Could someone explain (in simple terms) which of the following are correct, and if they are correct, when to use them? Thanks.

  • has seen

  • had seen

  • had saw

  • has saw

Is this just a memorization thing? Thanks.

  • The last two only make sense in a kind of colloquial phrasing where saw is meant as the noun (the tool you use to saw things, such as pieces of wood). Just like we have the meme Got milk?, had saw and has saw could be used figuratively. Wow, that guy really has saw! Look at how quickly he built that house! (It would be unusual, but not incomprehensible.) But if you are using the verb form of saw, then the last two sentences are ungrammatical. Aug 30, 2019 at 1:03
  • It's not just a memorization thing, it's a context thing. The first two can be "correct," but they don't mean the same thing, so they are only correct if they correctly convey what you are trying to say. I can say, "Donuts are the healthiest food in the world," and there is nothing grammatically wrong with that syntax, but it's hardly a correct statement.
    – J.R.
    Aug 30, 2019 at 1:30
  • So considering only the first two (has seen, and had seen), what is the difference? (Thanks for the help!)
    – Jerry Qian
    Aug 30, 2019 at 1:41
  • These are the present perfect tense and past perfect tense. Start Here.. And this one. Plenty of reading is available here on ELL on “past perfect and present perfect.” Good luck! Aug 30, 2019 at 1:54
  • So if I understand correctly: the person has seen the dog. The person saw the dog a while ago, and still sees it. The person had seen the dog. The person saw the dog, but now cannot see it.
    – Jerry Qian
    Aug 30, 2019 at 2:03

1 Answer 1


Has seen means that the event (seeing) started and ended at least once before now. This statement compares the past to the present. The event happened at Time A, it is now Time B and we are talking about the present (Time B).

Had seen means that the event (seeing) started and ended in the past at least once before a second, more recent, time or event in the past that has now ended. This statement compares the past to the past. The event happened at Time A and ended before Time B. It is now Time C and we are talking about Time B.

Example: Jerry saw the dog once per day on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Wednesday, the dog chased him. If it is now Friday, we can say that

  • Jerry had seen the dog twice before it chased him on Wednesday.
  • Jerry has seen the dog three times (He saw it on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday).

Had saw and has saw are both incorrect. This is not just a memorization thing. Whether the event happened in the past relative to another in the past or relative to the present time determines which form to use.

  • Thanks. Makes more sense now.
    – Jerry Qian
    Aug 31, 2019 at 5:04

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