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Which one of the following verbs sound normal to you:

  • Have you done your military service?
  • Have you finished your military service?

For me both sound idiomatic and natural.

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Both are grammatically fine. With a neutral topic like homework, for example, I would use "done" or "finished" interchangeably.

However, military service is a more significant time investment than homework, and also much more personal, so some nuance might be helpful.

"Have you finished…" implies that the activity, in this case military service, was started at some point. It would be best used when you know that a person was in the military and that they were intending to leave it once they completed some requirement.

"Have you done…" does not assume that anything has started. This would work best if you had no idea if the person was ever in the military at all.

For even more nuance, be careful of how you refer to military service depending upon the country you're in. I only have experience with American servicemen and women, but many of them would be upset by the suggestion that they would ever "finish" their military service, as it is a lifelong calling for them. This might be different in some other countries, especially those where a period of military service is mandatory. "Have you done your military service" wouldn't make much sense to an American because most Americans have never and will never be in the military. Make sure you know who you are talking to to avoid missteps.

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  • Do you mean its better to say to an AmE "Have you finished your military service?"
    – A-friend
    Dec 23 '14 at 19:57
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    @A-friend, only if you know that they were planning to finish it. Though American military service can be temporary, different people will continue their service for different lengths of time. If the person you are asking had no intention of leaving the military, your question might be confusing to them.
    – Jesse
    Dec 23 '14 at 20:08
  • I know that well Jesse. :) According to what you say and my understanding, in the countries where a soldier have to pass e.g 2 years of service in the military, when you somehow know they were in the military already, you have to ask "Have you finished you military service" --- and when you have no idea if they began it or not you ought to ask "have you done your military service." Am I right? ;)
    – A-friend
    Dec 23 '14 at 20:17
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    You got it! Though I wouldn't say you "have to" say it either way. I would consider my use cases to be suggestions rather than rules.
    – Jesse
    Dec 23 '14 at 20:54

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