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Which tense should I use? Options
ruangchuay
Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 11:37:54 AM
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Joined: 8/22/2009
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Location: Thailand
My 2-year girl, Aunna, was pointing at the picture I took with my husband 5 years ago. She asked "Where is Aunna?". Should I say "You haven't been born yet" or "You had not been born yet"?
I'm confused because it is the negative sentence.
Thank you very much.
Geeman
Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 12:16:43 PM

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Joined: 10/2/2009
Posts: 1,788
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Location: Whittier, California, United States
ruangchuay wrote:
My 2-year girl, Aunna, was pointing at the picture I took with my husband 5 years ago. She asked "Where is Aunna?". Should I say "You haven't been born yet" or "You had not been born yet"?
I'm confused because it is the negative sentence.
Thank you very much.

A 2-year-old probably isn't going to understand the grammar... but I'd go with "You had not been born yet." The present participle is often used to convey time in the past up until the present, so it sounds as if you might be saying she's still not there.
Kami
Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 7:07:53 PM
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Joined: 10/12/2009
Posts: 229
Neurons: 687
ruangchuay wrote:
My 2-year girl, Aunna, was pointing at the picture I took with my husband 5 years ago. She asked "Where is Aunna?". Should I say "You haven't been born yet" or "You had not been born yet"?
I'm confused because it is the negative sentence.
Thank you very much.


I think it's easier for toddlers to understand information in the English language when conveyed to them in simple present and simple past tenses.

I suppose your 2-year old will better understand your meaning in this version, "You were not yet born."
Djalma
Posted: Monday, November 9, 2009 4:46:15 AM
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Joined: 9/9/2009
Posts: 11
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Location: Sao Paulo/Brazil
Kami wrote:
I think it's easier for toddlers to understand information in the English language when conveyed to them in simple present and simple past tenses.

I suppose your 2-year old will better understand your meaning in this version, "You were not yet born."



I tend to agree with this and would further add that the moment the picture was taken is definitely over then being "a thing of the PAST". A typical condition for the use of past simple. From another angle, a full answer would have been: "The moment I took (PastSimple) the picture, you were not yet born."

Think Djalma
Romany
Posted: Monday, November 9, 2009 7:47:21 AM
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Joined: 6/14/2009
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Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom
To British English speakers use of "yet" as specified above sounds completely wrong. Yet, to us, means "up until now" or something that happened (or didn't happen)continuously up until the present moment. So to look at a moment in the past (the photo) and say "You hadn't been born yet"(while anchored in the present) to a child is something we would consider confusing.

"That/this was taken before you were born."
"You hadn't been born THEN" (Back then in the past when this photo was taken) is how we would be more likely to phrase it.

Also confusing to a non-native speaker is the fact that "the moment I (did something)" is a phrase which signifies a change or turn of events:- "The moment I saw him... he looked up"; "The moment I took a picture of it,... the creature moved"; "The moment I said it... I wished that I hadn't spoken".

A moment is fleeting, immeasurably small particle of time.

So we might phrase "The moment I took (PastSimple) the picture, you were not yet born." as "When I took the picture ..." Because your little one was not absent from the world simply for the micro-second it took someone to press the camera switch; but for the whole period of time the phtograph represents.

Oh dear, I've probably confused you more than ever, have I? There is often this argument inside of me that tells me on the one hand to shut up and not confuse the issue and, on the other hand, to try to clarify issues in this damnably difficult language. I never know which side to listen to!
Kami
Posted: Monday, November 9, 2009 10:35:03 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 10/12/2009
Posts: 229
Neurons: 687
Romany wrote:
To British English speakers use of "yet" as specified above sounds completely wrong. Yet, to us, means "up until now" or something that happened (or didn't happen)continuously up until the present moment. So to look at a moment in the past (the photo) and say "You hadn't been born yet"(while anchored in the present) to a child is something we would consider confusing.


The adverb yet has different meanings in different usages.When used to mean "up until now" the sentence should contain an adjective in its superlative form. Examples,
1) The best car yet made.
2) she was the smartest child yet born.

There was no adjective in the questioner's sentence; consequently the "yet" in her sentence wouldn't mean "up until now"


When used in a negative sentence as in the one the questioner sought to know, 'yet' gives the meaning that the birth of the child had not happened at the time the picture was taken but it was still to happen at a later time. The mother could've answered the child's question with one of the following:

1) You were not yet born (when this/that was taken)
2) That/this was taken before you were born.(your version)
3) You hadn't been born THEN (your version)



"That/this was taken before you were born."
"You hadn't been born THEN" (Back then in the past when this photo was taken) is how we would be more likely to phrase it.

Also confusing to a non-native speaker is the fact that "the moment I (did something)" is a phrase which signifies a change or turn of events:- "The moment I saw him... he looked up"; "The moment I took a picture of it,... the creature moved"; "The moment I said it... I wished that I hadn't spoken".

A moment is fleeting, immeasurably small particle of time.

So we might phrase "The moment I took (PastSimple) the picture, you were not yet born." as "When I took the picture ..." Because your little one was not absent from the world simply for the micro-second it took someone to press the camera switch; but for the whole period of time the phtograph represents.

Oh dear, I've probably confused you more than ever, have I? There is often this argument inside of me that tells me on the one hand to shut up and not confuse the issue and, on the other hand, to try to clarify issues in this damnably difficult language. I never know which side to listen to!
nightwalker
Posted: Sunday, December 6, 2009 11:26:22 AM
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Joined: 5/19/2009
Posts: 28
Neurons: 87
Location: Morocco
"You were not born at that time." - Use simple past.
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