As far as I know, we should not use present perfect with definite time expressions. For example we cannot say:

1 The prices have increased in 1998.

But I've seen the following examples. Are they grammatical? It seems that this rule does not apply to there-cleft sentences.

2 There has been an increase in prices in 1998.

3 There had been a doomed Polish uprising in 1830, and there would be another in 1863.

4 There has been growing interest in proteomics in the last ten years.

5 There have been three pandemics, in 1918, 1957 and 1968.

  • 2
    There's nothing wrong with the prices have increased in 1998 if it means during the year and it was said at the end of 1998 (as your sentence 2 evidently was). Nov 13, 2022 at 14:51
  • @KateBunting But see this: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/245543/…. As said: "The issue is not grammar but meaning."
    – alireza
    Nov 13, 2022 at 15:08
  • 1
    At time of writing, Prices have increased in 2022 is fine, but Prices have increased in 2021 is not so good because 2021 is obviously in the past. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with I have quit smoking in 1996, 2014, and 2021 even if it's not attached to a clause focused on time of utterance (such as ...and 2021, but I've never stuck with it for more than a few weeks). Nov 13, 2022 at 15:56
  • Your sentence 3 has past perfect, not present perfect at all.
    – gotube
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:35
  • @FumbleFingers To have a correct punctuation, in your example, shouldn't we separate the time phrase with comma: "I have quit smoking, in 1996, 2014, and 2021"? Like the sentence number 5 in my example and also according to the answer of Kate Bunting.
    – alireza
    Nov 13, 2022 at 20:21

2 Answers 2

  1. Normally we would use the past tense ("was") here. However, as KB mentions in a comment, the present perfect is also used for an event that began in the past but continues into the present time, so this sentence could be correct if that was the case.

  2. Your rule doesn't apply here, since there is no use of the present perfect.

  3. This would be incorrect if "in the last ten years" defined the time of the event. However, that phrase is vague enough that the present perfect could be used. (It is also possible that growing interest still exists so that the sentence describes an event that began in the past but continues into the present time. In that case, this would be correct for the same reason that I mentioned in #2.)

  4. This is fine because the specific times are in a parenthetical phrase. Because that phrase is "removable", they don't restrict the tense of the verb.

(By the way, you should cite your examples.)

  • Thanks for your critique about citation. I saw them in a search on ludwig.guru. I will take your critique into account in my future posts.
    – alireza
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:58
  • Regarding the sentence number #2, if it was for an event that began in the past but continues into the present time, wouldn't it better to say "There has been an increase in prices since 1998"? I think saying "in 1998" restricts the claim of the sentence to the year 1998 and in this case (saying "in 1998") we cannot infer that the condition has continued to the present and I think it is the reason that we should not use "in" in this sentence to refer to a specific point of time. However like sentence #4 we can use it to refer to a specific period as Kate Bunting have said. Am I wrong?
    – alireza
    Nov 13, 2022 at 20:06
  • You have said: "so this sentence could be correct if that was the case." Think in this way: We know that this was the case or not. But the reader do not know necessarily. And our sentence should determine it for the reader that it was the case or not. I think it does not so and should be avoided.
    – alireza
    Nov 13, 2022 at 20:11
  • 1
    @alireza Yes, #2 could be "There has been an increase in prices since 1998." That would mean that prices increased after 1998 and before the present time. Nov 13, 2022 at 20:42
  • 1
    @alireza Normally, this sentence would appear in some context. If context suggested that the sentence was spoken or written in 1998, then the sentence would be fine. If context suggested that it was spoken or written after 1998, then the simple past would be better. Nov 13, 2022 at 20:45

We use the present perfect to talk about a definite period of time which is still continuing, as in (4) and also in (1) and (2) if it is still 1998 at the time of speaking. Speaking today, we have to say The prices increased in 1998 or There was an increase in prices in 1998.

Sentence (3) must be looking back to the point of view of someone alive between 1830 and 1863.

(5) means 'There have been 3 pandemics [in modern history]', then adds the dates as a separate phrase.

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