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I have been confused about using these three tenses for a long time, especially with some kinds of words. So I will share my understanding about these three tense by an example. Could you confirm whether I'm right or wrong?
Context: I go to a bar alone and then I see a girl there alone too. I want to make friend, so I come in and ask her: "Are you here alone?".
A: "Are you here alone?" is simple present tense about present state. If I want to change the sentence to " Do you come here alone?" Is it still correct? Or the sentence should be:
B: Did you come here alone?
C: Have you come here alone?
Following is my understanding:
B1: I think B is wrong because simple past refer to things happened and finished in the past. Therefore, if I use simple past, It means that she is not alone now. Am i right?
C1: I think this one is possibly correct. Because the action: "come" happened in the past but the time it happened is not important, so we can use present perfect here. Moreover, It has caused the result relevant to the present( she is alone now)
Could you confirm to me, which ones are correct?
A: Are you here alone/ Do you come here alone?
B: Did you come here alone?
C: Have you come here alone?
Thank you so much

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'Are you here alone?' is fine. If she answers "yes", then she is letting you know that she is not with someone.

'Do you come here alone?' is more likely to be interpreted as, 'Do you often come here alone?' If she answers 'Yes', then it establishes that she does come here alone often, but it does not establish that she is alone tonight.

'Did you come here alone?' also has problems. She may have come hers by herself, but she may have met someone after she arrived. So, she may honestly answer your question with 'Yes', but it does not establish that she is not with someone now.

'Have you come here alone?' has the same problems as 'Did you come here alone?', i.e. She may have come hers by herself, but she may have met someone after she arrived. Further, there is a risk that she will interpret the question as meaning, 'Have you ever come here alone?' In this case, it makes no difference whether she answers 'Yes' or 'No', it tells you nothing about the current situation.

I have probably been a bit harsh with my critique above because,regardless which question you use, most women that I know would immediately recognize your question as indicating that you want to talk with them, and that you are really asking if they want to continue talking to you. If a woman answers 'Yes' to any of these questions then she is probably willing to talk with you, at least for a few minutes, but perhaps not much longer.

I discussed these questions with my daughter, who said that someone walking up to a single woman in a bar, and asking her if she is alone, is likely to make that woman very concerned. Single women know that there are predatory males looking for vulnerable women, and they know that they are potentially very vulnerable. An opening gambit such as you have suggested, may make her think that you are in this category, and she will try to avoid you at all costs or head for the nearest exit.

  • thank you for for explanation. By reading your comment, i think that i understand what is difference in the meaning of each kinds of the question. Actually, I just made up the example to specify my concern about using tenses in English. I have never approached someone who is alone too. :)). – Huong Jul 9 '18 at 2:45

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