My son just had this example in a test and had to fill in the blanks:

He _____ (not meet) a famous person in his life, _____?

He answered:

He didn't meet a famous person in his life, did he?

But the correct answer would have been:

He has not met a famous person in his life, has he?

And, fair enough, I fully understand that they wanted the second version. Just out of curiosity: Is the first one just wrong under any circumstances or does it imply something more specific, namely that "his" life is already over and during all of it never met a famous person. While in the first one, "he" is probably still alive but hasn't met famous person so far?

  • 1
    It's a stupid test. Who's to say the context (which we don't have) wouldn't be better served by Past Perfect - He hadn't met a famous person in his life, had he? Jun 7, 2023 at 15:32
  • It's a very poorly written question for a test because without a context, just about any tense could fit there. Consider, "He wouldn't have had to meet a famous person in his life, would he?", which is also correct. You correctly understand the difference in meaning.
    – gotube
    Jun 7, 2023 at 16:47
  • Thank you both for your comments! Jun 14, 2023 at 7:14

1 Answer 1


"Did not" (or 'didn't') is the negative version of the simple past tense.

"Has not" (or 'hasn't) is the present perfect.

So, as you said - 'did not' limits the scope to the past, rather than the past up to and including the present, so it does make it sound like you're speaking about a person who is no longer alive.

Of course, it wouldn't always mean the person was dead - if the context is referring to a period of time that has ended, for example, "while on vacation, I did not go in the pool".

  • Thank you for the reply! Jun 14, 2023 at 7:14

You must log in to answer this question.

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