I have read the following sentence:

I did not see it before you opened the door.

Could the Present Perfect be used instead of the Past Simple in the first clause (ie I have not seen it before you opened the door) ? If so, is there any difference in meaning ?

2 Answers 2


No. "I have not seen it...." is used to signify an ongoing timeframe - I did not see it in the past, and I do not see it now. (and did not see it in between the past and now.) Following it with the word "before" suddenly makes it a terminated timeframe.

To use "Have not seen it" you might say "I have not seen the cat since you opened the door." Before the door was open, you saw the cat. Starting when the door opened and continuing to the present, you do not see the cat.

Alternately, suppose the cat started off outside, and entered when the door was opened, allowing you to see it. A timeframe began in the past AND ended in the past. In that case, you might say:

I did not see the cat before you opened the door.

  • Is it ok to say: I didn't see it before you had opened the door.
    – Abu Omar
    Oct 2, 2019 at 20:04
  • @Adam My understanding is that the Present Perfect in general refers to an event which happened once in an imprecise past and affects the present somehow, not necessarily to something which lasts until now; the latter is the purpose of the Present Perfect Continuous. Right? Anyway, I guess that the Present Perfect is used for both contexts in stative verbs, which are not used in continuous tenses, such as "see". Oct 5, 2019 at 16:07

We can not use the present perfect but we can use the past perfect.

I had not seen it before you opened the door.

I did not see it before you opened the door

Both the sentences mean the samething and grammatically correct.

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