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Scenario:

Q: Jack, can you fix my car this weekend?

Are these correct? What do they mean?
1. A: I don't know. I have been very busy lately. (Does this mean that he is still busy?)
2. A: I don't know. I had been very busy lately. I don't know if I want to fix it. I'm very tired. (With 'had' here, does it mean that he was busy in the past?)

3. A: I don't know. I am very busy lately. (What is the difference in meaning between this one and #1?)
4. A: I don't know. I was very busy lately. (What is the difference in meaning between this one and #2?)

Thanks.
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Comments  
Hi jack!

Sentence 1. is fine. "have been busy lately" means, from some unknown or unstated time in the past up until right now. He may or may not be busy right now. He didn't say.

Sentence 2 is odd. "had -ed/-en" connects two events in the past. "had been busy" and "don't know", if you are trying to connect them, don't work. They express two different time periods. More over, 'had been" expresses what was done or completed in the past. It's over, so if it's done, your schedule is open, right? It's odd.

Sentence 3. is awkward. "am" and "lately" express two different time periods.

Sentence 4. is awkawrd, too. Although "was" and "lately" express the same time period, the Past, "lately" expresses a non-specific or purposely unstated time, whereas "was" expresses a specific time or an implied time.

I am busy these days. (specific: today, tomorrow, and so on)
I have been busy lately. (non-specific)
Does 'lately' always require a present perfect or present perfect progressive, I wonder?

In BrE, it seems to.

MrP
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Agreed.
What about "of late"?
Scenario:

Q: Where did you go? I haven't seen you on this site for a while.

Are these correct? If not, why? Doesn't it matter which one I use? How do I know which one to use? The one that suits the question best?

1. A: I have been through rehab. (Replying back in general?)
2. A: I had been through rehab before I visited this site. (A specific time in the past?)
3. A: I had been through rehab. (A specific time in the past?)

Or is it better to say this:
4. I was doing my rehab.
Scenario:

Q: Where did you go? I haven't seen you on this site for a while.

JTT: I think that the dialogue within the scenario is a wee bit unnatural. Since there hasn't been any "seeing" for some time, I think a more natural question would be;

Q: Where have you been {of late/recently}? I haven't seen you on this site for a while.

"Where did you go?" sounds MORE like someone stepped out for a moment.

-----------------------------
Are these correct? If not, why? Does[n't] it matter which one I use? How do I know which one to use? The one that suits the question best?

1. A: I have been through rehab. (Replying back in general?)
2. A: I had been through rehab before I visited this site. (A specific time in the past?)
3. A: I had been through rehab. (A specific time in the past?)

Or is it better to say this:
4. I was doing my rehab.

JTT: Let's get rid of the 'bad' ones first. Since the query has contained within it a feeling of "up to now" in the "I haven't seen you ... for a while", #2 and #3 not felicitous. I say this because most all scenarios I can envision exclude them.

We do not normally use the past perfect to talk about past time events as #3 does and even if you include a previous past time referent, "before I visited this site", it doesn't automatically trigger the use of a past perfect.

To repeat; The presence of two past time events does not mean that ENLs will always choose to use a past perfect.

Now to what's okay; #1 and #4 are okay. Using a present perfect sometimes adds importance to a past event, it makes it current, it seeks to make it the "hot" topic. So, an ENL might well forgo a present perfect and opt for a simple past tense to 'downplay' a past event, to NOT highlight it.

Since some [many?? most??] people would be embarrassed by being in rehab, a simple past may be the more likely.
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'Through rehab' is new to me. In BrE, you would probably say:

'Where have you been? I haven't seen you around here for a while.'
'Oh, I've been in rehab.'

(On those numerous occasions when this conversation occurs.)

Sorry, Casi, I missed your earlier question. Yes, I would expect a present perfect with 'of late' in BrE.

MrP
But what about this one? It works like that here too?

Let's say someone is dead and that person helped me a lot. Do I say:

1. He has helped me a lot. (If this one is okay, why? He is dead now?)
2. He had helped me a lot.

Which one do I use and why?

Thanks.
Hello Jack

I would say:

1. It's a pity he's dead. He used to help me a lot.
2. It's a pity he's dead. He helped me a lot.

I wouldn't use the present perfect of a dead person:

3. ?He hasn't been too well of late.
4. ?What a pity. He hasn't finished that book he was reading.'

When a person dies, it seems, they are no longer grammatically connected to the present, except in special circumstances, such as the circumstances of death itself:

5. 'He's only been dead five minutes.'

Or when you want to to inject a note of pathos:

6. 'Poor old fellow. He's helped me a lot in his time. But now he's gone...'

(Perhaps #6 seems 'pathetic' precisely because it breaks the 'no present perfect for dead people' rule – i.e. it talks about him as if he were still alive.)

You can however use the present perfect when you're talking about the corpse:

7. 'Has he been properly washed, shaved, and embalmed?'

('He' here is really a courteous 'it'.)

MrP
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