I have some question about the usage of the present perfect tense in this wikipedia article:

The decline of newspapers has been widely debated as the industry has faced down soaring newsprint prices, slumping ad sales, the loss of much classified advertising and precipitous drops in circulation.

Would the meaning change significantly if "has faced down" is changed to the present tense "faces down"?

  • 1
    Well, they obviously change the meaning. If you use the present tense, the meaning conveys a routine, permanent situation or a true fact. If you use the present perfect, the meaning shows a finished action and its consequences in the present. (You talk about the past and the present at the same time.)
    – Schwale
    Jan 1, 2016 at 12:34
  • @Subjunctive If the act of "facing down soaring newsprint prices..." is a completed action, would it not be more appropriate to use the past tense?
    – meatie
    Jan 1, 2016 at 21:21
  • I do not agree that it changes the meaning. What the change in tense does is to change the timing, rather than the meaning. I.e., the results are the same, what changes is when it was done. For common usage in US English, differentiating the usage here would be considered nit-picking. For a schooled writer, of good quality and abilities, it could be important, as it could be used to subtly change the impact of a larger piece of writing.
    – Mark G B
    Feb 21, 2016 at 2:30

4 Answers 4


The meaning will change with the tense but it is arguable how significant it is. The semantic change is all implied and not explicit.

For example: "Has faced down" will imply that the challenges mentioned might be in the past and so one might assume that the newspapers might recover.

"Faces down" will indicate that the troubles are ongoing and might be systematic.


The validity of the "faces down" alternative depends on the intended or perceived meaning of "as": two candidates are "while" and "because".

At first reading, I went for "while". Compare these two sentences:

The decline of newspapers has been widely debated while the industry has faced down soaring...


The decline of newspapers has been widely debated while the industry faces down soaring...

The former makes perfect sense- a temporal link between two clauses in the same tense- but the latter contains a temporal clash because of using "while" between "has faced down" (past) and "faces down" (present).

If, however, the intended or perceived meaning of "as" is "because", then this problem doesn't arise because the temporal relationship between the two clauses is not defined.


The change you propose would require another change to be grammatically correct:

"...decline of newspapers is being debated as the industry faces down..."

Note that the original is incorrect in using "face down"--the correct term would be "face."



In a complex sentence, time relations bind the main clause to the subordinate. AS is a time subordinator.

If the time relation is the same we use, simple present is in both clauses:

  • Frogs sing as it rains.

We put the subordinate clause in present perfect to show a previous action before the main action:

  • The weather is nice as it has rained.

Equally important is to note that when the main clause is in present, subordinate clause is put in present perfect to show an action that extends from past to present. However if the main clause is in present perfect, it is better to use present perfect in the subordinate clause to show another action related in time to the main action, as if simultaneous:

  • Although the students have complained to the principal, he has not initiated any action against the culprits.

On the same principle the tenses in this Wikipedia article is based. The debate has started early and it is still continuing. The face-down effect has started already for a reason, so on and so forth, and is not over as yet. But none can foresee what lies in store for the media industry and if it would at all recover. Had we used simple present in the subordinate clause, it would seal the future of the newspapers once for all and suggest a kind of universality to all that is happening at present. After all it's not like such habitual or normal action as birds sing, flowers bloom or rivers flow.

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