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Take a look at this philosophy paper. Here is the first sentence of it:

One of the main themes that have concerned philosophers of language in the twentieth century has been the semantics of proper names.

How can the present perfects be used here with a definite time? Please, keep in mind that the paper came out in 2012, which is in the 21st century (duh!).

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  • Note that this paper has many errors of idiom and grammar; its author is not a native speaker of English. Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:24
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    @user3169 Once the twentieth century is over, the present perfect is no longer grammatically correct. Since the paper was written in 2012, the sentence was never grammatically correct.
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 18:38
  • Sounds like a person that's still writing 1999 on their checks. Commented Apr 25, 2015 at 20:36

1 Answer 1

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If it were still the twentieth century when the paper was written or published then the use of the date would be fine. But since the twentieth century has passed, it is technically not correct. Just as Many papers have appeared yesterday is technically incorrect. Once is it no longer currently the mentioned time, the usage of the present perfect is technically incorrect. I say technically, because this is the traditional view, yet one sees this usage more often these days. Therefore also, if the paper had said 2012 it would be correct.

Have you seen Bob today? is correct only when it is still today.

Have you seen Bob yesterday? is incorrect.

Have you seen Bob this week? is fine as long as it is still this week.

Have you seen Bob this morning? is good until it stops being this morning.

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  • I am just curious: are you a native speaker?
    – user132181
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 15:49
  • I'm a native speaker of American English.
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 15:50
  • Does the sentence sound natural to you?
    – user132181
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 15:51
  • What does my answer say? The sentence only sounds natural if it were still the twentieth century. Perhaps the author is still living in the twentieth century?
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:03
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    Yet what sounds natural to an individual speaker may not represent standard grammar. That speaker's grammar may not be standard. Second, even if something does not sound natural, it may not be incorrect if it involves a usage that is changing and it sounds natural to some and unnatural to others. Hence I have read a book yesterday may sound natural to some if this usage is changing. That is why I said technically incorrect, as I have seen more and more usages of this sort in major native English publications. This may indicate a change in usage. Language use is not static.
    – user6951
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 16:20

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