The following two paragraphs are taken from a news story. I'm wondering if the past-tense form "hit" and the present-perfect "has hit" should have been swithced around. At the very least, should the "has hit" have been changed into the simple past "hit"?

At least 189 people are dead and hundreds more remain missing after catastrophic flooding hit large swaths of western Europe, with tens of thousands unable to return to their homes and many still left without access to power and drinking water.

The flooding, caused by unprecedented rainfall, has hit parts of western Germany before shifting to neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands.

2 Answers 2


The first "hit" is fine.

The "has hit" should not be used with a time marker like "before." If a perfect tense were to be used at all, it should be the past perfect, but that is not required because the sequence in time is made clear by "before."

This answer has been edited in response to a comment by Colin Fine.

  • That article was by a Czech journalist working for CNN. Have you found any such unidiomatic language use from a prestigious news outlet such as CNN?
    – Apollyon
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 15:58
  • I disagree. While both are possible, in an after clause, I find the simple past far more natural than a perfect. And there is nothing wrong with has hit with a non-specific time marker like before. In short, I find both parts as quoted more natural than swapping them round,.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 15:58
  • @ColinFine Upon reflection, I agree with you that the simple past is better in the sentence about Europe for the reason given about time markers. I shall edit my answer accordingly. I cannot agree with you that the present perfect is correct in the sentence about Germany. The simple past would be fine as would the past perfect. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 16:16
  • @JeffMorrow: Upon rereading it, I agree with your about the second sentence. I somehow missed the end, and read before as an adverb rather than a conjunction. I think the present perfect is possible, emphasising that all the floods are recent, and have been going on for long enough to spread; but the simple past would be more natural.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 16:30

Present perfect can only be used if the grammar does not indicate that the event has finished.

So, the first "hit" is correct. In this context, it must be a finished time because if there's a situation "after" it, then it must be finished, and therefore not present perfect.

The second one is bad and should be "hit" for the same reason: "before" requires something to have happened before whatever happens after, so it is also a finished event, and cannot be present perfect.

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