A professor gave me a project, and now he wants me to update the the progress of the project I am doing. I wonder if I can use the simple past "What did you do on the project" to imply so far in AmE:

The professor: How is your project? What did you do on the project so far?

Me: I only finished the first part of the project, I am going to proceed to study the next part tomorrow.

The question should be

(1) What did you do on the project (so far-imply)? or

(2) What have you done on the project (so far-imply)?

(3) Which part of the project did you finish (so far-imply)? or

(4) Which part of the project have you finished (so far-imply)?

I know that BrE definitely uses the present perfect. AmE also uses present perfect. I know that AmE tend to use simple past instead of the present perfect I don't know if AmE uses the simple past in this context.

  • 1
    As this US chart and this UK chart show, there's no significant difference in US/UK verb forms before so far - we all tend to stick to Present Perfect. Why did you think there might be a difference? Mar 22 at 11:23
  • 2
    In and of itself, so far explicitly forces the focus of any containing utterance to be specifically concerned with the relationship between the present and something in the (recent) past. Which is exactly the context in which we nearly always use Present Perfect. That's all Anglophones, not just Brits. Mar 22 at 11:27
  • 1
    The prescriptivist gramma stickler in me would be tempted to say that the expression "What did you do on the project so far?" is straightforwardly an error. I'm not all that familiar with American dialects, but the only time you'd hear such a sentence in my dialect would be if the speaker changed what they wanted to say mid-sentence.
    – Jaime
    Mar 22 at 13:09
  • 1
    @Jaime: It's certainly not syntactically invalid to use Simple Past with so far - it's just stylistically unlikely in most contexts. But actually, there could be contexts where a competent native speaker would do this - for example, to imply that the addressee will not be working on the project in future (even if he doesn't know that yet! :). Mar 22 at 13:30
  • 1
    I wouldn't find it at all odd for someone to include the words "so far" in such a sentence. Yes, use of the past tense implies, well, the past. But we often add words to a sentence that don't technically change the meaning, but add emphasis or clarity. "What have you done?" and "What have you done so far?" arguably are asking the same thing. But the second emphasizes that I want to know what is complete, not what you plan to do in the future.
    – Jay
    Mar 23 at 1:30


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .