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I have a question about present perfect with this sentence:

The country has been ravaged by the war.

When I asked my English native speaker friends, they said the war was occurring and now is NOT ongoing. But how about this sentence?:

Yemen has been ravaged by a three-year civil conflict that has the country fighting a growing cholera epidemic. Bloomberg

My friends said it seemed like the civil war was still ONGOING, but they could not explain why.

Could you please help me with it? What makes the difference?

Thank you so much.

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The first sentence is ambiguous as to the state of the war. Just from it, I would not agree with the assumption that the war has passed.

Mostly likely their thinking is that if the war were ongoing, they would hear:

The country is being ravaged by the war.

But I've heard numerous news reports about ongoing wars where has been ravaged is used. Just because the war isn't over doesn't mean that the country hasn't already been ravaged. (Or that it can't be ravaged more.)

Since people watching the news are aware of the status of the war, there is no reason to be more explicit.


The second sentence is just as ambiguous as the first one, but there's a key phrase that likely indicates why an assumption is being made about it being ongoing:

Yemen has been ravaged by a three-year civil conflict that has the country fighting a growing cholera epidemic.

However, all this really says is that there's an ongoing cholera epidemic. The war itself could well have stopped some time ago, and the country is simply dealing with its consequences.

But the addition of that phrase in the second sentence could explain why a different assumption is being made.


In short, there is no difference between the has been ravaged in the two sentences. It's simply a matter of assumptions (rightly or wrongly) that are being made.

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In the first example,

The country has been ravaged by the war.

there is no indication whether the war is still ongoing or not... it might have ended, leaving the country ravaged, or the war is continuing, already having damaged the country. But in the example below, had implies this was clearly in the past.

The country had been ravaged by the war.

  • Thanks. Then in the sentence, “Yemen has been ravaged by a three-year civil conflict that has the country fighting a growing cholera epidemic.” we are not sure whether the civil conflict is still ongoing? – Mango Gummy Sep 21 '18 at 3:43
  • Yes. It might have been in the recent past, or ongoing, from that sentence (and it is indeed ongoing, regrettably). – DrMoishe Pippik Sep 23 '18 at 0:22

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