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"The last two nights in Las Vegas have been wonderful."

Is this sentence grammatically correct? I think it's better to use past simple as the last two nights are finished now.

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  • I agree, Past Simple is correct here, Perfect doesn't make sense. Jul 1, 2017 at 14:11
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    If you are still in Las Vegas, you would use the PP. If not, SP. Both are grammatically correct but may not be geographically correct. Always keep in mind the rule: Is the state or condition [the fact of being in Las Vegas] referred to in the sentence still true at the time of speaking? If yes, then you use the PP. If not, use the SP.
    – Lambie
    Jul 1, 2017 at 14:14
  • Could you please explain why would I use PP. If I'm still in las vegas ?
    – Abc
    Jul 1, 2017 at 17:02
  • Thanks for your comment but Actually, I'm confused between present perfect and past simple not past perfect
    – Abc
    Jul 1, 2017 at 23:01
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    @BenKovitz Argh! No fair making me into "the community"! I don't think the community has concluded anything like that. I don't know enough about advanced ESL students to agree or disagree with what you say here. Certainly it's worth learning everything there is to learn about English. N.b.: I didn't choose Conrad at random above. Jul 3, 2017 at 4:30

2 Answers 2

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If the speaker of the sentence is no longer in Las Vegas, then he would use the past simple. This is because the events the last two nights in Las Vegas are indeed completely in the past. They do not extend to and include the moment of speaking.

If the speaker is still in Las Vegas and uses the present perfect, which is the most natural scenario, it means he is including the moment of speaking in the time period of the last two nights. In other words, the last two nights are still in progress if the present perfect is used.

If the speaker considers the last two nights to be over and not part of the moment of speaking, he would use the past simple. This could be done to stress that the last two nights are completely over and done with. Example: it's the third day, and Jill wants to break up with Jack; she could say The last two nights in Las Vegas were wonderful, but I'm still breaking up with you (here on this third day in Las Vegas). This example is a little forced but it just shows that the expression the last two nights is usually going to take the present perfect if a location is given and the speaker is still at that location.

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You can think of "the last two nights" as two separate spans of time that began at about 8:00 p.m. on each night and ended when you went to sleep each night, or you can think of "the last two nights" as part of a series of nights that started two nights ago and continues up to the present.

The choice between simple past and present perfect leads your listener to think of the last two nights the first way or the second way, respectively. The present perfect usually leads the listener to understand the past events as part of a process of interest that is still continuing (or just started or just finished). That process is not necessarily mentioned in the sentence, as the examples below will illustrate.

Talking about a vacation: during and after

Suppose that Valerie thinks of Las Vegas as a den of sleaze and organized crime, and didn't want to spend her vacation there, but she reluctantly agreed to go on a four-day trip to Las Vegas with her friend Joanne. On the morning of the fourth day, they have this conversation:

Joanne: So, have you enjoyed the City so far?
Valerie: I must admit, the last two nights in Las Vegas have been wonderful. But there are still two more days to go.

Valerie uses the present perfect here to suggest that she wants Joanne to understand the last two nights as a time interval that continues to the present and as part of something continuing beyond the present: the vacation. Notice that nobody ever said "vacation". In the situation, the present perfect is enough to suggest it.

Now suppose that Joanne and Valerie are talking about the vacation 20 years later—long after the two nights and long after the end of the vacation:

Joanne: So, how did you enjoy our summer vacation in 1997?
Valerie: The first two nights in Las Vegas were wonderful. The last two nights, though, were a disaster. I lost every cent I had in a long run of bad luck at the blackjack tables.

Valerie uses the simple past because the story in which those nights are events is over. The vacation is over, and you're talking about the events in connection with the vacation, so the events that are part of the vacation go in the simple past tense.

Distinguishing location and time

By the way, people wouldn't ordinarily say "The last two nights in Las Vegas have been wonderful" except to distinguish them from nights at other locations. This conversation is a little more plausible:

Vito the Boss of Many Casinos: So, how's the take this week?
Joe the Manager of the Casinos in Tahoe and Las Vegas: Tahoe has been in a dry spell: we barely broke even all week. But the last two nights in Las Vegas have been wonderful: we made $400,000 both nights.

By using the present perfect, Joe suggests that he thinks the high revenue might continue. If he had used the simple past, then he would have reported the same facts without suggesting anything about whether the high revenue will continue.

Also, this conversation, on the fourth morning, is more plausible:

Joanne: So, have you enjoyed Las Vegas so far?
Valerie: Well, the first night was a disaster, but the last two nights have been wonderful.

The first night is over, and it doesn't extend to the present, so Valerie talks about it in the simple past. She distinguishes it from the present situation, which she frames as part of a span of time that began two days ago. Valerie doesn't mention Las Vegas because there's no distinction to make about the last two nights regarding location.

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  • If virtual Valerie were to say instead (as I suspect an actual Valerie might outside of our lab here) "Well, the first night was a disaster, but the last two nights were wonderful," how might she be misunderstood? I would rather not make this observation, because no-one enjoys the richness and precision of our language more than I, but I'm convinced that our Valerie would use the past. In the same vein, a genuine Joanne would ask instead: "So, didja enjoy Vegas so far?" Jul 3, 2017 at 2:54
  • @P.E.Dant Sure, but I'm not making a prediction about whether Valerie would use the present perfect, I'm talking about the situation where Valerie does use the present perfect. If she did that, what would she be trying to communicate? Or rather, how? This throws ESLers for a loop: instead of being governed by a rule of "grammatical correctness", the present perfect is a way of helping the other person follow what you're saying, and it usually has to do with things not said in the sentence. The whole question of "Is it grammatically correct?" comes from a false assumption about how it works.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 3, 2017 at 3:59
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    You are dead right about the locution grammatically correct, which should be stricken from our tongue, or at least from our site. Jul 3, 2017 at 4:15
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    @Mmm Yes. By using the simple past, you're suggesting that the breaking of the leg is not a current event. Compare and contrast these: "Sorry, I can't play. I broke my leg." "Sorry, I can't play. I've broken my leg. Can you drive me to the hospital?"
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 5, 2017 at 12:38
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    @Mmm Yes, if you want to convey that the situation is still on-going—though that is unlikely. If another bus comes every 10 minutes, you wouldn't say "I've missed my bus" 15 minutes later, after the next bus has arrived: the (time interval of the) missing of the first bus is now fully in the past: it's over. If you missed the last bus of the night, though, and you're still looking for a ride, the present perfect can help suggest that this is still a problem. But an hour later is probably long enough to feel like the missing of the bus is an action now fully over, no longer "present".
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jul 16, 2017 at 22:47

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