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I have made up the sentences below.

(1) (Assuming that you have taken a few bites of your fifth hamburger. You are now chewing it in your mouth RIGHT NOW) You say to your friends, "This is the fifth one I have eaten."

(1) (same assumption) You say to your friends, "This is the fifth one I am eating."

Some of my friends think the present perfect "have eaten" is correct. However, my other friends think the present continuous is correct because you are chewing it. Which tense is correct? Thank you for your help.

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  • i have read the answers, and they may be correct (no idea) but both would be understood in conversation.
    – WendyG
    Commented May 14 at 8:34

2 Answers 2

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Neither is correct.

The present perfect version indicates that you have already finished five hamburgers, which is not true in the context where you're still eating the fifth one, so your friends who said this was the wrong tense were correct.

However, the present continuous version isn't even grammatical the way you intend, so your friends who said this was wrong were also correct. The present continuous applies to all five hamburgers, not just the one you're eating right now, which is not the intended meaning, and the subject "this" is singular, so it's bad grammar.

THAT SAID, with the right intonation it could be parsed this way:

This is the fifth one -- the one that I'm eating now.

This is different grammar from what you intended. The phrase "(the one that) I'm eating now" is in apposition to the subject, so it means roughly, "The one that I'm eating now is the fifth one." The event is split between the past and the present, so no form of "eat" can correctly fill in this blank"...the fifth one that I ______".

The natural, idiomatic thing to say in that situation is simply:

This is my fifth one.

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Neither. An idiomatic version would be

I'm on my fifth burger.

You could use the future and put the present perfect in a relative clause:

This burger will be the fifth I've eaten today.

And you could say, again with a relative clause:

This burger I'm eating is my fifth today.

But the present perfect does not work well when referring to the burger you're eating now. It's borderline.

This burger I'm about to eat is the fifth burger I've eaten today. marginal

And continuous certainly does not apply to the burgers you've already eaten.

This is the fifth burger I'm eating. marginal

But you could say

This is my fifth burger I'm eating.

Switching from "the" to "my" makes it OK. It is a variant of "This burger I'm eating is my fifth". The relative clause can be repositioned

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