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When I see someone of my family in the morning, how should I ask them?

  1. Hullo, have you brushed your teeth?
  2. Hullo, did you brush your teeth?

And what tense would fit better with an adjunct "already"?

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  • If you habitually greet members of your family by asking whether they've brushed their teeth, I think you might be living in a "dysfunctional family"! :) Mar 20, 2021 at 12:19
  • @ FumbleFingers As usual you are a very interesting person to assort with! I mean the little members of my family. "Did you brush your teeth, my little cutie? - Yes. Then go and comb your hair,- says I :))". Present Perfect wouldn's suit here, would it?
    – Eugene
    Mar 20, 2021 at 12:30
  • I should say straight off that I have absolutely no preference between the two alternatives, and I think trying to claim some difference in meaning is just being silly. But you might find this NGram interesting. You can switch between Am|E and BrE corpuses, and you'll see that Americans have increasingly favouried the "do-support" version in recent decades, whereas Brits have always been perfectly happy with either. Mar 20, 2021 at 12:38
  • @FumbleFingers Having gone by this link I found interesting the for some reason downvoted answer of "luther" (I can't tell by his English whether he is a native speaker). What is your oppinion on his answer?
    – Eugene
    Mar 20, 2021 at 17:14
  • Maybe you can't tell if "luther" is a native speaker, because you're not one yourself. But to me, it's really obvious that he's not. Which isn't in itself a reason to downvote, obviously. But so far as I can see, not only is that answer very badly written - much of what it's trying to say doesn't seem to be either true or useful anyway. There's some truth in the first "paragraph", in that Have you [verbed]? focuses on "now", whereas Did you [verb]? focuses on "then". But if you didn't already know that, I doubt you'd suddenly grasp it by reading such badly-phrased text. Mar 20, 2021 at 17:26

2 Answers 2

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Both are possible, but what you are really asking is "Are your teeth clean now? (as a result of you brushing them)"

Since you are interested in the present state resulting from a past action you would usually use "Have you brushed your teeth?"

Already further clarifies that you are asking about the present state, so naturally goes with the present perfect.

(But there is no grammatical error with "Did you..")

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  • Thank you. Will there be any difference if I'm focusing on the action itself (some circumstances of the action). "Did you brush your teeth? Then go and comb your hair." Would The Present Perfect seem expedient in this case?
    – Eugene
    Mar 20, 2021 at 11:03
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    If you are focussing on the past action, then it is quite correct to use past tense.
    – James K
    Mar 20, 2021 at 17:29
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    Asking Did you eat? instead of Have you eaten? doesn't make much difference in most contexts where all you want is a simple answer to a simple question. But Present Perfect have you puts the conversational focus more firmly on the present, so it works better if I'm asking because the answer determines whether I'm going to set another place at the table. And the "do-support" version works better if I'm interested in the past event itself (maybe my next question will be Who did you eat with before you came to visit me?). Mar 20, 2021 at 17:37
  • @James K Does it make any difference if there's still opportunity to brush your teeth or not? So, present perfect if there is still opportunity?
    – anouk
    Apr 30 at 14:44
  • No. "Did you brush your teeth? / No / Then go brush them now?" makes perfect sense.
    – James K
    Apr 30 at 16:24
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  1. Hullo, have you brushed your teeth? 2. Hullo, did you brush your teeth?

Example 1 refers more to events that have happened in that same morning, and example 2 refers more to events further back.

'already' goes better with example 1.

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  • Thank you. There is still a riddle for me why Americans use to say "I just ate a hot-dog" instead of gramatically more relevant: "I have just eaten a hot-dog" (as Britains do)?
    – Eugene
    Mar 20, 2021 at 10:19
  • It's one of the ways in which American and British English differ; that's all that can be said. Mar 20, 2021 at 10:46
  • @Eugene: It's nowhere near as black-and-white as you seem to think. Many Americans use the same phrasing you attribute to Brits, and vice-versa. But note that there would normally be contraction and "simplification" anyway in the "Perfect" form - I've just ate a hot-dog looks a little bit odd written down like that (where ate is pronounced et), but it's perfectly common in speech. And the 've is very "unstressed", so can easily be missed by people learning the language from speech only (and the US has always imported huge numbers of non-Anglophones). Mar 20, 2021 at 12:26

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