It has been rumored that Nicola Tesla acquired some knowledge from this book according to James McCanney.

Why the verb acquired is in the Simple Past tense ? In my thinking, the verb does not refer to a fixed date in the past and so it has to be has acquired.

If acquired is a shortened form of has acquired, then how could we know the rule of the shortening?

Thank you all.

  • 2
    Where did you get the idea that you have to have a "fixed date" in order to use the past simple? Does my use of did get have a fixed date? No. Jun 28, 2016 at 5:51
  • Many text books and websites say that the past simple tense denotes a specific time in the past and they even give the key vocabularies like yesterday, ago, and so on. Eample: englishpage.com/verbpage/simplepast.html Jun 28, 2016 at 10:37
  • I think I see the problem - when they say specific time, it doesn't mean a known time. They just mean that it definitely both started and ended in the past.
    – stangdon
    Jun 28, 2016 at 12:11
  • A very good remark. Very helpful. Jun 28, 2016 at 12:20

2 Answers 2

  1. The present perfect is not used to narrate past events. It is a present tense: it asserts a present state which derives from the prior eventuality. For instance, when I say I have acquired considerable knowledge of English grammar on ELL I am speaking about knowledge which I have now. I am characterizing the current state of my knowledge.

  2. Because the present perfect is a present tense it is not ordinarily used with dead people. Nicola Tesla isn't around any more, he cannot sustain the state of knowledge in the present, so we cannot say *Nicola Tesla has acquired knowledge.

    (We can however say that Nicola Tesla has died, because the state of death is one which Tesla can sustain. Note, however, this will only be used when Tesla's death is "new information", a new state distinguishing the present moment from the past; usually this will be true only for a brief period after Tesla's death.)

  3. There's a lot of confusion around the use of temporal expressions with the present perfect. Ignore anything you have been taught about "specific" times or "recent" times: the actual rule is that because the present perfect is a present tense it cannot be used with temporal expressions which do not include the present.

  4. In any case, there is no rule which requires that the present perfect be used if no time is specified.

  • Brilliant! Then why some media state thinks like X died or X has died? Why do they include the present perfect is the person no longer exists?
    – Schwale
    Jun 28, 2016 at 13:30
  • @Ustanak Because the state to which the verb die gives rise is the state of death, which is obviously one of the few states which can be sustained by a dead person. I've added a little to my answer to explain this. Jun 28, 2016 at 13:40

Nikola Tesla died in 1943. We do not use the Present Perfect if there is no connection with the present (for example, things that happened a long time ago). The Chinese invented printing (not have invented). Compare: Shakespeare wrote many plays (not has written). My sister is a writer. She has written many books(she still writes books).

  • Why the downvote ? I think the answer is fine and helpful. Jun 28, 2016 at 10:45

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