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In the example sentence, I initially interpreted the sentence structure as 'We have seen that is about to rain.' However, the correct answer was 'seeing,' with the appropriate context being 'We see that it is about to rain.'

Alternatively, if the correct version is 'seeing,' the sentence could be 'We are seeing that it is about to rain.' Am I right? (I am aware that this is not feasible, but I theorized it.)

My question is; why was 'having seen' not the correct choice?

  • Seeing that it is about to rain, we had better leave now. (right answer)

  • Having seen that it is about to rain, we had better leave now. (my version)

(The question is also from a textbook named Building Skills for Proficiency, Cesur Öztürk, 57th Edition.)

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    seeing is used as a conjunction in English, meaning "inasmuch as" or "since". What does "Having seen that it is about to rain, we had better leave now" actually mean to you? What is the sequence of events and the logical and grammatical structure there, in your opinion? What is the function of that kind of "having"+past participle structure?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 8:47
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    Having seen adds the sense of completed action. But we are still seeing those rain clouds. "Having seen" is contextually inappropriate, not ungrammatical. Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 10:54
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    I believe "having seen that it is about to rain" is not purely wrong, but it would be much less common to encounter. Your group might have seen that it is about to rain by reading a weather forecast in a newspaper that morning. It is much more likely to use "seeing that" as a phrase (as in the answers below), especially if you are judging based on what you are hearing or seeing at the moment. Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 18:57
  • When I said, 'Having seen that it is about to rain, we had better leave now,' I thought, 'We have just seen that it is about to rain, and then we decided to go.' When we saw it, the action was completed. So, the logic behind it was like this: We have seen that the rain was coming + We had better leave = Having seen the rain... 'Having' functioned to make the act of seeing a perfect past tense, resembling a montage, and the second part of the sentence was determined by this precedent action: 'We had better leave now as we had just seen that the rain was coming. - But I understood. Thank you. -
    – Han
    Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 18:58
  • Since it was from a textbook, I had to apply the most common one and should have completely understood the structural rules. These examples of nuances have caused me to fail in some cases when I try to test all the structures together.
    – Han
    Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 19:10

3 Answers 3

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had better

I suspect that you were caught out by the word “had”. After all, “had” is the past tense of “to have” (“I had a dog”), and it’s also used as a helper to signify the past perfect (“I had done this”). In this sentence, then, you could be forgiven for thinking that “we had better leave” was somehow referring to the past too, but it is not - it’s actually referring to the future.

The modal compound verb “had better” indicates an action that must happen in the future, sometimes immediately. Click that link - it gives a really good summary of when and how you should use this.

  • “I had better go”
  • “I’d better go” [same as above, but contracted]
  • “He’d better not forget his mother’s birthday”
  • “John had better be back before Monday”

seeing as …, / seeing that …,

“Seeing that” is a conjunction used to introduce a reason for the main clause of a sentence.

“seeing as” is just another way to say the same thing; the meaning does not change between “seeing that” and “seeing as”.

contradictory tenses

So why was your answer wrong?

Your choice, “having seen”, is a perfect participle - which describes an action that has completed in the past. Once they see this kind of phrase, the reader is expecting the rest of the sentence to refer to the past too. For example, any of these would be correct:

  • e.g. “having seen that it was about to rain, we left.”
  • e.g. “having seen that it was about to rain, we had left.”
  • e.g. “having seen that it was about to rain, we would have left.”

The problem you have is that the rest of the sentence is not about the past: it’s about the future, because it uses the “had better” modal. Your proposed answer creates a conflict between the past (“having seen it is about to rain”) and future (“had better…”) that leaves the reader confused, and that’s why it’s wrong here.

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    If I heard/read 'We have seen that is about to rain,' I would consider it correct if the speaker had, for instance, just looked out the window to check the weather. Commented Aug 8, 2023 at 20:28
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    +1 This is a great answer! In your final section though, could you clarify that the term "perfect gerund" only applies when the phrase is being used substantively, not attributively? In OP's sentence and in your last 3 examples it's actually being used attributively. If the sentence were rearranged to this: "We left because of our having seen that it was raining," then it would be used substantively. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 4:52
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    Question: If the context was different, could the be correct as part of a larger sentence? Consider someone watching TV and sees a weather report indicating imminent rain. They say to their partner, "Having seen that it is about to rain, I suggest we bring the washing in" ?
    – ThaRobster
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 11:19
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    @QuackE.Duck - it’s not a gerund at all, it’s a participle, and I’ve fixed my answer. Thanks for getting my brain out of the “it’s a gerund” rut.
    – KrisW
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 14:28
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This is an idiomatic use of "see", and doesn't really mean "behold" or "look at with your eyes". It means more "be aware" or "know".

Seeing as it's noisy in here, let's go outside where it's quiet.

The idiomatic meaning, therefore, is "Because we know it is about to rain,..." And so "Seeing..." is the idiomatic choice. In British English, it would be quite common to use "as" instead of "that" in this idiom, especially in speech.

There's no actual error in saying "Having seen..." but this would be used for literal "sight", or by slight extension, "visited", or "been with".

Having seen my aunt on Monday,...

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If you put some times on exactly when both actions happened, I think it will become clearer.

Five years ago, having seen it is about to rain, we had better leave now.

The five years ago matches up with the having, but not with the leave now.

One thousands of a second ago, having seen it is about to rain, we had better leave now.

Now we have a good match on the leave now, but do we really need to put it in the past when it takes longer to say the sentence than it was in past?

Particularly as we are already being a bit figurative, as unless you can see the future you have not seen that it is going to rain, you have seen something that makes you believe it’s going to rain. And that belief is ongoing, you haven’t changed your mind, you still believe it is going to rain. You are still figuratively “seeing it”.

And even if we go with something a bit less abstract, say “Seeing it is nearly 5:15, we had better leave now” after having looked a clock, the “seeing” is still an on going process.

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  • This is the most remedial of answers have I ever seen. Owing to the sentence, "One thousand of a second ago, having seen it is about to rain, we had better leave now." It was the case I think, explaining my brain's subtly operating mode in the background. Many thanks for your time.
    – Han
    Commented Aug 14, 2023 at 18:11

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