I've troubles understanding why the tenses for the following sentence should be in the past:

The last book I have read is Animal Farm, and it's really good.

I've been corrected (not from a native), stating that, instead of using the present-simple and the present-perfect, I should use the past-simple:

The last book I read was Animal Farm, and it was really good.

I understand that the past-simple for read may be preferred since it's a finished action in the past. But, that book still is the last book I read, and the book still is good.

If that book was a pizza, I may understand that you won't be able to eat it again, so it was good, but a book still is: unless I'm not sure anymore, or I don't have an opinion anymore.

1 Answer 1


When you wish to convey the idea that of the several books you have finished reading, the name of the most recent is Animal Farm:

The last book I read is called Animal Farm.

We say read (past tense) because the statement refers to an event completed in the past; last makes the point that the book was the final book read in a series of books which began and ended in the past. Last does not imply any relevance to the present. In fact, last could be said to exclude the present. Hence the present perfect is inappropriate.

You could also say

The last book I read was Animal Farm.

The last book I read is Animal Farm.

There's no clear case to be made for insisting on a past-tense predicate there.

Also, "read" suggests an act completed. If you wanted to say that the book you have been occupied with, not necessarily finishing it, you could say:

The book I've been reading most recently is Animal Farm.

There, we can use the present perfect.

If you've finished it:

The book I've read most recently is Animal Farm.

"Recently" looks at time from the point of view of the present. Hence, the present perfect is appropriate.

  • Thanks. Yeah I guess I thought of using present-perfect because I may be an avid reader, so in a sense I could talk in an "open point of view". (yup, I don't really know how to explain it with simple words). edit: For example if I said this month the present-perfect should be okay (if the month isn't over yet).
    – drM.
    Mar 3, 2016 at 13:07
  • Right. If the time-words exclude the present, you can't use the present perfect. You could say "this month", "this year", "this decade", even "this millenium" and still use the present perfect. The this links the statement to the present.
    – TimR
    Mar 3, 2016 at 13:15
  • But "last" would conflict with "this". "The last book I've read this week" would have a time-clash.
    – TimR
    Mar 3, 2016 at 13:16
  • That "last" conflict with "this" is a game-changer for me! I've never thought about it, I just assumed it didn't create problems with this. Is there an obvious way to say this week I've read A.F. implying it's the last one? I could say "[...] and I've yet to decide the next one", but maybe there's a better way.
    – drM.
    Mar 3, 2016 at 13:24
  • 1
    "Is there an obvious way to say this week I've read A.F. implying it's the last one?" "Most recently" is what you want to say in that case. The book I've read most recently is A.F.
    – TimR
    Mar 3, 2016 at 13:48

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