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Present Perfect Tense usually represents Use 1: Actions which started in the past and are still continuing Use 2: Actions which happened at some unknown time in the past:

1. Let’s see the Use 1. Actions which started in the past and are still continuing. I think “Continuing” here means the action is still going on “now”. But does “now” refer to the action is still going on at the moment of speaking? Or in general, like an action happens recently. E.g. She says:" have looked for you for a long time. / I have been looking for you for a long time.” It means She looked for someone before, and she is still looking for someone at the moment of speaking OR maybe she is not looking for someone when she is speaking, but she looks for him recently, from Monday to today. Maybe she doesn’t look for him every day, but at least she doesn’t stop to find someone. It still happens.

2. Here is a problem that happenens usually in our life: Marry hasn’t been to school for a week. Today, she goes to the school. She sees her teacher. The teacher says: I haven’t seen you for a long time. Now comes to a question: I haven’t seen you for a long time. According to the Use 1, that sentence should mean I didn’t see you before, and I still don’t see you now. But in fact, the teacher sees Marry now, so she should say: I didn’t see you for a long time. This kind of problem happens all the time. But I just think it’s not right to use the present perfect tense in those cases.

3. What does “I haven’t eaten chicken” mean? It means I didn’t eat chicken before. Or I didn’t eat chicken before, and I am still not eating chicken now?



I just found it was so tricky to figure out the meaning of a sentence in present perfect tense. It’s like why this sentence means the Use 1 not Use 2 if no distinctive modifiers (like “for”, “since”) in the sentence. I really hope you can tell the method to figure out the Uses of sentences in present perfect tense. Thanks a lot.
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I haven’t seen you for a long time.
simply means they have seen each other beforehand, but it's quite a while since.

What does “I haven’t eaten chicken” mean? It means I didn’t eat chicken before. Mostly, yes.
1:
1a1. Actions which started in the past and are still continuing.

I have been reading this book all day.
I have been looking for John all day. Do you know where he is?


1a2. Actions which started in the past and have just come to an end.

I have been looking for you all day. I'm glad that you are here.

1b1. Negative actions (absence of an action) which started in the past and are still continuing.

I have not studied my French lessons for a week.
I have not seen George for a week. Do you know if he is ill?


1b2. Negative actions (absence of an action) which started in the past and have just come to an end.

I have not seen you for a week. Where have you been?
You haven't seen me for a week because I went on vacation.


Note the pattern in the examples above.
A. When we speak of someone not present in the conversation, the situation (action or inaction) continues as the words are uttered.
B. When we speak of someone present (you or I), obviously the looking for or the not seeing has come to an end almost at the moment we utter the words, but we treat it as essentially the same kind of situation as in A. and use the present perfect.

2:
2a. Actions which happened at some unknown time in the past.

I have eaten chicken. (Therefore, I now know how chicken tastes.)
I have seen that movie. (Therefore, I can tell you about it.)
I have visited New York. (Therefore, I can tell you what I did when I was there.)


2b. Negative actions which never happened.

I haven't eaten chicken. (= I have never eaten chicken.)
I haven't seen that movie. (= I have never seen that movie.)
I have not visited New York. (= I have never visited New York.)


CJ
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MIA6
3. What does “I haven’t eaten chicken” mean? It means I didn’t eat chicken before. Or I didn’t eat chicken before, and I am still not eating chicken now?

Present Perfect is used here because you are still likely to eat chicken in your life. If you speak of a person who's already dead you won't say "He has never eaten chicken" because he can never eat it anymore. You would rather say "He didn't eat chicken (in his life)", which implies that this person is probably dead by now.

He has never been to Spain. (It means that there is a chance of him ever going to Spain)

but

He never travelled to Spain. (It says that there is no chance of him ever going to Spain because either he's dead or unable to go there for some reason).
To my ears, “I haven’t eaten …” sounds like something is missing from the context. I think sentences like this need specific “qualifier” to complete the sentence.

I haven’t eaten [since this morning].

I haven’t eaten anything [for last two days] for I was feeling sick.

I haven’t eaten fried chicken [ for years].

But that’s only my opinion…
CalifJim
1b1. Negative actions (absence of an action) which started in the past and are still continuing.

I have not studied my French lessons for a week.
I have not seen George for a week. Do you know if he is ill?


2b. Negative actions which never happened.

I haven't eaten chicken. (= I have never eaten chicken.)
I haven't seen that movie. (= I have never seen that movie.)
I have not visited New York. (= I have never visited New York.)


CJ
Hi, CJ. THanks for your analysis. But here i have some questions: WHen there are some modifiers, like "for", "since" in a sentence in the present perfect tense, I can easily know its Use. JUst like your example above: I haven't not studied my french lessons for a week. But sometimes, people would not tell you "for a week", they omit this modifier, but they mean that. So it becomes "I have not studied my French lessons." , it looks like the same structure as the example's you gave me next: I haven't eatch chicken. Does it mean I never ate chicken before? Maybe now i am eating it? If so, i could understand "I have not studied my French lessons" as I didn't study my french lessons before, maybe now I am already studying. As you can see, if no modifier in the sentence, it could be messed up for me. Hope you can tell me, Thanks.
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If there is nothing in the sentence (no words) to tell you how to disambiguate between two different interpretations, you will have to rely on the total context, including all the visual cues in the environment and all your knowledge of how the world works, to help you. There is no magic formula by which the words themselves can always give you an unambiguous meaning.

Here is a very simple example of the sort of thing I am talking about.

What's that?

What does this mean? Well, if we are looking at a drawing by some modern artist, whose subject matter may be difficult to determine, then What's that? means What is that thing depicted there on that piece of paper?
On the other hand, if we are in my kitchen and a strange insect flies by, What's that? means What is that strange-looking flying insect in my kitchen?

It is quite often the case that the environment in which the conversation takes place, both physical and mental, has just as much to do with understanding the meaning of a sentence as the words that make it up.

To use an example more related to the present perfect, it is not likely -- in fact, it is virtually impossible -- that when someone says I haven't eaten, he means I have never eaten. Most likely, he means I haven't eaten yet. If it is lunch time, and I am invited to lunch, people may want to know if I have eaten already. If I have not already eaten, I will want to go to lunch with them. I will say OK, I'll go to lunch with you. I haven't eaten. Or I haven't eaten, so I'll go with you. Of course, this means I haven't eaten lunch yet even though the words lunch and yet are not said. But these words do not have to be said because we, the participants in the conversation, are standing there discussing going to lunch together. Everybody in the conversation understands this from the context.
On the other hand, suppose my friends are discussing a new movie. They ask me if I liked the way the movie ended. When I say, by way of explaining my ignorance about the ending, I haven't seen it, it cannot possibly mean that I haven't seen it for a long time (because that implies that I have seen it -- but not recently). It can only mean I have never seen it. Again, the context of the conversation is one of the most helpful factors in understanding the meaning.

CJ
CalifJimAgain, the context of the conversation is one of the most helpful factors in understanding the meaning.

CJ

Thanks so much for your analysis. I know that context is really important for you to understand the meaning. But could a sentence in the present perfect tense has different meanings under different contexts? e.g. I have never been to England. I think we always understand the meaning of this sentence as: From the past to now, I have never been there. So if i am now in England, could i say: I have never been to England? Because i am trying to say: I didn't go to england before, never. BUt now i am in England. I think other people may feel so weird.
>So if i am now in England, could i say: I have never been to England?

In that case, you should say:
I have never BEFORE been to England.
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