What is the difference in meaning between:

  1. I remember having visited your sister in France.
  2. I remember visiting your sister in France.

When should I use one, and when should I use the other? Also, does the first form have a name?


This answer (Having+past participle as a gerund) seems to ask the same question, but it doesn't seem to address the difference between having + past participle, versus using a gerund.

This answer (When can I use "having + past participle"?) asks the same question, but the answer doesn't clarify when to use one vs the other.

Additional Extra Question: There is no stackexchange site for questions asking for comparison and contrast between two languages, but I had great success on one of my early questions here on ELL.stackexchange asking for a comparison between English and the Romance langauges, so I will risk asking this here.

The reason I even thought to ask this question is because I just learned that French has a similar construction. I didn't even realize that "having + past participle" was a construction in my own (English) language, until now!

If anyone can tell me if meaning and usage between these two constructions is identical, between French and English, I would appreciate that.

  • Forget "gerund". "Remember(ed), having and visited are all verbs. Btw, did you mean to use past tense "remembered" in your first example and present tense "remember" in the second? – BillJ Dec 26 '17 at 10:19
  • ugh, thanks for the very major correction, @BillJ – silph Dec 26 '17 at 10:35

The difference becomes clearer when you use different verbs but the same formation:

"I regretted having programmed the doomsday device"

"I regret programming the doomsday device"

In the first the regret is in the past, it might be possible to infer that the writer still regrets programming the doomsday device from context, but that is not explicitly made clear in the sentence. In the second the regret it current.

In your example, when reporting that you previously remembered something you cannot help but remember that thing now and to state that you remember something now you must've have remembered it previously (even if it was just the instant before you spoke), so there isn't a real distinction in the meaning. However your first sentence has a literary tone, i.e. a writer may chose the first sentence over the second, whereas the first is more everyday language. I would always use the second sentence in speech as the first may come across as ever-so-slightly pretentious to some listeners.

  • Yes, but you could also say, "I regretted programming the doomsday device" as well as using having regretted. I think silph is asking whether they are interchangeable in most instances. – Nick Dec 26 '17 at 8:40
  • actually: I'm wondering if there is a difference between "I regret programming" and "I regret having programmed" (notice, "regret" is in the present tense in both cases). – silph Dec 26 '17 at 9:47
  • 1
    In which case I would use a different example: "I like visiting your sister in France" and "I like having visited your sister in France". The first expresses something about an action, the second expresses something about a completed action. Remembering/regretting are usually only things you do about completed actions so the difference is less clear/moot. – John Davis Dec 26 '17 at 10:08
  • @JohnDavis, if you wrote that into a response, I would accept it as the answer. Now all I want to know is: what are these two different constructions called, grammatically, if I wanted to google them and learn more about them on my own? -- note: oh, i see you were the original writer of the response that these comments are on! okay, i'll accept this response as the answer, then. – silph Dec 26 '17 at 10:38
  • Read the section on gerunds and the following section on nonfinite constructions: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uses_of_English_verb_forms#Gerund – John Davis Dec 26 '17 at 11:00

First, they're both gerunds above as "having" is a gerund in that situation and so is "visiting". To answer your question: No, there is no difference in English.

I remember having visited my sister in France = I remember visiting my sister in France.

It also is translated into French the same way:

Je me souviens d'avoir rendu visite à ma soeur en France. ("avoir rendu (visite)" literally means "to have returned/paid (a visit)" or "having returned/paid (a visit)")

I shall say this, though: I'm not a native French speaker, so I could be wrong about this. I would ask a native French speaker to check my French translation above as well as my explanation that the same translation into French would occur for both forms in English; however, I am a native English speaker and I do know that having is a gerund in the gerund phrase having visited above as is visiting. I also know that they both mean the same thing in English; one is just wordier than the other one or slightly more formal. I say slightly more formal because having visited may be used more when the time of the visit is unknown or unimportant whereas visiting may occur or, at least, be more proper when the time is definitely known or important:

I remember visiting my sister last summer.

I remember having visited my sister many times over the years.

This may, however, be a distinction without a difference and I presume it is a rule that is seldom followed. I would, therefore, aver that they, for all intents and purposes, mean the same thing.

I hope this might have helped you out. Take care and good luck.

P.S. As I think about it, it may be possible to say it this way in French and I think it would mean the same as avoir rendu above:

Je me souviens de rendre visite à ma soeur en France.

If there should be any native French speakers around who know whether I am correct, let me know by way of a comment or answer. I would say it with "avoir" plus a past participle, but, again, I am not a native French speaker.

  • About this seldomly-followed rule with "I remember visiting" as having a more distinct time period, and "I remember having visited" as having a general time period -- is there a name for this rule? Indeed, even though "having" is a gerund, too, it feels like it is somehow creating a grammatically unique idea, and thus should have its own name? – silph Dec 26 '17 at 9:51
  • Also: I perhaps should have been more clear in my original post by giving what I learned as the french constructions, but I didn't want to clutter the main question for ELL! Indeed, the two constructions would be "Je me souviens d'avoir [past participle]" and "Je me souviens de [infinitive]". – silph Dec 26 '17 at 9:53
  • I don't know it off the top of my head, but it may have its own name. I could try to look it up and get back to you later. – Nick Dec 26 '17 at 18:34

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.