21

How to talk about putting water in the freezer to become ice?

I have to tell the child that I have put the water in the freezer and after some time it will convert into ice.

https://ell.stackexchange.com/a/76262/26777

As a side note "have put" sounds a little weird here. Maybe someone can comment more formally why it's right or wrong. It's probably not technically ungrammatical, but it sounds stilted.

What is wrong with "have put" in "I have put the water in the freezer"?

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    Well the thing isn't syntax but the semantics. How do you put water somewhere? – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Dec 18 '15 at 8:24
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    Here is my guess why the writer thought it sounded a little weird, but first off, let's make it clear I've put the water in ... is grammatical. Also note that put has the same present/past/past participle form: put. It's twofold. One is, you gave a context (i.e., "I have to tell a child that ..."), in this kind of context, using the present simple in demonstration is common. Another is, by mentioning "have put", you could've made the reader think of the choice between the simple past and the present perfect instantly, and saying "I have put" in full sounds more stilted than "I've put". – Damkerng T. Dec 18 '15 at 8:34
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    To me it's tense issues..."have put" vs "put" – Alex K Dec 18 '15 at 8:36
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    Not weird at all! have put is a participle form of 'put'. You have done something to make ice. So, you have put water. Without 'have', it would be more a universal truth. You put water in the freezer to make ice Something like - 'You study Computer Science to become a programmer', 'You load a gun to shoot it'. The moment you put 'have', it becomes an event that you experience - I have studied computer science, I have loaded the gun to shot...and so on. – Maulik V Dec 18 '15 at 8:45
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    As far as I can tell, the answer to your question is: nothing. I know of nothing wrong with "I have put the water in the freezer". I'm 99% sure I've said this phrase more than once. I've definitely said "I have put the chicken in the freezer/oven/fridge" and "I have put the call on hold" and "I have put my wallet down somewhere and now I can't find it". To this native speaker of American English, it's a perfectly natural construction. – Todd Wilcox Dec 19 '15 at 1:54

10 Answers 10

19

Absolutely nothing is wrong with I have put the water in the freezer.

This is the present perfect, and the present perfect is formed by using have plus the past participle of the verb. The verb in question is put. The past participle of put is put. See the Cambridge dictionary. Notice also that the present tense and simple past tense are also put.

The very first example sentence from this dictionary use the present perfect:

Where have you put the ​keys?

It's true that the above is a question. But the basic meaning of to put as to move or to ​move something or someone into the ​stated ​place, ​position, or ​direction is the same. And using it in the present perfect is absolutely okay.

If someone did not hear what you said, they might ask

Where have you put the water?

or

Where did you put the water?

and you can answer

I have put the water in the freezer.

Some American English speakers might prefer the simple past tense

I put the water in the freezer

but the present perfect is absolutely correct.

It is also true that in spoken English we usually use contractions, so it would be

I've put the water in the freezer.

So, the uncontracted form could sound stilted. That is really the only reason I can think of. There is nothing wrong with it as far as the tense or definition.

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    The other answers are equally correct, but I prefer this explanation. Personally I think it's more logically structured and worded more simply. – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 0:58
19

The first thing to know is that "I have put the water in the freezer" is entirely correct.

There is a subtle difference between "I have put the water in the freezer" and "I put the water in the freezer". (It is confusing that the past tense of "put" is the same as the present tense. In this example, "put" is in the past tense.)

When you say "I put the water in the freezer," you are focusing the listener's attention on your action of doing it at a particular time. The listener is supposed to place themselves in the past, mentally picturing you doing the action.

When you say "I have put the water in the freezer," you are focusing their attention on the present, and how one of the interesting facts about the present is that your putting the water in the freezer is something that happened in the past.

Here's another example:

  • Right: Yesterday, I ate dinner.
  • Wrong (or odd): Yesterday I have eaten dinner.

compared to

  • Wrong/odd: Now I ate dinner.
  • Right: Now I have eaten dinner.

(This latter means that you're done eating dinner, but it's not specific about how long ago. But it would be weird to say it if you haven't eaten in days.)

So I actually think "I have put the water in the freezer so that it will turn into ice" is totally OK.

  • 1
    Personally I think "Now I have eaten dinner" also sounds odd. – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 0:44
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    Agree, "Now I have eaten dinner" is unnatural it's just an odd declaration all together, unless it's being combined in some greater context. For example "Now that I've/I have eaten dinner, I can head off to the game." – user20827 Dec 19 '15 at 2:31
  • I second @TechnikEmpire's elaboration. – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 4:06
  • Interesting. That seems to make sense when considering the exchange "You didn't put the eggs away properly." "I have put the eggs in the fridge!" where "have" is being used to emphasize that the task was performed/completed.. – keshlam Dec 19 '15 at 23:27
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    @TechnikEmpire Well it depends, you might say "Now I have eaten dinner" when the focus is on the fact that you are presently in the state of having completed an action (where you moving to this new state is significant in itself, like if something was waiting on the completion of the action). E.g. "At least wait until I have eaten dinner before bothering me." -> "Now, I have eaten dinner. What did you want to talk about?" Saying "Now, I ate dinner" there seems strange to me. I don't know why though. I'd always answer "Have you eaten dinner?" with "I have", though. – Jason C Dec 20 '15 at 0:24
14

Grammatically, there is nothing inherently wrong with have put. It's not "wrong," it's just a bit "unnatural."

Let's say you and I are planning a big party for the weekend, and we want to serve frozen candy bars. You might say:

Did you put candy bars in the freezer?

And I might answer:

Yes, I've put the candy bars in the freezer.

I also might answer:

Yes, I put the candy bars in the freezer.

Or even:

Yes, the candy bars have been put in the freezer.

But I'm having trouble imagining myself saying:

Yes, I have put the candy bars in the freezer.

The have can be contracted, omitted, or used in the passive voice, but, for some reason, "I have put something in some location" sounds a bit stilted, just as the comment says. (Figuring out why, though, is a tough nut to crack.)

I went onto Google books and searched for "I have put the". A few hits were from older sources (such as the Bible), and they sounded decidedly uncontemporary:

I have put the Lord before me at all times

Others sounded okay to me, but I noticed they were using the verb put to mean something other than the simple act of physically moving something from one place to another; for example:

I have put the lines in a footnote to facilitate the flow of the argument.
I have put the picture on the wall...
I have put the microphone back together...
I have put the entire event behind me.

I did find this one:

I have put the eggs in the icebox to save them for your return.

which uses the same grammatical structure as your sentence – but, to be honest, it sounds stilted, too. If I was writing that note to my kids, I'd say:

I've put some eggs in the fridge to save them for when you get back.


I don't know if this answer will be helpful or not. I've put some ideas into words, but I haven't managed to definitively answer the "why" question.

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    Notice that the contracted forms are discouraged in formal writing, plus there are actual rules on when to use have + past rather than the simple past. The correct statement is actually exactly I have put something somewhere. – gented Dec 18 '15 at 12:45
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    Note also that, "I have put..." sounds natural as the answer to the question "[Within the last ten years,] have you ever put...?" -- that is, it sounds like an acknowledgement that you put something somewhere in the past, not necessarily in the immediate past. – apsillers Dec 18 '15 at 14:03
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    @GennaroT - In the case of formal writing, I'd be more inclined to eliminate the "have" altogether, rather than include it: I put my keys on the counter. I put my books on the shelf. I put my car in the garage. I put my cat outdoors for the night I put my dirty socks in the laundry basket. There's no need for have in any of those sentences. – J.R. Dec 18 '15 at 15:13
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    have + past is needed and there are rules when it is; in particular it is needed whenever the action has happened in the past with no specified detail to the corresponding relation with the present, but the consequences still apply. Example: since it is raining, I have taken my umbrella vs yesterday it was raining and I took my umbrella. – gented Dec 18 '15 at 15:18
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    I'm sorry, I have downvoted this answer because I am a native speaker of American English and I have said many, many times in my life that I have put things in various places. If you include the contraction "I've", then it's a daily thing for me, but even in the expanded form I would say it's at least once a month that I say "I have put". – Todd Wilcox Dec 19 '15 at 1:57
5

There's nothing wrong with it, it's just a little verbose for natural speech. Remember us native speakers (at least in North America) are all about cutting up our own language so it's as short as possible so that it rolls off the tongue as lazily as possible. Take for instance the recent rise of slang like "bae" instead of "babe". The latter just takes too damn many movements of the lips, so cut it down to "bae".

Okay that's a silly example for laughs, but this is the essence of it. "I have put water in the freezer" is fine, but it's shorter and you're saying the exact same thing with "I put water in the freezer." That's all. In natural speech, when you don't omit words that can be omitted, the speech will sound "robotic" to a native speaking observer.

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    There may be something to that, but it's not foolproof. In some contexts, we often leave the have in. For example, if my daughter said, "I have decided I want to go to college," that sounds fine. But if she says, "I have put the milk in the refrigerator," that sounds like it has one-too-many words. – J.R. Dec 18 '15 at 9:50
  • @J.R. You're right, and my answer definitely shouldn't be taken as a well defined universal rule. Perhaps I should add edits. – user20827 Dec 18 '15 at 9:51
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    This is exactly why Martha used to go on rants when people would say that ELL questions are "basic." Some of them are anything but basic. :^) – J.R. Dec 18 '15 at 9:52
  • For some people's natural speech, not everyone's. Matters such as regional influence, class influence and personal preference greatly affect one's speech patterns. – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 0:51
  • @J.R. In those examples I think the presence of the 'have' is related to the importance of the sentences. Putting the milk in the fridge is a relatively unimportant action and thus it is natural that one would use a swift, dismissive statement. Deciding to go to college on the other hand is a particularly important action which requires more recognition and potentially further discussion, thus the sentence is made more verbose as a means of drawing attention to the matter. – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 0:56
5

Water when used with an article can mean a container of water, such as a bottle of water, especially when a refrigerator/freezer is in the context (it would be different near a beach).

If you mean water in general, omit the the.

Have put is a valid tense of to put. Nothing wrong with it technically. But...

Keep in mind that put is one of a couple English verbs (such as cut and set) that is the same for present, past, and past participle forms.

Normally it is easy for a listener to figure out whether put happened in the present or past, if it really matters. Usually it doesn't matter because typically one cares more about the object being put than the exact time reference (past or present).

In the situations where it does matter, there is a tendency to emphasize the "pastness" with have or did. Because of this, when you say I have put it may seem to others as you emphasizing that fact, and if there is no reason for you to emphasize that fact, then it sounds a bit wordy or a bit like you are trying not to blamed for not putting it there.

4

The sentence

I have put the water in the freezer...

is perfectly correct.

The word have is a past participle which makes the verb put a past perfect tense. (for examples of past perfect tenses see this page

To say "I put the water in the freezer" would also be correct but in my native tongue (Australian English) would sound less formal indicating a casual relationship between speaker and hearer or perhaps a lesser sense of urgency or immediacy. This is a common sentence structure and usage and does not sound stilted or unusual to me.

In the original example the repetition of the have (have to tell the child that I have...) would probably be avoided by a native speaker. I would say something like "I need to tell the child that putting water in the freezer...". The complexity of the original sentence confuses my ear but not because of the phrase 'have put'.

3

GoDucks' answer is great background, so read that first. I wanted to add an attempt at answering this question: why does it sound "wrong", "stilted", or "unnatural"?

In my dialect of English (Western U.S.A.), there seems to be a rule: when the past participle and simple past tense of a verb are the same, prefer to use the past tense. Consider this list of irregular verbs.

All of these are examples where I prefer the simple past tense:

  • "I have hit the ball" vs. "I hit the ball".
  • "I have held the door" vs. "I held the door".
  • "I have said no" vs. "I said no".

So in my dialect, it may be valid to say that the simple past is preferred. However, there is no such thing as correct English; there are dozens of dialects. Thus, it is incorrect to say "I have put" is incorrect in any absolute sense.

I would love to hear from other English speakers if their dialects include or do not include this rule.

  • How do you feel about the following passages? (1) "Why should I fear death? I have died many times." / "Why should I fear death? I died many times." (2) "I have knitted until my arms ached." / "I knitted until my arms ached." (3) "I have tried them all, and none of them are worth the price." / "I tried them all, and none of them are worth the price." – Vectornaut Dec 19 '15 at 20:57
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    To me, the two passages in each pair communicate different shades of meaning, so neither one can be preferred: you have to pick which one you want based on what you're trying to say. – Vectornaut Dec 19 '15 at 20:58
  • Moreover, the past tense version of (3) sounds very disagreeable to me, because the past tense "tried" doesn't match the present tense "are worth"; I would rather say, "I tried them all, and none of them were worth the price." In this case, the past tense and present perfect fail to be interchangeable not only on the level of meaning, but even on the more basic level of sounding right, which to me is even stronger evidence that neither can be preferred. – Vectornaut Dec 19 '15 at 20:58
2

As others have noted, "I have put the water" is present perfect while "I put the water" is past simple.

One way of telling when present perfect is more suitable is whether you are talking about an action that is, at present, complete ("perfect"), or about the performance of the action (with a time, place, etc.); if the completeness is more important, then present perfect should be your choice.

In this case, saying "I have put the water in the freezer" is equivalent to saying "at this point, the water is already in the freezer". You can't append "yesterday" because, strictly speaking, you are not talking about the action of putting but on the fact that it is now done.

In the provided example, present perfect and past simple have very close meaning and can both be used (hence the confusion). But imagine you were talking about having breakfast - there is a distinction between "I had breakfast" (typically continued with something like "in this lovely restaurant" or "a few days ago" to describe the activity), and "I've had breakfast" (with nothing added - "already" is implied) which generally means "I'm not going to eat any more, thank you".

1

As the others have pointed out, it is grammatically correct, but it is not the preferred tense in American English.

In American English, the the simple past and present perfect tense are very different. It's hard to describe, so I'll use examples.

Definitions:

Clauses in the simple past tense are like memories. They are a description of a specific event.

Clauses in the present perfect tense are like logical facts. They are an assertion that an event with those details exists (in the universe/history of one's life).

Analogy:

For example, if I were to show you a picture that directly represents

John ate an apple

here is is:

enter image description here

I wrote "year 2012" because it happened in the past.

And here is a picture that directly represents

John has eaten an apple

enter image description here

There is nothing, because it is just an abstract fact much like "1 + 1 = 2".

Practical Usage:

If someone asks you

Where did you go for Christmas?

you can directly answer this "where" question with a description, so you should use the simple past tense.

If someone asks you

Have you ever gone to Spain?

you can directly answer this "yes/no" question with an assertion. Therefore you should use the present perfect tense.

Your question

Logically

I have put the water in the freezer

I put the water in the freezer

imply the same thing. The former is an assertion of the fact, the latter is a description of the event.

By convention, Americans use the description instead of the assertion.

EDIT: This post is based entirely from my experience as a native speaker of American English, it is entirely possible other people think of the tenses differently.

  • I'm not going to downvote but I believe this makes too many generalised asuptions about other people's thought patterns. For some people who use informal language more regularly, the phrase "John has eaten an apple" may create a similar mental image. As a side note: a memory stored as an 'image' or sequence of events (such as john eating an apple or storing water in the freezer) is referred to as an 'episodic' memory, whereas an inexperienceable fact (such as 1 + 1 = 2) is referred to as a 'semantic' memory (within the context of certain fields of psychology). – Pharap Dec 19 '15 at 1:07
  • Yea, I suppose it could be just my interpretation. Ive heard british people do not make this distinction. Thanks for the memory related terms. – Senjougahara Hitagi Dec 19 '15 at 2:05
  • I thought about this as well, that tense had something to do with it. I just couldn't come up with any solid proofs of this. In fact I can't think of a single example where I can't drop the "have" and retain implied meaning. It's tricky trying to explain these "natural" things we've just sort of picked up. – user20827 Dec 19 '15 at 2:06
0

As a native American English speaker, this sentence is extremely unnatural. When having conversations, a phrase like this would never appear.

It's exactly like saying these phrases

I have eaten an apple.

I have sent a message.

I have watched the movie.

I have donated to the charity.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with these sentences; someone will understand exactly what you are saying. They are grammatically correct, but sound unnatural.

When speaking in English, you shouldn't add the word have to a sentence when the following word is already in the past.

"I have put the water in the freezer" mixes a past-tense of the verb "place" and the word "have" just like the above sentences. This is correct, but it isn't normally used at all.

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    Do your examples of unnatural phrases still sound unnatural to you in the following contexts? (1) "What have you done today?" "I have eaten an apple." (2) "Have you gotten the green light from headquarters?" "I have sent a message. I am not expecting a reply." (3) "Any opinions on Casablanca?" "I have watched the movie. I might watch it again." (4) "Is it true that you're a supporter of Kitten Huggers International?" "I have donated to the charity. I wouldn't call myself a supporter, though." – Vectornaut Dec 19 '15 at 21:20
  • To me, the variants "I ate an apple" and "I donated to the charity" would sound very strange in (1) and (4), because of the mismatch between the present tense question and the past tense reply. I'm not sure if this is a personal quirk or a regional thing or what. – Vectornaut Dec 19 '15 at 21:24
  • It normally depends on the context. In the format for (4), it sounds a lot like an interview, so that response does sound like it flows better. But this would not be used in a normal speech, but for a thought-out response. As for (1), that kind of response would be better with a confirmation question. Such as, "Did you eat an apple today? Yes, I have eaten an apple today." But if asked, "What did you eat today?" the response would always be "I ate an apple." I've never heard someone use "I have eaten..." in a sentence, unless they specifically reference the past in that same sentence in my OP – Mick Ashton Dec 19 '15 at 22:34
  • That's funny—if asked "Did you eat an apple today?" I think I would probably reply "Yes, I ate an apple today," to agree with the past tense question. – Vectornaut Dec 20 '15 at 5:37

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