Is it common to use “yet” with Past Simple before Past Perfect Progressive? Or is it better to use Present Perfect?

Someone asked me :

Why you hadn’t written earlier?

I think a specific time is implied in my answer ( and that’s the reason I should use Simple Past) but at all I don’t know which one is flawless.

I haven’t written the letter yet because I had been caring for my sick mother all day.


I didn’t write the letter yet because I had been caring for my sick mother all day.

Source: English Grammar Digest by Trudy Aronson.

Dear administrators, I’m really sorry if there’s any grammatical mistakes in my topic, I've just started to learn English.

  • 3
    "Why you hadn’t written earlier?" is ungrammatical. It should be "Why hadn't you written earlier?".
    – rjpond
    Nov 1, 2020 at 11:39

2 Answers 2


I don't know the credentials of OP's source (Trudy Aronson), but so far as I'm concerned, any sentence of the general form [subject] didn't [infinitive verb] yet is inherently invalid (or at least, "awkward" compared to Past Perfect). Here's what Cambridge Dictionary has to say about it...

We use yet as an adverb to refer to a time which starts in the past and continues up to the present. We use it mostly in negative statements or questions in the present perfect. (emphasis mine)
We don’t use yet to refer to something that has happened. We use already

You can just about get away with Past Perfect in contexts like...

She had not yet left school when she married

...where the "temporal focus" is on the time of marriage. Normally, yet goes with Present Perfect, with the temporal focus on now (time of utterance). But the word yet is completely unnecessary in my cited context, and it seems inherently clumsy to me anyway, so I'd just omit it.

  • Why do they use "did you eat yet" in songs and signs instead of "have you eaten yet" ?
    – ronenfe
    Dec 11, 2023 at 6:01
  • Well, perhaps because you've been taught that's "incorrect", you're more likely to notice the relatively lower number of occurrences. Bear in mind native speakers don't learn how to talk from schoolteachers - they learn by listening and talking with other native speakers, many of whom don't know or care about stuff you were taught. We all tend to avoid Perfect forms if we can, but that particular example is much more common in America than Britain. Dec 11, 2023 at 12:01

Yet is perfectly acceptable and common in the past tense, especially in the present perfect. Yet most often means "up to the present/stated time". This could be in the present or the past tense.

In the examples above, the first reply is the better one.

I haven’t written the letter yet...

This is because there is a temporal relation to the present. The second option would work if the question that you were asked were the following:

Did you write the letter per our discussion yesterday?

In addition, I would use the same tense for both clauses:

I haven’t written the letter yet because I have been caring for my sick mother all day.

This is because you use the phrase all day which continues to the present.

In terms of the use of yet with the simple past, there seems to be some division between what's acceptable to American vs. British ears. In US English, I find the following sentence completely natural and grammatical (Note: I speak of "grammar" in the more general term. That is, part of natural language use):

No, I didn't send the letter yet.

One final note. The initial question that was asked of you could use some adjustment:

Why haven't you written earlier? Unless there's missing context, the pluperfect doesn't work for this simple question. The present perfect is better.

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  • 1
    You don't seem to have addressed the issue of using anything other than Past Perfect for events that started and finished in the past - as OP's second example I didn’t write the letter yet because I had been..., which I don't really find acceptable. Nov 1, 2020 at 13:59
  • Hm. This is grammatical to my American ears: "I didn’t write the letter yet because I have had to care for my sick mother all day." The problem I felt was with the tense of the second part of the sentence.
    – Ted Pal
    Nov 1, 2020 at 19:42

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