Have you ever seen this man?

Have you ever seen this man before? This simple question helps make clear the idea behind the "perfect" (perfective aspect) in English. (Includes Brandy's 1998 hit music video "Have You Ever")

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Have you ever seen this man?: The idea behind the perfect aspect in English

This is another web lesson in support of my book Understanding English verb forms (http://bit.ly/9Kr9aT). Instead of using video clips, however, we will simply be looking at photographs.

Understanding English verb forms uses the modern approach of limiting English verb tenses to two – present and past – and grouping everything else under what is known as “aspect”.

We’ve already seen examples of what is known as progressive aspect:




In this lesson, we’ll look at basic idea behind the perfect (or perfective) aspect. Rather than giving you a long explanation, let me give you a simple question that should make the idea “perfectly” clear.

Have you ever seen this man?

To answer the question, you have two times in mind. Now, of course, since you are looking at the photo now, and the past – in this case your whole life. If you saw a photo of this man at any time in your life, you answer “Yes I have.”  If not, you answer “No I haven’t”. If you’re not sure, you might answer something like, “I’m not sure,” or “I think so, but I’m not sure.”

The man in the photo above, incidentally, is the famous American outlaw (อาชญากร,ผู้ร้าย) Jessie James in a photo taken just before his was killed in 1882. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_James

Now, look at the photo of the man on the right. Have you ever seen him before? Yes, you have. You saw him a minute ago. It’s another photo of Jessie James.

Briefly, with the perfect aspect you talk/think about an earlier event or situation from the point of view of a later time, usually now (the present perfect). The earlier event will be relevant (ที่เกี่ยวข้อง) in some way to the later time.

For example, if I say “I have studied German” I might mean that I can help you translate a German language email you have received from Germany.

If a student says “I’ve finished my homework” it probably indicates he/she is now free to do something else.

“If you say, “I’ve eaten”, you probably mean you’re not hungry at the moment.

Note to Thai learners of English: "Ever" is not always เคย

We use "ever" in questions, but not in statements.

Have you ever seen that movie.

I've seen that movie.


Look at each photo and answer the question: Have you ever seen him/her before? The answers will not be the same for everyone. It depends on your past experience – and your memory.

Teachers: You might have groups of students prepare their own photos from their own collection and from the internet. This works great as a slide show.

Brandy – Have you Ever (1998)

Now that you have the idea, let's put it to music. The time is now, Brandy's problem is now and to help you understand, she asks you to think back in time about your own experience.

"Have You Ever?"

Singer: Brandy

Have you ever loved somebody so much
It makes you cry
Have you ever needed something so bad
You can't sleep at night
Have you ever tried to find the words
But they don't come out right
Have you ever, have you ever

Have you ever been in love
Been in love so bad
You'd do anything to make them understand
Have you ever had someone steal your heart away
You'd give anything to make them feel the same
Have you ever searched for words to get you in their heart
But you don't know what to say
And you don't know where to start

Have you ever found the one
You've dreamed of all of your life
You'd do just about anything to look into their eyes
Have you finally found the one you've given your heart to
Only to find that one won't give their heart to you
Have you ever closed your eyes and
Dreamed that they were there
And all you can do is wait for the day when they will care

What do I gotta do to get you in my arms baby
What do I gotta say to get to your heart
To make you understand how I need you next to me
Gotta get you in my world
'Cuz baby I can't sleep

Related search: learning English verb forms, perfect aspect, have you ever

About the author

Writer: Terry Fredrickson
Position: Education Marketing and Support Manager