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Can a teacher ask: "Have you brushed your teeth this morning?"
if a child is at school and has no opportunity to brush them later that morning if they haven't yet, because their brush is at home?

Or should past simple be used, because the child has no opportunity to brush them before the morning is over?

My question is really about the opportunity to do it that morning.

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  • 1
    It is still morning, does the teacher know whether the child has not brought their toothbrush or not? Let's presume the teacher doesn't. Either form: "Have you brushed / Did you brush your teeth this morning?" would be acceptable. Some American speakers will prefer the latter form.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 16:44
  • @Mari-Lou A It is still morning and the child hasn't brought their brush. Is present perfect stil acceptable?
    – anouk
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 16:48
  • If the teacher already knew that the child had forgotten their toothbrush, then I would prefer the simple past because the teacher cannot know if the pupil's teeth were cleaned that same morning. It either happened or it didn't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 16:52
  • 1
    Because it either happened or not at a specific moment in the morning, the time when the pupil was getting ready for school. But I wouldn't object if I heard or read someone using the present perfect.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 17:00

1 Answer 1

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A teacher can ask that. The fact that the child doesn't have the opportunity to brush their teeth is irrelevant. British English is more likely to favour present perfect. American English is more likely to favour past tense.

It is unlikely that a teacher would ask that question. Teeth-brushing is normally the responsibility of the parent (and the child).

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  • So a teacher can use present perfect even if the child has no opportunity to brush their teeth at school that morning if they didn't brush them before coming to school?
    – anouk
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 17:10
  • 2
    Yes, If the teacher is implicity asking "Are your teeth clean now". It is irrelevant that the child won't have the opportunity to brush them or not.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 17:21
  • Children at nursery and playschool often brush their teeth after lunch (at least that's the case in the part of Italy where I live) The children have their own toothbrushes with their names or a picture which identifies the owner. Because it is also the teacher's responsibility to teach them good habits.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 17:33
  • @James K "Yes, If the teacher is implicity asking "Are your teeth clean now". It is irrelevant that the child won't have the opportunity to brush them or not." Does the same principle apply to "Have you had breakfast this morning?"
    – anouk
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 17:44
  • 2
    Yes..............................
    – James K
    Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 18:14

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