I am just studying present tense where I am reading the use of have, I read this sentence

I have seen that film

For the thing which happened in past, but can I write it as "I had watched that film"? Is it right to use it like this? I am not understanding the difference between these two sentences. I can use "had for that past, but I am also using "have been" as well so what is the difference ?


2 Answers 2


This is a common misunderstanding.  Your sentence mentions an action. That action seems to be in the past.  The statement uses the present tense.  Why? 

Some verbs express action.  Other verbs express state of being*.  The verb "to have" expresses a state of being. 

1) I saw the film. 
2) I have seen the film. 
3) I had seen the film. 

In 1), the only verb is a past-tense action verb. 

in 2), there are two verb words which form a single verb phrase.  The "have" is a present-tense state-of-being verb.  The "seen" is a verb without any tense but with the perfect aspect.  This form does not express the action of the verb "to see".  It expresses the result of that action. 

I have seen the film.  I possess a result of the action. 

In 3), the "had" is a past-tense state-of-being verb. 

The structure of 3) is rarely used on its own.  Often, it's used to suggest that one thing is even further in the past than another: 

4) I had seen the film when I read the book. 

The action of "to read" is in the past.  At the time of the action of "to read", my state of being included the result of the action of "to see".  This suggests that that action of "to see" happened before the action of "to read". 


* As far as I can tell, we use the phrase "state of being" because the word "condition" would be confusing.  Verbs like "to be" and "to have" express a condition in the sense of "the way things are", rather than the sense of "something required for something else".  We use the word "condition" in the second sense when discussing subordinate clauses, so we use "state of being" when discussing what a verb can express. 


I have seen that film. (Present perfect)

This indicates that in a time before now you have watched that film at least one time.

I had seen that film before I read the book. (Past perfect)

In past perfect the time reference is not now. There is another time reference specified in the past. This sentence indicates that in a time before you read the book, you have watched that film at least one time.

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