I look forward to Mordechai Schiller’s “Going through a Phrase” language column. Thank you so much.
I am an ex-South African and as such, learnt grammar like the British.
I have noticed that Americans do not use the Present Perfect (in the present tense). In Mr. Schiller’s column “Splitting Infinity” (May 29, 2019), he wrote, “Now list three grammar rules you never heard of.” (In my opinion) it should have been in the Present Perfect — “rules you HAVE never heard of.
I learnt, and I teach my pupils, the present perfect is used when an action in the past has a connection to the present.
Once again, thank you for an excellent read.
Rochelle Marcus, Rehovot, Israel
Mr. Schiller responds:
It is an honor to receive kudos from someone who speaks the King’s English. I was letting all this praise go to my head when I saw that the Oxford English Dictionary blog says, “The English language in South Africa (SAE) dates from the arrival of the British at the Cape of Good Hope in 1795.”
The first British colony in America was at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. We may speak a less dignified dialect, but we have a longer tradition. And we remember our roots. When Dizzy Dean retired from baseball, he became a popular announcer. He was best known for mangling the English language. One interviewer asked him, “Don’t you know the King’s English?”
Dean replied, “Sure I know; and so’s the Queen.”
If you think I’m dodging your question, you’re right. True, I tend not to use the present perfect. To be perfectly honest, my past is far from perfect. I was not a star pupil in grammar school. And my present? I’d say it’s passing. But I do have high hopes for the future.
I see I’m not getting away with this. Grammar has caught up with Grandpa.
Since you asked, I would say that my reference was to the past, not something continuing into the present.
When it comes right down to it, I rely on William Safire’s Fumblerule: “One will not have needed the future perfect tense in one’s entire life.”