In this episode, learn the difference between ‘What did they say’ and ‘What have they said’? ‘Where were you?’ and ‘Where have you been?’. We’ll also give you some advice on how to improve your writing in English.
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Some questions from friend of the show Rafa Segarra.
Hello Craig! I’ve got a couple of questions I’d like you to explain to me. Thanks in advance, Rafa.
Firstly; I’ve realized when reading that there are some sentences which don’t specify an adverbial time, however, some of them go in past simple and some in present perfect.
- What did they say? Vs What have they said?
- Where have you been? Vs Where were you?
- It was me Vs It’s been me
Does it make a difference which one we use? What tense should I use? Is there any rule to use one or another?
And secondly; Well, We can use a verb with -ing to use it as a subject, but I’ve noticed there are some times when sentences start with an infinitive. For example,
- Flying is amazing / To fly is amazing So, Are both correct? When do we use the infinitive when do we use the gerund?
- What did they say? Vs What have they said? –
“What did they say?” is more common.
In English use the past simple for things said/done at a SPECIFIC time in the past, EVEN IF THAT SPECIFIC TIME IS NOT STATED.
e.g. “What did they say about your presentation (yesterday)?” – Presentation at a specific time
“The police are here to arrest me! What have they said?” – Their comments are relevant now
- Where have you been? CONNECTS TO THE PRESENT-
“Where have you been (until now)?”/”You’re covered in mud! Where have you been?”
Where were you? REFERS TO A SPECIFIC TIME IN THE PAST EVEN IF THAT SPECIFIC TIME IS NOT STATED-
You phoned 12 hours ago but nobody answered and now you say: “Where were you (when I phoned)?” or “Where were you (last night)?”
- It was me Vs It’s been me
In these examples also we need a context: “It was me (who phoned you last night)” or “It was me (who pushed you)” or “It was me (who broke the glass)”.
“It’s been me” has a connection to the present. For example “It’s been me who has helped you all your life” (up to now), or “It’s been me who has paid for your education” (up to now)
- Flying is amazing / To fly is amazing
You can use the infinitive, but it’s much more common to use the GERUND (VERB_ing). N.B.“amazing is an _ing ADJECTIVE, NOT a gerund (VERB_ing)
So, normally use the gerund (form of a verb) as the subject, object, or complement of the sentence – “Skiing is fun.”/ “Smoking is bad for your health.”/ “I hate peeling potatoes.”/ “Jazz music is letting your creativity run free in sound.” etc.
Using INFINITIVE to_ as subject, object, or complement sounds more ABSTRACT or POETIC:
“To be or not to be, that is the question.” (Shakespeare – Hamlet, circa 1599).
Or INFINITIVE to_ can also mean “IN ORDER TO”:
“To lead a better life I need my love to be here…
And if she’s beside me, I know I need never care,
But to love her is to need her everywhere,
Knowing that love is to share…” (The Beatles – Here, There & Everywhere, 1966):
Notice how many INFINITIVES and GERUNDS and _ing PRESENT PARTICIPLES(!) are skillfully used in these lyrics, and enjoy 😉
…and now it’s your turn to practise your English.
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On next week’s episode: A History of the English Language in 20 Minutes
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