During the footbal match the striker fell down in the penalty area. May be it came to contact with a defender. May be not. But the referee did not blow to penalty. Is this potential comment by TV commentator which came immediately after the situation grammatically OK? Is this a (pseudo)conditional cause?

If there has been a contact, the referee has not noticed it.

2 Answers 2


If there has been a contact, the referee has not noticed it.

I am not familiar with your term ‘pseudo-conditional’; but this is a valid conditional construction.

Specifically, it is what Declerck and Reed call an ‘anchoring-P conditional’: a ‘rhetorical conditional’ in which the condition (IF) clause provides a starting point for utterance of the consequence (THEN) clause. It typically “enables the speaker to deal with (i.e. anticipate and rule out) presuppositions or implicatures that might arise from a more straightforward response” (p.79).

In your example, for instance, the consequence clause, saying that the referee has not noticed [contact] might be taken to imply that there was contact; the condition clause If there has been contact makes it clear that the speaker does not claim that to be the case: the referee might not have noticed it because there was nothing to notice.

As it stands, however, the sentence is not entirely idiomatic. Standard US or British English speakers would speak of ‘contact’, not ‘a contact’.

And 'Standard English' calls for simple pasts rather than perfects:

If there was contact, the referee did not notice it.

Perfects would be used when the referee fails to notice a still-continuing current situation:

The referee has not noticed that an offside offense has been signaled.

But Shoe points out that your example's use of the perfect is common in football reporting; and thisthis paper, to which Shoe’s comment led me, suggests that the use is far more widespread among speakers of British-derived vernaculars than I had realized.

Renaat Declerck and Susan Reed, Conditionals: A Comprehensive Empirical Analysis, de Gruyter 2001.

  • 2
    You will commonly hear players or managers on British TV using the present perfect to comment on the football (soccer) match that has just finished. This usage is so common that it has been designated the "footballer's perfect". Here is a link to an extract from Walker's The Linguistics of Football that discusses this phenomenon.
    – Shoe
    Sep 21, 2014 at 18:14
  • @Shoe Fascinating. I was aware of the 'footballer's perfect', but I took it for hypercorrection. I wish I had seen this before I wrote the Canonical Post. Here's a link to a much fuller treatment by the same author which your piece led me to. Sep 21, 2014 at 18:48

If there has been a contact, the referee has not noticed it.

For the present perfect to be grammatical here, the context must be that the announcer is in the process of reviewing ongoing action on the field, such as a video replay, or the real-time play as it unfolds. The action must be ongoing for the present perfect to make sense temporally.

In terms of the conditional, the initial clause is an allegation. Translate: there has been an allegation of illegal contact; but the referee does not seem to agree. The "allegation" could be informal, e.g. catcalls from the fans in the stadium.

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