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This is from a native speaker My house is leaking (see:3:02-3:05) who is checking around his basement after heavy rain and sees some damp corner. He touches it and says:

"Oh, that is wet. We have been having water come through here."

I would, as a non-native speaker, never be able to make up such a sentence, because I think we as learners are not made to acquire such a natural level thinking in English. I would probably say:

"Oh it is wet. There seems to be water. It must be coming through here."

Anyway, I thought about the structure of the sentence, because it seemed long and complex to me. Firstly, I thought it might be a causative sentence "have water come through", but it did not make sense.

Then I thought it might be shortened relative clause "...water which come through here.", But then it did not make sense either.

Then I made some more research and came to conclusion that the structure of the sentence seems very much like this sentence I have found:

"We had a strange woman come to the door selling pictures."

So, am I right in my final conclusion?

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  • It's "unusual" phrasing, which is more typically found when the speaker is addressing a child and/or wants to sound "patronising" (to me, it's reminiscent of a doctor saying How are we feeling today?). The Perfect form itself suits the context, but Water has been coming through here is much more likely. Apr 7, 2023 at 15:13
  • @FumbleFingers - Surely 'we' here means 'the occupants of the house'? They have been 'having' (experiencing) water leaking in after heavy rain. Apr 7, 2023 at 15:17
  • Yes, but it's still unusual phrasing - particularly when we didn't know we were having this "happening to us" until just now, when I found the evidence. Apr 7, 2023 at 15:19
  • ....actually, I've just followed OP's link. As I might have guessed, the speaker himself doesn't seem to be included in "we" - I only watched a few seconds, but he seems to be an outside agent called in to check out the situation (not a million miles different to a doctor checking your health). Apr 7, 2023 at 15:28

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In conversation, people don't form full sentences in their head before they start speaking, they literally construct them on the fly. Allowing for that, I'd say it's a little tortuous, but perfectly comprehensible. I wouldn't even have noticed it had it not been written down & pointed at with a big fluorescent flag. I would feel the same had the speaker been a Brit. It's the type of structure people do actually use.

Honestly, I couldn't deconstruct it into component parts, I am not a grammarian. Sure, I could re-phrase it, but it's actually 'fine' for a given definition of 'fine' as it is. To a native it's easily parseable. Any strict/technical grammatical errors are just forgiven in this type of structure.

How do you learn to do this for yourself?
I think you'd have had to be thinking in English since the age of three. I bet you can do similar in your own language without even thinking about it.

If someone said, "Since the weather has been so hot recently, we have been having ice cream every day" would you feel the same way about it, or would it be more readily parseable?
You probably wouldn't re-construct it as …
"It has been hot. We must have ice cream. We must have it every day."

As has been ponted out in comments, the 'must' aspect is not one of obligation, but one of reduction. As Sherlock Holmes said, "Once you have eliminated the impossible, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth." [or similar… I didn't look it up.]
So to take a ludicrous example…
My lawn has many footprints between my door & my neighbour's, spoiling the grass. I live in central London. It can't have been elephants. It's unlikely to have been horses. Therefore, it must have been my neighbours, walking directly between, rather than taking the cement path.

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  • The must implications aren't actually there in your final paragraph. That would be Since the weather has been so hot recently, we have had to be having ice cream every day (more naturally, ...we have had to have ice-cream...). Apr 7, 2023 at 16:20
  • @FumbleFingers - the OP reconstructed using 'must'. I was just echoing that, in as awkward a manner as i could rapidly think up ;) Apr 7, 2023 at 16:31
  • I might have thought about it for longer, but I think I can safely say my "obligation" version is more awkward than yours! :) Apr 7, 2023 at 16:35
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    @FumbleFingers - I just realised I actually used "you'd have had to be" in the answer, without batting an eyelid. I was only one short on your impressive score ;)) Apr 7, 2023 at 16:38
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    @FumbleFingers - fair point. if pushed I'd draw the conclusion that it refers to there 'being no alternative explanation' [with or without the additional Holmesian connotations] therefore it was water that was responsible/'must' be responsible. Apr 7, 2023 at 16:43

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