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NinjaTurtle

Using 最近 with present perfect

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889

"Have you been to Nanjing?" "Yes, I've been to Nanjing."

 

"Have you been to Nanjing before?" "Yes, I've been to Nanjing before."

 

"Have you already been to Nanjing?" "Yes, I've already been to Nanjing."

 

"You've never been to Nanjing?" "No, I've never been to Nanjing."

 

That is, I suspect the problem students face is that ever acts a bit strange, and can't usually be used as part of an affirmative response, unlike a lot of similar words. In this context it behaves something like a question word.

 

"Have you ever been to Nanjing?" "Ever? Well, just once."

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davoosh

As usual, I don't think it's useful to think in terms of translations for these things. The grammatical category of 'aspect' in Chinese operates very differently to English tense and aspect. And as 陳德聰 mentioned, the use of 'guo' or 'le' (or none) adds a certain nuance which isn't easily conveyed into English.

 

(Please ignore this if you're not into descriptive linguistic analysis, but this paper was interesting: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a2f2/59981f616f4e53cc5cdd1a4decbd97e0f5bb.pdf 

 

The author(s) basically says that both 'le' and 'guo' are perfect markers, but:

 

'Finally, we have proposed that when the semantics of the predicates in question imposes no restriction on the selection of -guo and -le, the choice between these two so-called perfectives is determined by a pragmatic condition (PC) which is stated as follows: Use -guo when describing a change out of state and/or partial completion of a sit- uation;otherwise,use-lewhendescribingthecontinuationoftheRSand/ortotal realization of the relevant situation. On the other hand, if semantics has already determined the choice between -guo and -le, the PC will simply not come into play.'

 

Giving examples were both guo and le are valid, such as: 他寫<過/了>一本書,但是只寫了一半

 

Another interesting example was how although '死' is usually stated to be a verb which can't occur with 過, the pragmatic context again wins, with sentences such as: 村裏死過三個人 

 

My own thoughts (based on what I've read, please feel free to disagree as I'm not native). Given that the authors identify guo with 'indefiniteness', perhaps 最近有去旅遊過嗎 could be translated as 'Have you been travelling at all lately?' whereas a sentence like 最近旅遊去了嗎 is more like 'oh you've been travelling lately?' as often this type of 了 can add a nuance of emotional reaction to previous context (i.e. maybe the speaker said 'I haven't been to class for 2 weeks).

 

 

 

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Zbigniew
18 hours ago, 889 said:

I think I would despair if I were an English teacher in China trying to explain the difference between "I didn't call her recently" and "I haven't called her recently." Complete despair.

Sorry if I'm missing something, but I'm struggling to see in what context I'd ever use the first. Can you enlighten me?

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somethingfunny

"Peter, did you call Lucy recently?"

"No, I didn't call her recently."

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Zbigniew
14 minutes ago, somethingfunny said:

"Peter, did you call Lucy recently?"

"No, I didn't call her recently."

Thanks.

 

This dialogue carries two possible interpretations to me, only one of which is idiomatic in my variety of English. I suspect both interpretations would be idiomatic in your variety of English, but that you have only one of the two interpretations in mind here. 

 

Sorry I've not got time to explain further now. Maybe you'll have twigged what I'm on about by the time I come back.

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889

An interrogation room at the local police station. Zbigniew is being questioned about a murder. A light shines on his face. He's sweating.

 

P -- "Did you know the victim"

Z -- "Yes, but not too well."

P -- "Did you ever call the victim?"

Z -- "Sometimes."

P -- "Did you call him recently?"

Z -- "No, I didn't call him recently. Certainly not."

P -- "Didn't you call him at 3:37pm five days ago?"

Z -- "That's not recent!"

 

The police re-focus the light on Zbigniew's face. He's really sweating now.

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NinjaTurtle

"Peter, did you call Lucy recently?"

"No, I didn't call her recently."

 

I teach the students that this is wrong, that the following is correct:

 

"Peter, have you called Lucy recently?"

"No, I haven't called her recently."

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889

Only one of these is hunky-dory when speaking of a recent death:

 

"Have you recently spoken with him?"

 

"Did you recently speak with him?"

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Zbigniew
3 hours ago, 889 said:

 

An interrogation room at the local police station.

 

That's just the kind of scenario I was going to use to illustrate one of the two interpretations I was talking about. The other, non-idiomatic (for me) interpretation is where simple past is performing the same function (though not always so unequivocally) as the present perfect, as is often the case in American English.

 

I assumed that the difference you despaired of explaining was the difference where the first is only an Americanism for the second. I believe American speakers sometimes use these interchangeably in situations where Br. English speakers would only ever use the second, and explaining what dictates American speakers' choice in these circumstances certainly is something I'd despair of explaining. The two sentences you would despair of explaining the difference between, on the other hand, don't strike me as particularly challenging, falling as they do within normal patterns of usage for simple past and present perfect respectively.

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陳德聰

Can we stick to Chinese, please and thanks? I understand that some people try to understand Chinese grammar by forcing it into an English framework, but if we could perhaps stay on the topic of present perfect in Chinese and away from an impending conversation about Am. English vs Br. English I’d be much obliged.

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Zbigniew
1 hour ago, 陳德聰 said:

Can we stick to Chinese, please and thanks?

Certainly. Sorry.

1 hour ago, 陳德聰 said:

I understand that some people try to understand Chinese grammar by forcing it into an English framework,

Am I allowed to respond to that undeniably valid observation by expressing my puzzlement at its applicability to anything I have said about Chinese and English, either in this or in any other thread? My apologies in advance if your comment was meant for someone other than me.

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NinjaTurtle
18 hours ago, 陳德聰 said:

I understand that some people try to understand Chinese grammar by forcing it into an English framework

...because sometimes it is the only thing that works. Yes, in an ideal world, such things would not be necessary. But the state of English instruction in China is in VERY bad shape. Chinese students think that speaking very broken and incorrect English is just fine. So do Chinese teachers in China who teach English. This is a drastic situation that requires drastic measures.

 

One of the best techniques I have found is saying something in Chinese, then having the students translate it into a complete sentence in English. (You would be shocked at how bad Chinese students are at this.) We then work together as a team to translate it into English. Later on, we do speaking activities, where they are required to speak these very sentences in English. As they do this, they have the English on the left side of a printed page and the Chinese translation on the right side of the page. I find this works better than anything else, and , yes, it requires "forcing Chinese into English". I am willing to stake my students' English fluency scores against anyone else's scores.

 

Which brings me to become a member of this forum and ask for the differences in meaning between:

 

我去了南京。
我去过南京。
我去过了南京。

我曾经去了南京。

我曾经去过了南京。

 

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davoosh

My best attempt at an explanation....:

我去了南京 - I went to Nanjing.  By itself, this type of sentence is not common and usually only appears as part of a large context. I.e. I went to Nanjing (and then...), e.g.: 去了南京之後...
Or, it is used if you want the object is 
emphasised, i.e. I went to Nanjing. This type of 了 usually indicates a 'bounded event' in that the object is quantifiable and limits the verb. In this case, the sentence would be more natural with a time word, i.e. 今年我去了南京.

 

我去南京 - This means 'I went to Nanjing (and I am still there). The first 了 is the perfective le, and requires the object (Nanjing), the second le, is sentence-final le or change of state le which indicates that the current is is now 'being in Nanjing'.

 

我去过南京 - I have been to Nanjing (at some point). 

我去过了南京 - I think using Verb-过了-Object is not very common. 我去过南京了 is OK though, this is basically the same meaning as above, but the 了 adds more current relevance depending on the context of the conversation, i.e. a friend might ask 'why don't you go to Nanjing' and you reply: 我去过南京了-  I've already been to 
Nanjing!

The last two are the same but just with 曾经 which is an adverb. It basically just adds an emphasis on 'once, at one time, one time in the past, etc'.

Of course, a native speaker might have more to say on this!

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陳德聰

Part of the problem is that 

10 hours ago, NinjaTurtle said:

1. 我去了南京。
2. 我去过南京。
3. 我去过了南京。

4. 我曾经去了南京。

5. 我曾经去过了南京。

1. I went to Nanjing. As a step in a sequence of events (perhaps!). I may or may not still be there, but I did in fact do the action of going there.

2. I have been to Nanjing. I am not there now. I have the experience of going there though, that one would get from going there in the past.

3. I've already been to Nanjing, I don't need to go again. Why are you even suggesting we go? I even used non-standard sentence phrasing in order to point out that there is additional pragmatic info going on.

4. I once [went to Nanjing]. At some time in the past I collected the achievement "went to Nanjing;" I am not there now.

5. I has been to Nanjing once. I use non-standard ways of expressing myself because just because. (If I were asked to determine what this means, I would guess that it means "我曾經去過南京" and if I had a red pen I might mark it incorrect even though I'm sure someone somewhere must talk like this.)

 

There is a problem with trying to use these sentences to achieve what you're trying to achieve, i.e. teach English through Chinese-to-English translation. English present perfect is used for a variety of purposes, expresses a variety of different possible meanings, some of which are ambiguous (e.g. "I have eaten their cake," where maybe you've completed the action of eating their cake or maybe you're just explaining that you've eaten the cakes that bakery sells and having that experience you have something to say about it). You will need to have a very intimate understanding of the sentences you are using as examples if you are going to be able to make this work. But it starts with actually forming "correct" sentences in Chinese first with which to illustrate your point.

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NinjaTurtle

陳德聰,

Thanks for the translations.

 

As  said before, this system is not great, but it works better than anything else I have seen, due to the abysmal state of English instruction in China. Yes,  I need to have a very intimate understanding of these sentences, which is why I am working on this right now.

 

I would add that translating present perfect into Chinese is one of the most difficult points of translating Chinese and English. Understanding the differences between 过, 了, and 过了 is certainly not intuitive. Fortunately, my other attempts at translating have gone better!

 

I saw one translation of 我曾经去了南京 that goes, "I used to go to Nanjing." But someone else (a Chinese person) said that using "used to do" as in English just doesn't sound right in Chinese. Do you agree? Or how about something using a word like 以前 ?

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陳德聰
23 minutes ago, NinjaTurtle said:

I saw one translation of 我曾经去了南京 that goes, "I used to go to Nanjing." But someone else (a Chinese person) said that using "used to do" as in English just doesn't sound right in Chinese. Do you agree? Or how about something using a word like 以前 ?

Whose translation was it? And do you mean that someone translated from English "I used to go to Nanjing" and it came out as "我曾經去了南京"? I can't imagine a Chinese person saying it to mean anything other than "I went there once."

 

Again the issue is that the information encoded in English "used to do" is rendered via different means in Chinese. AND there is ambiguity there as to whether you still go. "I used to go to Nanjing (habitually, often, regularly, but no longer do so habitually, often, regularly)" could be rendered as 我以前會經常去南京(但現在衹是偶爾去一趟), and "I used to go to Nanjing (but ever since that one time my friends convinced me to go to 大保健 I have never been able to bring myself to go back there. Too many painful memories from just one night.)" could be rendered as 我以前會去南京(但現在不會了).

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NinjaTurtle

Alas, it was online translating! Online translating is a godsend, but sometimes it gives translations that are downright goofy. And sometimes it seems that when I ask three different Chinese people I get three different translations!

 

Your two differing definitions for "used to" are fascinating. Give me some time to look at them a little closer.

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