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On a website I read this dialogue:

  • I'm looking for a cheap virtual credit (Master/Visa) card for paying online.

  • I have been asked for a scanned copy of my credit card on first purchase by Aliexpress. This might cause a problem if you use virtual card.

https://www.lowendtalk.com/discussion/37873/cheap-virtual-credit-card

Why the respondent did not say I was asked (past simple) ? because it is clear (for me at least) that the speaker tells a previous experience and gives it as an example.

So what actually does the speaker want to imply here by using the present perfect tense?

Questions goes in my mind:

Does he want to just highlight the action ? or to imply that Aliexpress still requires a scanned copy ? or he wants to imply that his action itself took place a little time ago (and maybe based on that Aliexpress still asks for a scanned copy) ?

Thank you

  • We can't read the mind of the person who wrote/has written the sentence you refer to. Thus, asking why he used it is probably anyone's guess, and this question could be closevoted as opinion-based. But if you are asking whether the present perfect is appropriate in the person's sentence, that's a different story. Lesson: asking why is not usually the best approach when asking about language usage. – Alan Carmack Oct 24 '16 at 17:49
  • Thanks Alan , I intented to ask about wether the present perfect is appropriate , good advice thanx – Gamal Thomas Oct 25 '16 at 15:07
  • The comment comes from a poster with the handle "vonlulzweg" and omits the article in "if you use a virtual card". To my mind this makes it very likely that it is not a native English speaiker. – Colin Fine Nov 18 '16 at 14:59
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The clue is in the words first purchase which places the action (asked) at a specific point, sometime in the past. The speaker doesn't provide the exact date because it was irrelevant to the discussion; however, he or she knows when the event occurred because the memory of which is fixed firmly in their mind. The episode of being asked to provide a scanned copy, definitely occurred sometime in the past.

It is therefore a completed action, and the simple past tense should have been used.

If it hadn't happened, why else would the author have warned about using a virtual card?

In the Active voice, you would say:

Aliexpress asked me for a scanned copy of my credit card with my first purchase

NOT “They have asked me for .... with my first purchase”

The Passive voice would be

I was asked for a scanned copy of my credit card by Aliexpress with my first purchase

The event of being asked to do something, happened the first time. Perhaps after the first time, a scanned copy was no longer required. But we cannot be absolutely certain because the author might have made only a single purchase using Aliexpress. On second thought, using first does imply that more than one purchase has been made.

Note, the present perfect tense is used here because although the act of purchasing has been completed, there is a strong likelihood that the author will continue to use his or her credit card in the future.

I don't know anything about credit cards and how they are used in the States, so I'm just going by what is written! :)


P.S. By the way, I've upvoted Robusto's answer because he is a native speaker, and he explained very well why the author used the passive voice.

  • I'll just wait for TRomano's comment when I come back later tonight. – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 '16 at 12:22
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    Communicating completed or finished past actions is part of the most common uses of the present perfect. Are you hungry? No. I've eaten. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 12:42
  • @JimReynolds If the action has been completed at an unspecified time in the past, and its consequences are still felt in the present, then yes, you are correct. Here, the situation is different. And this answer was more in reaction to the claim that somehow the event was repeatable. It's not. It happened only once, and only the first time. – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 '16 at 15:44
  • OK. Yes. There's a problem with it if was intended to mean exactly: I was asked by them and that asking occurred when I first bought something from them. And I have been a been thrown off by possibility that the first purchase didn't happen in the past. Though I admit it's likely the intended meaning. I still feel there's an interesting issue here, though I'm not prepared to articulate why I think there may be something more to say. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 17:03
  • @JimReynolds that's OK, it is an interesting question, and it throws up different aspects and that's why I upvoted it. – Mari-Lou A Oct 22 '16 at 17:05
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Good question. You are correct and the simple past tense would have been sufficient.

I was asked for a scanned copy of my credit card ...

However, I don't think this is actually an example of the present perfect tense, at least not to mean an "unfinished action". Rather it implies some kind of experience:

"I have been asked ..." = "I have the experience of being asked ..."

in order to warn people that they might have a similar experience. Similar examples of this structure:

I have been interviewed many times by the local newspaper

I have eaten many times at that restaurant.

I have gone swimming in the Dead Sea; it's quite an experience.

And so on.

If this person had meant to use the perfect tense to indicate some kind of temporal relationship to some other event, he would have probably used the past perfect instead:

I had been asked for a scanned copy of my credit card (but I didn't have one).

See this page for more details on how to use the present perfect.

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    This is informal writing, we don't need to assume that the writer thought really hard on how to phrase the sentence in order convey one message or another. It is more likely that he simply misused the tense... See my answer for a hypothesis of the reason. – laugh Oct 22 '16 at 10:20
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    @Mari The "first purchase" may not have happened in the past, or at all. It may well be that I was asked (completed past event) to scan when making the first purchase (such purchase may or may not have occurred at the time of writing). – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 11:20
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    @Mari Suppose Aliexpress told the OP, "When you make your first purchase, please provide a copy of your credit card." The purchase may or may not have been made. Only the request has been made for sure. I admit this is less likely of a situation, but the language makes it a possible one. And it's useful to bear in mind for more general applications of such a construction. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 11:50
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    I have been asked to have warm clothing prepared on word of departure to Antarctica. The asking has happened and finished. The departing or notice to depart? – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 12:07
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    @GamalThomas, it's common to use the present perfect to describe life experiences, as in my examples and in the linked reference. He did not "misuse the tense" as others suggested, nor did he mean to relate one event to another as the perfect tenses are normally used. He just wanted to say "I had this experience and it was a problem because I was using a virtual card." – Andrew Oct 22 '16 at 14:01
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Most likely the respondent merely wanted to use passive voice and was more comfortable using present perfect for that. Active voice would be:

Aliexpress asked me for a scanned copy ...

and it probably felt more natural to make it passive in this manner:

I have been asked for a scanned copy ...

This "passivises" it a bit more than

I was asked for a scanned copy ...

which feels just a tiny bit more direct. In all likelihood, the choice was not a deliberate one.

  • Thank you, you has given me a new answer and angle for that. – Gamal Thomas Oct 21 '16 at 20:21
  • I don't think this is actually an example of the past perfect tense. Please see my answer for what I think is the more likely explanation. – Andrew Oct 21 '16 at 20:23
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    @Robusto yes I see. Either way, it's more a normal conjugation of the verb "to have" and not what I think of as a use of the perfect to indicate an ongoing or relative action. For example if we use the active form and say, "They have asked me to ... " this indicates some kind of subsequent action which doesn't appear in the example. It's simpler to think of this as a kind of shorthand for "I have the experience of ..." which fits into the writer's intent. – Andrew Oct 21 '16 at 20:41
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    Or rather, it's a different use of the present perfect to indicate life experience. See this page for what I mean. – Andrew Oct 21 '16 at 20:44
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    @And We often use the present perfect to describe life experiences, but not because they are life experiences (compare I went to a private high school. I grew up in a small town.). The reason we often describe life experiences using the present perfect is to communicate the idea so far. - She has written three books [so far; she may write more]. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 11:44
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I don't see any reason to use present perfect in this sentence. Is is not required in English.

Usage of present perfect suggests that a past activity or experience is linked to the present state, or that the action is complete (=perfect) at the present. This does not seem to be the case here.

Note that the reponder's nickname (in the linked post) suggests that he/she might not be a native English speaker. I would guess that his/her mother tongue is German. This might explain the usage of "have" here. In spoken German, the simple past is perceived as formal, and colloquial narratives often use present perfect tense.

See also: The two German past tenses and how to use them.

  • An over-correction implies that a correction took place. What evidence do we have that the utterance in question has been corrected, and what would that mean? If it was "corrected", what does "over-correction" mean? It is, in fact, clearly an example of the present perfect tense. Whether it's a "good" one (one that would communicate what the writer intended) or not is another question. The use of virtual card without an article is certainly a clue that it was written by a non-native speaker. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 2:31
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    Although it's ubiquitously repeated, the explanation that we use the present perfect to talk about a past state or event "linked/connected to the present" is problematic. The big bang occurred 10-20 years ago. Is that finished past event not linked to the present? Anytime we say anything, it's linked to the present because we are talking about it . . . now. It's more meaningful to talk about this use as mentioning a finished past event that is implicitly or explicitly anchored within an underlying time period that includes the present. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 11:30
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    The canonical post says The perfect introduces a prior eventuality which in some sense constitutes a current state. But it is up to the hearer to infer the nature of that state. I think that something related to this basic idea can apply to the OP's use in the context we can see. There is something about that past event that was particulary significant at the time of writing, and given the context. I think there was an implied, It's happened to me, and that might importantly relate to your current issue. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 14:55
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    But this is a sort of short-cut answer and I'd need to read and think to answer it better. In summary, I think the OP had a choice to make and went with the present perfect to shift the meaning in this direction of saying that the result or consequence of the past event was in current operation at the time of writing. – Jim Reynolds Oct 22 '16 at 14:55
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    @Jim I couldn't agree more with your statement here about the dubious description of the present perfect as a past action connected with the present. I've seen many learners struggling with this very description when asking about the present perfect, the simple past, etc. – Alan Carmack Oct 25 '16 at 19:17

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