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This argument is relative to Britih English as American English doesn't tend to use the present perfect as much, at least informally.

INTRO

Usages of the present perfect include:

  1. Action that has recently finished
  2. Action that has an effect on the present
  3. Action that started in the past and is still progressing in the present

I can't relate "Already" to any of the usages included above or to any of the other usages I didn't include but "Already" tends to be used with the present perfect. It's like a keyword for things that have surprisingly happened.

Before I get into my question, here's a context where I imagine the sentences in the title to be used.

— It's 4 pm now. Your lesson starts in 30 minutes. Why are you playing video games? You should do your homework!

— I have already finished since 8/ I finished since 8. (raises his eyebrows and looks smugly)


Back to my question:

I have already finished since 8 am.

I used "to finish" here as an action that happened and finished in the past (1), doesn't have any effect on the present (2) and it hasn't recently happened as well (3). The only reason I put the sentence in the present perfect is because of "already".

"Since" has a lot of meanings such as "because" or "from a point in time". The second meaning in English is used to introduce a point in the past with an action preceding it that started at that point and is probably still going till now or it has recently finished.

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But "to finish" here doesn't satisfy that ongoing-action condition. Logically speaking, it can't be used with "since". But in my native language, this sentence sounds correct. It conveys this meaning:

It's been so long since I finished my HW. You won't expect this, but I finished it at 4.

In my language, however, to convey the element of surprise and the fact that you finished since a very long time you should write instead:

It's been so long since I finished my HW. You won't expect this, but I finished it since 4.

In addition, "I have already finished since 4" does sound natural to my ear but according to AI it isn't. I got worried that maybe it's just my native language influencing my judgment.

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  • Just a comment. since the question was about British English. In American English, one could convey the idea by saying "I had already finished it by 8AM". (That is, substitute "by" for "since", and, to sound normal, include a grammatical object)
    – Brian B
    Commented Apr 1 at 18:10

3 Answers 3

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Present perfect tense always refers to the relationship between the referenced event or action and the present. "I have finished", means "I completed the action before now."

Therefore, it is not correct to say, "I have finished since 8 AM", as that evokes two, different reference times that don't make sense together.

The correct tense depends upon your intention. If you are going to make your reference time 8 AM (presumably in the past, as you used "since"), you may use:

Simple past tense: "I finished at 8 AM." This refers to a single event in the past. Eight AM is the time when I finished.

Simple past perfect: "I had finished at 8 AM." This refers to a single event in the past. You finished PRIOR to 8 AM. At 8 AM, the task was already completed.

Continuous past tense: "I was finishing at 8 AM." When 8 AM happened, the task was not complete, but I was in the process of finishing... by implication, I was near completion.

Continuous Present Perfect Tense: "I have been finishing since 8 AM." While grammatically permissible, this tense is semantically strange. It means that at 8 AM you began to finish the task, and you are still finishing it. That's a rather strange way to use the verb "finish", as an extended process, but permissible, if in your mind "finishing" is a process involving an extended task or tasks, instead of referring to the event of achieving completion.

Note that I am using "finish" with the meaning of "complete a task". If I were using it with the meaning, "putting the final steps to refine the appearance and surface qualities of an artifact", then "finishing" absolutely is an extended process, but requires a direct object.

Continuous past perfect: "I had been finishing since 8 AM." This requires another, specified event in the past. It may be in the same sentence, or elsewhere in the context. For example: "When my father dropped in for lunch, I told him I had been finishing since 8 AM." This means you began finishing at 8 AM, and you were still finishing when your father arrived. Again, using "finish" with a continuous tense seems a little strange, but it can work.

Note also that using any form of "to be finished" is ambiguous and requires context to clarify. "To be finished" has an idiomatic meaning of "to be exhausted", or "to be dead".

Simple present perfect of "to be finished": "I have been finished since 8 AM", has two, possible meanings.

  1. I finished the task at 8 AM, and "have been finished" (a continuous state of being) from that time until the present. Using "finished" this way is deprecated, especially in the UK.

  2. At 8 AM, I was completely exhausted, and have remained exhausted until the present.

I won't continue to expound on variants of "to be finished" as I think I have adequately made that point.

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    „Using "finished" this way is deprecated, especially in the UK.” Is it? It would be contextual, but this sounds normal to me - „Have you finished it yet?” „I’ve been finished since 8AM” Commented Mar 31 at 11:01
  • @NeilTarrant: I'd say the "natural" Q&A pairings are #1) "Have you finished yet?," "I finished at 8am". #2) "Are you finished yet?," "I've been finished since 8am". But see this usage chart showing that BrE really has increasingly been shunning that pointlessly complex second format over recent decades.. Commented Mar 31 at 11:37
  • @JonathanLandon What do you think about the variant "I have already finished - as of 8 a.m."? This sounds OK to me, since the jarring thing (to my ear) about the original was the use of "since." Replacing "since" with "as of" and adding a dash seems to preserve the correct time reference for the present perfect (i.e., 'now') while keeping OP's use of "already" and "8 a.m." In the variant sentence, "as of 8 a.m." functions as an adverb phrase modifying "have finished," so it just adds more information about the completed action, instead of adding a conflicting time reference. Commented Apr 1 at 4:24
  • For your simple past perfect I might use 'by' instead of 'at', ie 'I had finished by 8am' meaning the task was done some time before 8am. Commented Apr 1 at 14:02
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    Often we use "done" when we want to describe a state: "I've been done since 8am".
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 1 at 14:33
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To me, "already" indicates that it happened in the past, so you would just say "I already finished it." If you wanted to specify the exact time, you would say "I finished it at 8." It isn't natural to use both in the same sentence. If someone said "you should do your homework!" It would be more natural to respond with:

  1. "I already finished it." or "I already did it."
  2. "I finished it at 8." or "I did it at 8."

...or, as two separate sentences: "I already did it. I finished it at 8."

For "since" vs. "at": use "since" when you use finished as an adjective and "at" when you use finished as a verb.

"You should do your homework!" — "It has been finished since 8." (he raises his eyebrows and looks at her, smugly)

I hope this helps!

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    In British English we would say "I've already finished it". Commented Mar 31 at 7:57
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Use "Actually, " to create a smug contrastive statement that will emphasize the time of completion with simple past.

To instead emphasize continuity, consider using a time span phrase like "... for hours."

I agree with Kate Bunting's "I've already finished" and want to add the informal/slang American "I been finished" which emphasizes "been", but can't be used with "already".

The kind of grammar you're asking about isn't very strong in English, because of its origins as a common language between French elites and Germanic peoples. Changes in tone and nuance that happen by inflection in some languages might be more likely to happen by changes in composition in English. Even the "-ed" suffix is barely pronounced in casual speech by many speakers, and often inferred from the sentence structure when listening.

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