had just eaten squid for lunch, so I tried to find something more exotic.)
Hello Khoff

So do you mean like this?

If you say "I have eaten sushi", you mean "I once ate sushi", and if I say "I have eten sushi", you take I am meaning "I finished eating sushi right now".

paco
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I think the idea is that semantically the present perfect simply refers to some time in the past, but pragmatically the distance in the past is dependent on the specifics of the situation.
__________

Cases where a greater amount of time before the present moment is under consideration are the less common activities.

Have you ever eaten flamingo meat? (ever in your life)
Yes, I've eaten flamingo.

I've seen a flying saucer. (during the course of my life)

He has taught German on five continents.
They have discovered seventy new species of centipede.
__________

Cases where a lesser amount of time is considered are the common activities.

I've (just) eaten lunch.
He has washed his hands.
We've (already) gone shopping; we've (already) bought the milk.
They've accepted the invitation.
Hello CJ

Thank you for the great answer.
The idea is semantically the present perfect simply refers to some time in the past, but pragmatically the distance in the past is dependent on the specifics of the situation.
[1] Cases where a greater amount of time before the present moment is under consideration are the less common activities.
[2] Cases where a lesser amount of time is considered are the common activities.

I think this explanation of yours is very reasonable. In most Japanese grammar books they categorize meanings of perfect tensed sentences into COMPLETION (Result), CONTINUITY, and EXPERIENCE. But I rather feel such clear-cut distinctions would be impossible without being given a context.

Anyway I think this question somehow symbolizes a problem we have in English education at schools in Japan. Teachers are forced to teach almost every aspect of English grammar despite the fact the vocabulary size allowed in teaching is very limited, say, only about 1200 words in the first two years, during which students are taught "present perfect tense". So the sentences given in grammar drill books tend to be too simple to take their exact meaning, and teachers often get lost about what means what. I really sympathize with them.

paco
This morning I got a question from a teacher who is now teaching 'present perfect tense' in a high school English class.

What he asked me is;

What is "I have eaten lunch" most likely to mean in the case no context is given?
Does it mean "I finished (eating) lunch just now" or "I ate lunch sometime in the past"?

===

The chance of "I have eaten lunch" refering to anything but the time centered around "today" is miniscule indeed. It is highly, highly unlikely that this could refer to an experential perfect.

The perfect is used in such situations when it's important to now, to the current situation.

A: Do you want to go for sushi?

B: No, I've eaten lunch.

Simple past tense is also possible and very common even where 'just' or 'already' are used.

B: No, I just ate lunch.
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MrP
To paco,

Supposing a student were to ask his classmate, "Have you seen my pencil?", would he mean, "Have you seen my pencil now/a moment ago?" or would he mean, "Have you seen my pencil in your whole life?"

From my experience, no matter which language, "Have you seen my pencil?", is translated, it would still mean, "Have you seen my pencil now/a moment ago?", otherwise a day/date/time/period/etc. has to be added to the end of the sentence. e.g.

"Have you seen my pencil YESTERDAY?"
"Have you seen my pencil on Monday?
"Have you seen my pencil last week?
"have you seen my pencil this morning?
I may be misreading your response, temico.

the only one of your sentences that can be used with "have you seen" (present perfect progressive) is no 4;
have you seen my pencil this morning


All the others require "Did you see...?"
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