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I learned that "had", or past perfect is usually used with a dead entity. But what if I am not trying to emphasize the fact that an action had taken place before that entity died? Such as:

My dead grandfather has stepped on a mine (when he was alive).

This sentence is resultative, showing why he died, and uses present perfect.

And this sentence below:

My dead grandfather stepped on a mine (on July 6, 1995).

This sentence is incorporating the specific date at which he stepped on a mine, therefore using simple past tense.

Are the uses of simple past and present perfect tense above valid?

marked as duplicate by Alan Carmack, Nathan Tuggy, Community Jul 11 '16 at 22:49

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  • Time-references, if any, in a present-perfect construction cannot exclude the present. "when he was alive" excludes the present no less than "July 6, 1995" does, and so the present-perfect is a no-go. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 11 '16 at 20:31
  • @TRomano Okay. I thought it's possible because to me it was telling the result of stepping of a mine, which continues to hold to this day, the death. – whitedevil Jul 11 '16 at 20:35
  • Consider: I have been to London. I went there two years ago. Any explicit time-reference in the sentence "overrides" the implicit conversational context. You must look at each clause individually. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 11 '16 at 21:12

Present perfect only works for things your grandfather can still do. If he can longer do it use simple past.

Things grandpa can no longer do --

My dead grandfather stepped on a mine [when he was still alive]

My dead grandfather fell off a horse [on July 6, 1995].

Things grandpa can still do --

My dead grandfather has lain in the grave for over forty years.

  • If you want a "resultative" sentence, showing why he died, you have many options but I don't think verb tenses will directly help you solve the issue. A sentence like, "Stepping on a mine killed my grandfather," would work. – EllieK Jul 11 '16 at 21:17

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