The present perfect and the preterite in Late Modern and Contemporary English

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In this article I examine a wide selection of language corpora, most of which have only recently become available, to shed light on the development of the two main verb forms used to refer to past time in English: the present perfect and the preterite. It has been claimed that the development of the present perfect in English runs counter to that observable in many other languages, including German and French, where this verb form continues to expand, at the expense of the preterite. The main conclusion is that the new corpus evidence confirms the assumption of a special development in English, the present perfect having been in decline since around 1800, in both AmE and BrE, although a somewhat varied picture emerges in the present-day language.


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