Grammar Guru: Watching an old film on TV

You watch an old film on TV for the first time. Afterwards, what do you say?

  1. “This is the first time I see this film.” You use the present tense because it’s true now.
  2. “This is the first time I saw this film.” You use the past tense because the film is over.
  3. “This is the first time I’ve seen this film.” You use the present perfect because it’s about your experience so far.

There are regional differences in where what is said, so answer without thinking too much, please!

Published by

Anne

Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

12 thoughts on “Grammar Guru: Watching an old film on TV”

  1. The rulez say: The present perfect is used to express experience so far, in an unfinished time period up to and including the present moment.
    But what do you say?
    I’d tend to say “This is/That was the first time I saw the film”.
    I’ve heard that the Irish sometimes use the present tense instead of the present perfect. In this situation, too?

  2. Ha, Ha Anne,

    Them Oirish – they have their own brand of English grammar!
    But things are changing – I think the 70s generation’s English has become pretty standardized.
    When I was a child you could hear – “I seen him in London” when people were home on holidays.
    A typical question I get when I go home: “how long are you here?” – my reply – “do you mean since or for?”-
    J:))

  3. Thanks for some real language :) The present perfect is just fucked if you come from the wrong side of the Atlantic.

  4. This was total *fail* on my part, but I was asking for it.

    Depending on the friends you’re sharing the sofa with, you’d say any number of things, but most pobably not the *correct* answer.

    Basically that shows a few things:
    1. you can seriously mess up a forced choice exercise unless you consider sufficient amounts of data
    2. you can’t predict what “real people” will say in a situation, you need to analyze it after it emerges
    3. I am all too often cowed by prescriptive grammarians into teaching “correct” grammar, even when I know better.
    So, thank you for reading this confessional.

    Now to our results:
    You watch an old film on TV for the first time. Afterwards, what do you say?

    * “This is the first time I’ve seen this film.” You use the present perfect because it’s about your experience so far. (76%, 13 votes)
    * “This is the first time I saw this film.” You use the past tense because the film is over. (18%, 3 votes)
    * “This is the first time I see this film.” You use the present tense because it’s true now. (6%, 1 vote)

    Extra entries:
    4. They don’t make films like that anymore. (Chris)
    5. Joan, you wouldn’t say any of this, would you?
    6. That was the first time I’d seen it. (Nicky)
    7. That was the first time I saw that film. I wouldn’t really say that, either. I’d say “What a great film.”

  5. No, Chris, on the contrary, I really love this experimenting and probing, I’m not your Miss Know it all. At all. (PS: Ok, I know you were pulling my leg, but it had to be said, lest there be misconceptions about what this here blog is about.)

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