I was recently having a conversation with a non-native English speaker, and found his use of the phrase "I didn't start yet" wrong somehow. I corrected it to "I haven't started yet", but I don't fully understand why this is the case, or even if I'm correct in suggesting this change.

For context, the exchange went something like:

Me: "Just send me where you're up to in your assignment."

Him: "I didn't start yet."

Me: "That sounds wrong. I think you mean 'I haven't started yet'."

Hope the answer helps anyone else learning the insanity of English. 😉

  • AmE speakers: is "I didn't start yet" an AmE way of saying this? I tried running an NGram but it didn't find any occurrences at all.
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 13, 2016 at 19:38
  • 2
    @JavaLatte - Interesting note about this in Fowler's, under the word yet. Here's a screen shot.
    – J.R.
    Sep 13, 2016 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


Both sentences are possible. You are correct that using the present perfect I haven't started yet is natural and idiomatic. This is because you have specifically asked about the present time: where you're (now) up to. The present perfect allows one to connect the past action of not starting to the present moment, the now. And all that is quite natural.

However, it is not wrong to use the simple past. True, it talks only about the past action of not starting, so semantically it does not have that same "in built" connection to the present (the now or moment of speaking), but neither is it wrong to use it.

Hope this is helpful.

  • 1
    Perfect. Thanks for the explanation, @AlanCarmack.
    – Enaku
    Sep 18, 2016 at 3:56

"I didn't start yet" is wrong because "yet" takes past with it. So the sentence "I didn't started yet" is correct. And "I haven't started yet" is also correct.

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