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Context: At a meeting a colleague explains why she must handle a project stressing some points as she thinks other colleagues don't understand her. Then just after her explanation I say "I have understood the same" or "I have thought the same" to state I already agree with her points.

"Understanding" or "thinking the same" happens during the colleague's explanation. Considering its recency and relevancy with the present condition is it correct to use present perfect tense here with the verbs "understand" and "think"?

I know basically simple present or simple past is just enough therefore "I understand", "I understood", "I think the same" or "I thought the same" can be preferred, however is present perfect inherently wrong in such context? How should we interperet present perfect usage in such context?

  • Personally, right afterward, I would say: I thought the same thing as you. I would not use the PP here. The moment of understanding and thinking is over. – Lambie Dec 5 '17 at 21:35
  • "Understanding" or "thinking the same" happens during the colleague's explanation. - Not necessarily. You could be expressing that it had happened to you even before your colleague's explanation. – stangdon Dec 5 '17 at 22:30
  • @stangdon I was talking about PP versus SP. So, OK for SP and PC, but NOT PP if it comes right after she finishes speaking. I think I should write up an answer, but am a bit lazy right now... – Lambie Dec 5 '17 at 23:58
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If you want to simply state that you agree with her points, use the present tense. Adding forms of the past opens up various nuances. Perhaps these examples will be useful:

The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book.
I think so, too.
I have thought so, too, ever since I read it at age 12.
I thought so, too, until I read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. [That's a joke, by the way.]

If you use the present perfect, you are tying your current understanding to a period of time beginning at some point in the past. If that point in the past isn't understood in the context, you need to supply it. This is why Tᴚoɯɐuo (that is one hard name to write) suggests that you say something like "all along" when you use it.

If you simply say This is what I have understood you are implying that you understand this now, and you have had that understanding over a period of time. You can leave that period of time unspecified, but you are conveying that that period of time exists.

There are situations where both present and past perfect have pretty much the same meaning, which is what makes the difference a bit difficult to understand. Suppose you say these:

This is what I understand from your explanation.
This is what I have understood from your explanation.

The reason that these have the same meaning is that in both cases, you get your understanding from the explanation. So, both mean that you understand this now, and both mean that you have gained your understanding from the period of time over which the explanation took place. That is implied in the sentence in the present tense, and specified in the sentence in the present perfect.

  • BobRodes, for example we can say "I've lost my keys" which denotes a recent past action with strong connection to the present such as keys are still lost. Similarly we can say "I've finished the homework" which can denote I am free to go out. Can't we use the same logic (connection to the present) in my original examples? Because you more empasize period of time. Is my comparison(losing keys and homework) here essentially same with your explanations? – bart Dec 5 '17 at 22:19
  • @bart They are essentially the same as my last explanation: it would make no difference whether you say I or I've in these two examples. In your original sentence, I believe the distinction is more clear. I would use the present, there. – BobRodes Dec 5 '17 at 23:04
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Misunderstanding commences at some point during her talk and continues after she has finished unless cleared up.

Thus, you could use the present to describe the misunderstanding:

They do not understand what she is saying.

or the present perfect in combination with the present perfect, with the present, or with the past:

They do not understand what she has said.

They have not understood what she has said.

They have not understood what she said.

or the past in combination with the past:

They did not understand what she said.

It depends on where the speaker positions things temporally.

  • Tᴚoɯɐuo,indeed I am referring understanding rather than misunderstanding. Her explanation lasts around 2 minutes. She clarifies her points during the last 30 seconds upon receiving some comments from other colleague.These comments make her feel she has been misunderstood. However for me from the very beginnning her explanations were clear. Therefore after her speech is it okey to say "I've thought the same" or "I've understood the same" to show my common point of view with her. You give examples with the verb "understand" Can we use "think" in the same way such as "I've thought the same"? – bart Dec 5 '17 at 20:54
  • You have the option of present perfect or past, depending upon whether you want to describe your current state of understanding which began during the talk and still exists, or the unfolding of events during the talk which talk is now a thing of the past. I have understood you all along or I understood you all along. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 '17 at 21:16
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    With the pres. perf, all along extends from the beginning of the talk up to and including the moment of your speaking. With the past, it extends from the beginning of the talk up to the end of the talk. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 '17 at 21:20
  • Do I have to use "all along", instead can't I say "I've understood"? Also, can you please explain the usage with verb think, can I similarly say "I've thought the same" ? – bart Dec 5 '17 at 21:25
  • No, you don't have to, but it makes your meaning clearer if you mean "since the beginning". I've thought the same means "I have had the same idea myself** or I have come to the same conclusion myself (though I might have abandoned the idea or have changed my mind). The present perfect is non-committal with respect to your present opinion. It does not mean I think the same myself. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 5 '17 at 22:09

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