What is the difference between these two sentences:

The first feature-length comedy film was created by Charlie Chaplin.
The first feature-length comedy film has been created by Charlie Chaplin.

and the followings are also seems very similar:

By the time you read this, I will be arrested for murder.
By the time you read this, I will have been arrested for murder.

  • 5
    Each of your second sentences utilizes the perfect: the first is in the past perfect, and the second in the future perfect. The perfect means that an action is completed (or "perfected.") A good rule is ”Don’t use the perfect unless you need it.” Read this link to learn about the perfect. Aug 10, 2016 at 19:45
  • 1
    Am I wrong in thinking that "had been" is past perfect and "has been" is present perfect, with a sense of recent completion?
    – djna
    Aug 10, 2016 at 19:59
  • Also I don't think "By the time you read this, I will be arrested for murder." is quite right, the perfect form seems much better here.
    – djna
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:01
  • What @P. E. Dant said. Your second example would at the very least be considered "strange" by native speakers. Chaplin has been dead for decades, so it's hard to see how the normal connotations of "Present Perfect implies relevance to time of utterance" would apply (besides which I doubt anyone referred to [video] files during his lifetime; certainly he wouldn't have). This is what happens if you try to use complex verb forms when there's no need. Aug 10, 2016 at 20:24
  • By the time you read this, I will have been arrested for murder.
    – Lambie
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:46

1 Answer 1


Think of an action as having a starting point and an end point in terms of time reference. Simple past indicates that the action was completed. Both end points are in the past. Present Perfect just says that the starting point is in the past while the end point is not clear, or of no importance, just that the action took place in the past.

I was in Paris last year -- very specific, and emphasizes that the event has ended.

I have been to Paris -- was there some time in the past (possibly many times, possibly again in the future), and thus know what you are talking about when you are talking about Paris.

I thought the earth was square (no longer think) I have thought the earth was square (possibly still think). Whether the action has ended is not important to convey.


  • Past imperfect? I don't think there's any such thing in English. Aug 10, 2016 at 20:26
  • @FumbleFingers "I never hadn't been to Paris," perhaps? Aug 10, 2016 at 20:38
  • @P. E. Dant: I had been to Paris is Past Perfect, and I kinda doubt the additional negations (never and n't = not) would affect the name of the tense. Googling past imperfect in english suggests there is such a thing in, for example, French and Spanish, but I'd need to see something more authoritative before accepting that it exists in English. I'm also deeply suspicious of Ryan's I have thought the earth was square for almost any context (though I do accept you could "legimitise" it to some extent by continuing the sentence with, say, ...all my life). Aug 10, 2016 at 20:46
  • If this were usenet, I'd have appended "j/k." Mr Phan's usage is clearly a typo, anyway, isn't it? Aug 10, 2016 at 20:48
  • Sorry guys, my bad. I never pay attention to the nomenclature too much. Anyway, fixed to Present Perfect
    – Ryan Phan
    Aug 10, 2016 at 20:54

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .