Is it correct to use present perfect tense and say "I have thought so" during a talk when referring a reply. For example in a context where I have been looking for my keys for the last a couple of minutes.

Me: I am still looking for my keys. My friend: Keys are on the table in living room. Me: I have thought so.

In this context, thinking action lasts just a couple of seconds and it is complete and over a moment ago before I say " I have thought so "; therefore it belongs to recent past. Especially in British English as seen below links, present perfect is used for the events that happen in recent past which is also called perfect of recent past.

Can I similarly use present perfect above context to relate my thought with my friend's answer? Or can I only use present perfect if thought is still in my mind at the moment I say "I have thought so" ? Can you explain please?

https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:404674/FULLTEXT01.pdf http://www.glossary.sil.org/term/perfect-recent-past

  • 2
    "I thought so." is an idiom. It is an affirmation that does not really imply a mental process.
    – user3169
    Dec 17, 2017 at 22:21

1 Answer 1


The present perfect is most commonly used in three ways

  1. To describe a life experience, I have eaten snake.
  2. To describe repeated, discreet actions that have continued up to the present moment, We have received many phone calls supporting our cause.
  3. To describe actions recently completed, The doors have closed.

Thoughts are discreet events. You can be thinking something, but if you have a thought, by the time you describe it, it's complete.

Looking at the above list, the only one that fits is if you have certain repeated thoughts, that continue up to the present moment. Normally you will include some kind of adverb to describe the frequency.

A: So you think you should only serve white wine with fish?
B: I have often thought so, but I recently read you can pair something like a dry pinot noir with salmon. So I'll have to try it and let you know.

Otherwise use the simple past to indicate a complete thought, or the past progressive to indicate an ongoing thought, concurrent with some other action:

A: Did you find your keys in your coat pocket?
B: I was thinking I left them there, but then I saw them on the mantle.

You can also use the past perfect:

I had thought I left my keys in my coat, but then I found them in my jeans.

(Edit) The idiomatic way to say this is with the simple past:

A: Here are your keys, on the table in the living room.
B: Aha! I thought so.
A: But you didn't know so, otherwise you would have looked there first.

(Note the difference between thinking something and knowing it.)

  • Hi Andrew, I understand. Allow me to clarify with a similar context. What if the thought is still in my mind by the time I say "I've thought so"? If thinking action starts seconds ago and it is still in my mind when replying to my friend who has just said "The keys are on the desk" can I use present perfect?
    – bart
    Dec 18, 2017 at 21:22
  • I'm not sure you can have a thought and express that thought at the same time ... but all questions of basic cognition aside, it's simply not idiomatic. "I had thought so" would work, if you want to relate the thought to a subsequent event.
    – Andrew
    Dec 19, 2017 at 0:05
  • Hi Andrew, allow me to clarify some more. So do you indeed mean in both of my scenarios (thought is over a moment ago and thought is still in my mind) there isn't semantically any relation with present therefore it isn't natural to use perfect of recent past? Can you give me examples if possible with verb think and present perfect in recent past context?
    – bart
    Dec 19, 2017 at 18:36
  • @bart It's not idiomatic to use "think" with the present perfect in the way you describe. "I've often thought she had hidden talents", for example, is the only context that works, but this implies repeated thoughts over a significant time span, and not a recent, isolated event. The correct way to express that you knew were the keys were is, "I thought so".
    – Andrew
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:02

You must log in to answer this question.

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