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1 I have always wanted to talk to her when I saw her.

2 I have always wanted to talk to her when I have seen her.

I think 1 is correct. But is 2 correct, too?

3 I have always wanted to sing as soon as I finished drinking vodka.

4 I have always wanted to sing as soon as I finish drinking vodka.

3 must be correct and it says that my finishing drinking vodka has occurred. What about 4? I would think it could be used if my drinking has never occurred yet, that is, if it were still to come. Or is 4 wrong?

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  • I have downvoted because you're asking us to comment on the "correctness" of utterances that are not idiomatic to begin with. It's like asking a group of chefs to say what's right or wrong with a frozenTV dinner. Do you want some idiomatic versions of those sentences? Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 12:21
  • I don't want to get stuck in this evasive idiomaticity thing but this is correct "Since I was a child, I have always wanted to live abroad as soon as I finished university."
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 16:23
  • "finished university" is quite different from "finish(ed) drinking vodka". Get stuck, or stay stuck. Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 18:20
  • What did you want to communicate by saying "get stuck, or stay stuck"?
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 18:25
  • I meant "Accept the fact that idiomaticity is the goal or remain quagmired, trying to discern the difference between two unidiomatic utterances." I was riffing on your "I don't want to get stuck in this evasive idiomaticity thing..." Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 18:28

2 Answers 2

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(1), although it's oddly expressed, could mean that you have a longstanding wish to talk to her if you ever see her in person.

(2) would mean that, every time you have seen her in the past, you have wanted to talk to her (but presumably never done so).

(3) and (4) are just bizarre. Is the speaker implying that they are addicted to vodka and want to learn to sing when they have got over the addiction?

Edit following OP's explanation: To make the meaning clear, you need to say something like "I always want to sing when I've been drinking vodka". (Whether or not you have finished drinking is irrelevant.)

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  • 1) I didn't expect that you would interpret 1 that way. Maybe you overlooked "saw" and thought that it was "see" - "I have always wanted to talk to her when I see her." Otherwise, I don't get it how "saw" can refer to the future.
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 10:48
  • 3 and 4. Actually I meant "sing a song".
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 10:49
  • 2
    Well, what do you intend (1) to mean? As Tim R says, your sentences are not idiomatic; that was my best interpretation of it. As for (3) and (4) do you mean "Drinking vodka always makes me want to sing?" Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 13:52
  • I thought that 1 would mean the same as 2. What would this mean then ""I have always wanted to talk to her when I see her?"
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 15:41
  • 1
    A further complication; I have always wanted to [do something] means 'I have wanted to do it for a long time but never had the chance'. Maybe you were trying to say 'Every time I see her, I wish to talk to her'? Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 17:03
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Sample utterances with comments:

1 I have always wanted to talk to her when I saw her. [buzzer]

Redo: I always wanted to talk to her when I saw her. [OK] OR I always want to talk to her, when I see her.

2 I have always wanted to talk to her when I have seen her.

[OK, the present perfect in both clauses; both have the same logic: in the present but starting at some unnamed point in the past, "I have always wanted something"; And that "wanting to see her" also have to be "indefinite" in terms of the past.

3 I have always wanted to sing as soon as I finished drinking vodka. [buzzer]

Redo: I always wanted to sing as soon as I finished drinking vodka.

This is like the first one, you need two verbs in the present perfect or two verbs in the simple past. Or even two verbs in the simple present. "you finished" drinking vodka at some definite point and then "wanted something", but cannot "have wanted" something along with "finished" something which is specific point in the past.

4 I have always wanted to sing as soon as I have finished drinking vodka. [OK]

This is a generality that extends to the time of speaking in the present and "as soon as I finish drinking" is also a generality. A generality in the simple present like: I like red apples.

When as soon as is followed by a past tense, the second clause should not be in the present perfect.

An easier example: As soon as we left, we saw the rabbits in the field.

As soon as we have finished dancing, we'll go or "we're going home. The present perfect would usually be accompanied by a will or present continuous. As soon as we finished dancing, we went home.

I tried to cover the main points but have not provided every single rule in the book. You can't normally use a present prefect in the main clause, and a simple past tense in the dependent clause.

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  • OK. Do you find these wrong: "Have you ever been walked in on while you were working?", "Have you ever read this poem when she asked you to?"
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 8:29
  • @user1425 walk is not used in the passive except for dogs or suchlike> The dog was walked by his dog walker.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 14:58
  • "She asked you to" is one instance in the past. Therefore, the PP would not go with it.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 15:46
  • But it doesn't change the main point "Has anyone ever walked in on you while you were working?" Is it correct?
    – user1425
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 17:39
  • 1
    @user1425 Yes, you can use the PP with the past continuous.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 17:59

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