Yesterday, when I was using a printer, it suddenly turned off in the middle of printing. I was surprised and pushed the power button many times, but it never turned on again. I realized that it had broken down. I have used it for about four years.

Is this use of the Present Perfect following the Past Perfect okay, since the author has used the printer for quite a long time? That is, using this Present Perfect, the author is shifting the passage from "me yesterday" to "me today".

Or should one necessariliy backshift it to

I had used it for about four years.

Alternatively, can one use the Present Perfect in both sentences:

I realized that it has broken down. I have used it for about four years.

..since the event is a recent one (yesterday) and the condition still obtains (the printer still exists and it is in a broken-down condition).

  • 1
    You will also find the pages here helpful. – user6200 Dec 4 '14 at 12:56

The shift from Past Perfect back to Present Perfect is fine, in an (informal) narrative context (e.g. speaking with tech support). But I might say I've been using it for about four years to express the fact that it was operational during that entire time.

P.S. To stay in the Past Perfect (I had used it for about four years, I had been using it....) would keep the narrative time in the past. You would be "looking back". Tech support might get the notion that you and that printer had had a ... special relationship.

  • Thanks, TRomano! But "I have used it" won't look strange when compared with "I have been using it"? – CowperKettle Dec 4 '14 at 12:53
  • In order to break this feeling of "special relationship", might one employ the Progressive? "I had been using it for about four years"? – CowperKettle Dec 4 '14 at 12:56
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    "strange", no. It would be ok. It's the remaining in PastPerfect that makes the story seem a little too nostalgic, not the lack of the progressive. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 4 '14 at 12:56
  • Just wondering if it was possible to use past simple "I used for four years" ? – user5577 Dec 6 '14 at 15:52

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