0

This was a question given to me by an English tutor. I was asked to choose between the Present Perfect Simple, or the Present Perfect Continuous for of the verb.

-> "We ____________ on the next actions to take before engaging them." (verb: decide)

To me, the past simple was correct because of the time marker at the end of the sentence also being in the past, indicating the action completed:

-> "We decided on the next actions to take before engaging them."

Also, present simple and continuous would be fine. But the tutor said I must choose a perfect tense. I chose the
Present Perfect Continuous:

-> "We have been deciding on the next actions to take before engaging them."

... but she told me that was wrong and it was the Present Perfect Simple:

-> "We have decided on the next actions to take before engaging them."

That seems wrong to me. My tutor was unable to explain. I can understand why almost other tenses could be used here, but not the Present Perfect Simple.

  • Deciding is not usually a drawn-out process, so a continuous tense is less likely, though it can sometimes occur. But here, you are referring to a completed action, so a simple past or perfect would do. The choice between simple past and perfect depends on whether the speaker is thinking of the decision as having relevance to the present or not: neither is wrong. – Colin Fine May 29 at 16:19
  • Both versions are grammatical. Simply saying that one is wrong is objectively in error, there is more context about what was expected than is provided in the question, or the tutor was making some kind of statement about an assumed style (and the use of wrong means something different than ungrammatical). – Jason Bassford May 29 at 18:49
5

You use different ways to describe different things. Each of the four ways you said are correct in the right situation. So insisting that only one can be used is daft.

Continuous vs simple is about whether the action took place over an extended time (and whether that is important to express). If I ask what you have been doing in the last four hours, you would say @we have been deciding” and not “we decided”. But if I asked “what are your plans now” you would say “we decided to do X” or “we have decided to do X” because I don’t care how long your decision took.

| improve this answer | |
  • As gnasher729 says, there is no grammatical basis for a choice of either tense. (But be careful how you take this up with your tutor.) – Ronald Sole May 29 at 12:26
0

We ____________ on the next actions to take before engaging them.

You indicated that the simple past seems correct to you because the time marker at the end of the model sentence is in the past.  Based on this sentence alone, I have no reason to agree with you. 

We will decide on the next actions to take before engaging them. 

The phrase "before engaging them" has no tense.  It has a non-finite verb form.  Even though we traditionally call this form the present participle, it doesn't indicate either the present or the past.  It indicates the active voice and the continuous aspect, but it's placement in time could be anywhere in the past, present or future. 

 
The two options under consideration imply that "engaging them" lies in the future: 

1)  We have been deciding on the next actions to take before engaging them. 
2)  We have decided on the next actions to take before engaging them. 

In the absence of further context, both options are sound and sensible.  The action of deciding began in the past.  In the first option, that action continues.  It began in the past, continues now, and is expected to end in the future.  In the second, it does not continue.  The action began in the past, ended in the past, and its results exist in the present. 

One important phrase in the paragraph above is "in the absence of further context".  Chances are very good that both you and your tutor have further context.  It's also likely that you don't have the same context, or at least you don't have the same understanding of the context involved. 

What you want to know is why your tutor assumes that the action of deciding is complete.  The model sentence on its own doesn't provide that essential context.  You'll need your tutor to explain why she assumes that the decision-making process has ended. 

It is possible that your tutor is teaching from incomplete or incorrect materials.  If the publisher of these exercises failed to provide enough context to make its answer key sensible, then there's nothing that you, your tutor, or any of us reading your question can do about that mistake. 

 
If "engaging them" does indeed lie in the past (as you initially suggested) then the most obvious perfect-aspect fit for the blank would be a past perfect construction: 

We had decided on the next actions to take before engaging them. 

| improve this answer | |
0

You say:

I was asked to choose between the Present Perfect Simple, or the Present Perfect Continuous for of the verb.

Then you say:

To me, the past simple was correct because of the time marker at the end of the sentence also being in the past, indicating the action completed:

Past simple cannot have been correct because it was not one of the choices in the exercise.

I also note that the phrase "before engaging them" is not necessarily in the past. Because it uses the present participle engaging, it could refer to some unspecified future engagement. For example: tomorrow I will eat lunch before going out.

Frankly, I'm hard pressed to come up with a tense that can't be used there. The phrase before engaging them is relative to whatever time you establish in the first part of the sentence, not the other way around, as noted in other answers. The correct choice depends on what you're trying to say. If that was given as part of the exercise, you won't get a good answer here unless you include it in the question.

I also note that the antecedent of "them" here appears to be "actions," but one doesn't normally "engage" an action, so it's possible that the antecedent is in an earlier sentence.

Here are two possible contexts:

  • Yesterday, we hired a lawyer and an engineer in connection with the planned transaction. We decided on the next actions to take before engaging them. The decision was...

  • Today, we are thinking about hiring a lawyer and an engineer in connection with the planned transaction. We have been deciding on the next actions to take before engaging them. Once we have reached a decision...

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.