For decades, we’ve been unable to achieve localized production of materials, parts and equipment and the diversification of their import sources in some areas. However, just 100 days after relevant measures were taken, tangible and meaningful results are beginning to emerge.
Source: Address by President Moon Jae-in at National Assembly

Could you please explain why the writer chose the present perfect instead of the simple past tense?

As far as I know, the perfect present is used when the result of the perfect present is related with the present. But I can’t see the relation between the perfect present and the present in this sentence.

And doesn’t the sentence sound like the state being unable to achieve the localization continues even in the present? When I read only the first sentence itself, I was not sure whether the action continuesor not. Of course, after reading the second sentence we realized this present perfect is used as the completion of the action, but still, only with the first sentence, how can I know it? I’m not sure how to use the present perfect to clearly show the described action is finished.

Please help me, and sorry for many questions.

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Canonical Post #2: What is the perfect, and how should I use it? Oct 25, 2019 at 12:51
  • Perhaps I chose that "earlier duplicate" in haste. The specific question, “have been” vs “were” looking for more specifically covers your issue ("Both are fine. The difference is in how the speaker is choosing to frame the event in time"). All that means is Present Perfect focuses more on the current situation - because by strong implication that "inability to achieve" is about to or has just transitioned into a new state where we can do whatever we couldn't before. Oct 25, 2019 at 13:44
  • @FumbleFingers Thank you very much. Then how can I tell whether the action described by the present perfect is finished or not? Should I tell it only by the context instead of the grammar or the structure of the sentence? Oct 25, 2019 at 13:54
  • 1
    You can't necessarily tell whether the action referenced by Present Perfect has finished or not, except by context. The important thing about this tense usage is it tells you that whatever is being referenced, it started in the past, and has some particular relevance to current time (of utterance). Maybe it's relevant because it's still happening, because it recently stopped, or it's just about to stop. In your context, President Moon wants to emphasize that the situation just changed / is changing / will change soon, but it could be any of those three descriptions. Oct 25, 2019 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


For decades, we were unable to achieve localized production of materials

We tried or wanted X once, and gave up. Since we are specifying a long stretch of time, what this really means is we were waiting until conditions were right for X.

For decades, we’ve been unable to achieve localized production of materials

We have tried to or wanted to achieve X various times over decades, and each time it didn't work.

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