Let's don't have a particular, but I really want it. Now it's my birthday and my friend gives it to me as a present. Which tense do I use in this context to say that I wanted this book for a long time: the present perfect or past perfect? For example:

Friend: Here is what I got for you.

Me: Wow! I have always wanted this book. / Wow! I had always wanted this book.

I think it should be I had always wanted this book because my friend has given it to me and the fact that always wanted is in the past. Tell me please if my logic is right.

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    No. You should use Present Perfect have always wanted here, because the "current reference time" is now = time of speaking. You only want Past Perfect if the reference time is already in the past - for example When he gave it to me yesterday, I was really pleased, because I had always wanted it. And even there many native speakers might still use Present Perfect (because it wasn't very long ago, and they're still really pleased). In general, you should look for ways to not need Past Perfect - most learners overuse it rather than underuse it. Jan 14, 2021 at 11:15
  • I was called away from keyboard immediately after typing that (cups of tea don't brew themselves in my house! :), but I assumed someone else must have already asked something pretty close to this. We've certainly had umpteen questions in the general area of Present Perfect vs Past Perfect, and it seems to me that in most cases the problem is that the OP mistakenly thinks he should be using Past Perfect when actually it should be either Simple Past or Present Perfect. Anyway, having said that, I shall now search for the postulated duplicate... Jan 14, 2021 at 12:02
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    Does this answer your question? "Have never won" v/s "had never won" Jan 14, 2021 at 12:10
  • Not really. The answers to the question don't address the problem I had with the present perfect and past perfect in the context I provided. Jan 14, 2021 at 13:48
  • Oh. Well my advice is Don’t use the perfect unless you need it. And especially, don't use Past Perfect if you don''t "need" it. Imho in your exact context it's a complete waste of time to go thinking about things like "When did I want it?** (with a view to thinking Now I've got it, so I must have wanted it in the more distant past, some time before being given it). You could just forget about the perfect altogether in your example context, and just reply Wow! I always wanted that book! Jan 14, 2021 at 14:18

2 Answers 2


"I have always wanted this book" is correct. You wanted the book, and you still want the book, so you are pleased to have received the book.

The alternative option you present would be used in a sentence like "I had always wanted the book but now I find it brings me no joy" to indicate that you did want it but you don't want it now.

  • Thank you for the answer! Could you tell me how "I had always wanted the book" is difference from "I always wanted the book"? Jan 14, 2021 at 17:35
  • @DmytroO'Hope I would interpret I have always wanted the book and I always wanted the book in exactly the same way, but in written English I would include the have or write I've rather than omitting it altogether. Also, if you receive a present, this book is correct rather than the book. Jan 14, 2021 at 17:56

"I had always wanted this book " that means your interest about that book was past. "I have always wanted this book " that mens you were searching for that book and you got it.

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