I recently read this paragraph on a website (https://taiwancanhelp.us), but I'm a bit confused about if the grammar is correct in these two sentences:

  1. "Taiwan, having been isolated from the World Health Organization, knows."

The author used 'having been' in this sentence, even though this status is still true now (being isolated from the WHO).

I thought 'having been' is used to describe something that happened in the past, but no longer in the present?

In this case, shouldn't the sentence be "Taiwan, who has always been isolated from the WHO, knows."?

Or can 'having been' be used in this context, even though what it's describing is still a fact in the present time?

  1. "That is why we are contributing to international efforts by sharing how we have contained the outbreak, kept our schools and businesses open, and ensured masks for all."

This sentence also confused me a bit. The context of this sentence is saying that Taiwan is sharing its strategy with others on how the country has contained the outbreak without shutting schools and businesses, and how the country can secure the quantity of masks for its citizens.

Instead of using a comma, would '...how we have contained the outbreak while keeping our schools and businesses open' or '...how we have contained the outbreak without shutting our schools and businesses' suit the context better? (or not making any difference?)

Also, I find 'ensured masks for all' a bit odd to read. Somehow it feels like some info is missing... I do understand that the author might want to keep the sentence as short as possible for better reading experience, but somehow it sounds strange to me while reading.

Is this a correct usage of the term 'ensure'? If not, how can the sentence be improved?

Ps. This website is a crowd-funded campaign in Taiwan, so I've read the original Mandarin content before it was translated into English (making it hard for me to judge if the grammar will affect people's understanding of the context). I'm just very curious about if the grammar of these two sentences are correct, and if not, will this kind of minor errors affect people's understanding of the context?

Thank you in advance! Hope everyone is safe and sound. :)

1 Answer 1


Please try not to ask multiple questions within a single question post. But because it's your first, I'll answer them all anyway.

Having been isolated in the first sentence translates to a corresponding present perfect construction (I believe in general it translates to a perfect construction, meaning it could also be a past perfect depending on context), which means it's completely fine since the effects of some action described using a present perfect construction extend into the present.

As far as the second example is concerned, the meaning of the proposed sentence is effectively the same as that of the original. The original does so by implying that all of that is happening during the outbreak, while yours states it explicitly. There is no confusion, however, and the original phrasing doesn't hinder comprehension.

The only potential problem I find with that sentence is the unexpected parallelism; somehow I would rather the sentence read (with the proposed changes in parentheses):

That is why we are contributing to international efforts by sharing how we have contained the outbreak, (how we have) kept our schools and businesses open, and (optional how we have) ensured masks for all.

But the original isn't really objectionable, it just caught me a bit by surprise, so I had to go back and re-read that part because by the time I reached the comma and read the word that follows (kept), I'd already forgotten about the how we have, but that just might be me.

Now, as far as the usage of the verb ensure goes, in my opinion (I'm not a native speaker of English), ensure is used grammatically, but not idiomatically. It's only slightly off the mark, and the problem lies with the type of thing that's ensured. You normally ensure something more abstract (access, safety, quality, transport, peace, well-being, stability, survival, and so on), and that's because ensuring means making sure some event or condition actualizes.

Another way of using ensure would be ensure (that) someone does something / someone gets something / something happens, etc.

Using the Corpus of Contemporary American English, I wasn't able to find any instances where ensure is used with something "concrete" (where it was followed by a noun, it was something like ensure food was provided, and that's not an example of the verb's transitive usage).

I would therefore simply replace the word ensured with secured or, if I were to keep it, I'd say ensured that everyone has a mask, or ensured masks were provided for everyone, or something similar.

  • Thank you very much for your comment, and sorry for asking multiple questions in one post. (I thought since they're all from the same paragraph, it's okay to put them under the same post.) Your answer perfectly cleared my doubt on the term having been, so thank you very much! Apr 16, 2020 at 13:16
  • My first response to the second example was the same as yours: I also thought that how we have should be added after the comma between ... contained the outbreak... and ...kept schools & businesses open... to make it smoother. That's why I came up with other two sentences in my original post, trying to link them instead of using a comma, thinking it might sound clearer. Apr 16, 2020 at 13:18
  • Ensure sounds a bit strange to me when reading the sentence as well, as I haven't seen this term used directly on a specific object before (but I didn't know if it's just me or if this term really isn't suitable here, though it might not affect the meaning of the sentence; thus I included this in my question). I also thought secure might be a more suitable word when I read the sentence. Thank you again for your kind answer! Wish you a great day. :) Apr 16, 2020 at 13:23

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