Let’s suppose that a few days ago your friend recommended a certain book to you, so later on you took went out and bought that book for yourself.

How would you normally relate the foregoing sequence of events in modern English?

Let’s further assume also that your friend has continued to recommend that you should buy this particular book on more than one occasion since that time, and the book is now in your possession.

This article explains that modern speaker can use either of (a) the past tense alone ("simple past") or else (b) the present tense along with a past participle ("present perfect").

As a foreigner, I am thinking of the following four options:

  1. I bought the book that you recommended to me.
    (Recent actions, just facts, no reference to the present.)

  2. I've bought the book that you recommended to me.
    (Reference to the present: I now have the book.)

  3. I bought the book that you have recommended to me.
    (Reference to the fact that the friend made the same book recommendation more than once.)

  4. I bought the book that you had recommended to me.
    (Recent action via normal past tense without a participle + earlier action via past tense with a past particple ["past perfect"].)

For me it seems that every one of those four options may have some grammatical logic justifying its use, so I cannot decide which to choose. So my question is about native speakers' habits in this scenario. How would you say it normally, whether in speaking or writing.

  • 2
    Or "I bought that book you recommended"
    – KillingTime
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:13
  • 4
    Side note, and a common mistake, "recommended me" will sound a bit off to many native speakers. It would be "recommended" or "recommended to me".
    – jimm101
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:16
  • [correction: talking about recent actions, not telling.]
    – Lambie
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:26
  • If your friend mentions it once more, a simple "I bought it" or "I've bought it" should be enough.
    – Centaurus
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:53
  • As you suggest in the question, it depends on the wider context and whether there's a reference to the present. "I bought the book" but "I've bought the book, and now I'm going to read it".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


1 or 2 would be fine, depending on whether you want to make the connection to the present (ie and now I have the book) or are just giving the facts. Native speakers wouldn't think much about this choice of tense, and nor should you. There is no error in either form.

The part "that you recommended" should be in the past tense. If you need to emphasise the repeated recommendations you might use "that you were recommending" or "have been recommending". Again don't think too much about this. There's no error either way. (and even "have recommended" would not be so bad)

There's no need for a past perfect. Again it's not wrong, but there's nothing to justify it in the context given.

And so the simplest "just the facts" form would be "I bought the book that you recommended." In context it might be even simpler "I bought that book".


None of your sentences fully describe the situation. Sentence #3 does not indicate your friend made the recommendation more than once.

When you describe the situation using the present perfect tense-

I bought the book that you have recommended.

You miss relaying the information about your friend continuing to ask about the book over the timeframe. If your friend had only recommended the book once to you, the present perfect would work fine.

Please keep in mind that this sentence also works with your situation if you are not interested in expressing your friend's multiple recommendations. It does not explicitly indicate that your friend did ask multiple times over the timeframe but it also does not explicitly indicate that they did not.

To indicate that your friend's recommendation has been recurring over the timeframe you use present perfect continuous tense.

I [have] bought the book that you have been recommending.

  • Should be "fully describes" in the singular, not "fully describe" in the plural. The subject is singular: not one of them describes it fully.
    – tchrist
    Apr 4, 2022 at 18:26
  • @tchrist - Incorrect. None may act as a plural or singular noun depending on the noun it modifies. None of the island remains visible after the tsunami. One island has disappeared. None of the islands remain visible after the tsunami. All of the islands have disappeared. None of your sentences.... follows the same rule.
    – EllieK
    Apr 4, 2022 at 18:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .