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 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 1
Help needed: English grammar issuePage 1 of 6    (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
I've been trying to solve this problem for quite some time already. English is my 2nd language but I'm a linguist and have worked hard all these years trying to polish my English. Today I came across a sentence in an online quiz. Apparently the test wasn't prepared by a native speaker. Consider this sentence:

The lights _______________ today. (Past Simple or Present Perfect, switch on)

The student has to enter the missing word combination.
Well, after having lived in the US for 15 years I "feel" the right way to put it would be

The lights WERE switched on today.

since the act of switching on the lights is already at least relatively a matter of the past.
However the author of the test claims that it's correct to say

The lights HAVE BEEN switched on today.

Please tell me which version is correct here and why. Thanks in advance!
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 2
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 5/31/2009 9:34:55 AM
gotcha! a little witty remark there
Interestingly, Americans use this idiom too. Essentially both languages are the same, save a number of words and word combinations used specifically in each country respectively.
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 3
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 5/31/2009 9:51:08 AM
TechnoWench,

your input is highly highly appreciated here. I got the sentence from an e-book. Just wondering, r u sure about that and should not that be vice versa? If you ARE positive about it then I can officially consider this problem solved. Thank You!

http://abc-english-grammar.com/1/british-american-dictionary.htm
here is a list of different words and word combinations meaning the same things in American and British English respectively.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences
an interesting article on those differences
 pantsonfire
Joined: 7/19/2006
Msg: 4
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 5/31/2009 11:03:45 AM
Neither statement implies the lights are still in the on position, they are both stating a fact that occurred earlier and as such are not conclusive as to the condition of the lighting at present...


Both are technically correct but only the former sentence trips off the tongue without a sense of over complication.... For a natural English speaker, 'The lights were switched on today' would be the more likely statement...


I'm no expert but there's my opinion for what it's worth...
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 5
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 5/31/2009 11:37:20 AM
Thank you all!

I can now show everyone who disagreed with me on this usage that I at least wasn't wrong.

Summing up,

this is the way I see it:

if we say "The lights have been ON today" then we explicitly convey the idea of the lights being on for the duration of the day, no matter when the lights were switched on

but if we imply the action of turning the lights on,
then it would make sense to say: "The lights WERE SWITCHED on today" as though implying that there had been a power outage before

Thanks again!
 pantsonfire
Joined: 7/19/2006
Msg: 6
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 5/31/2009 2:06:12 PM
Msg 10 ...

No I don't see the statement 'The lights were switched on today' as being indicative of a previous power outage... The mere act of flicking the switch on the wall is 'switching' on a light surely??

For me both sentences convey exactly the same message, lights were, at some point during that day, activated.... The only argument lies with grammatical purity between the two versions of the same statement... 'Have been' and 'were' are both past tense and so surely, both correct... They are simple sentences and neither loses nor gains anything of interest on the other for those minor differences....

For me the sentence, 'The lights have been switched on today' is too convoluted and therefor redundant.. Personally I would use 'The lights were switched on today' for convenience, ease of conveyance and simplicity...


Oh and yes I am fully aware of the irony of my over wordy sentence structures being used when lauding simple sentence structure... I don't care... So ner ner!!!
 TheRealSoul
Joined: 7/5/2008
Msg: 7
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 6/1/2009 6:12:45 AM
have lights become impotent recently?
get em TURNED on fella
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 8
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/14/2009 10:57:59 AM
Can somebody please tell me what the following expression means:

to pick up one's jaw off the floor

THANKS!
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 9
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/14/2009 11:18:25 AM
Thank You Sir!

1) to recover from a beating
2) to recover from a surprise
 Purrrfect4u
Joined: 9/21/2007
Msg: 10
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/14/2009 3:05:01 PM
Irrespective of how the lights were switched on ... was anyone home?
 restless_native
Joined: 12/17/2006
Msg: 11
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/15/2009 9:41:10 AM
I don't think grammar is that important as long as you can make your point effectively. I'd say the same about spelling as well.

The English language is just too weird sometimes with all the unnecessary confusing letters in words like pneumatic and gnome.
 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 12
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/18/2009 1:32:43 PM
I was 7 years old when I started to learn English and it was British English. At the age of 20 I moved to the US and gradually succumbed to their slur and twang and the simplicity of their way of speaking the language. But in my heart I'll always be fond of British English and try to leave no stone unturned until I feel I'm competent enough to read English NEWSPAPERS without EVER resorting to a dictionary.

To let you understand what I really meant to clarify in this thread I'm going to paraphrase the sentence in question:

They switched on the lights today
as opposed to
They have switched on the lights today

In this case, the act of switching on the lights is something that happened at a particular time, say at 5 o'clock.

They switched on the lights at 5 today.

We obviously CAN'T say: They have switched on the lights at 5 today.

 Fibonacci
Joined: 9/16/2005
Msg: 13
Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/19/2009 7:45:14 AM
Pedro,

I am ABSOLUTELY sure we CAN'T say:
"They HAVE switched on the lights AT 5 today."

This is as axiomatic as that the sun rises in the east.

If time is specified, we can't say HAVE here. I wonder if it's the same in Spanish.
No offence here, but I'd rather let you know about it now than let you make this mistake in the future.

Here is the link:
http://www.langust.ru/unit_el/unit_019.shtml
 davidxj8
Joined: 10/31/2005
Msg: 14
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Help needed: English grammar issue
Posted: 7/23/2009 10:31:07 AM
does it realy matter, as for the americans use of the English language, well that's a joke, as the americans have totally ruined the language after we taught them it.
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