Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

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Regular verbs, irregular verbs, auxiliary verbs, compound verbs... When do we use which tense? What about those strange constructions the Dutch use to make a continuous? "Staat" my book on the shelf or "ligt" it? Ask all about Dutch verbs here.
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Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by aleix » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:50 am

Hello everyone,

First of all I would like to thank all of you for reading my post and taking some of your time and trying to help me.

I'm learning dutch by my own, mainly by reading a grammar book and consulting different sources on the net.

I'm still in a beginner level.

My question is somehow strange and maybe senseless, but I don't care to expose myself as long as I get to clarify and improve my understanding.

According to my book, to form the perfect tense of a modal auxiliary in conjunction with another verb the past participle becomes infinitive, and now it is the perfect tense auxiliary verb hebben/zijn which agrees with the subject.

Ik heb kunnen komen

Dat heeft zij altijd willen doen

I understand and remember the rules for constructing this kind of sentences. But I'm concerned about the sense of the whole or the information that every element of it gives to a reader/listener. I mean, in a sentence like the above I don't see any particle that is placing this action in the past. Yes, I see the hebben/zijn past perfect auxiliary, but since the past participle is replaced by the infinitive, it seems that there lacks important information (for me, as a humble learner, lost in doubts constantly).

Same thing happens in some infinitive constructions when used in past perfect:

Ik heb mijn schoenen laten repareren.

Zij is komen helpen

Wij hebben naar de radio zitten luisteren.

Then again, hebben/zijn + infinitive + infinitive.

I dont know if you get my point. As a learner I'm trying too "feel" the language, to try to understand its inner constructions or meanings, not "just" translating it. Of course I just can learn the rule, and because my book tells me that this is a way to express a past perfect with modals in this language I remember so.

But how does a dutch native speaker make sense of this constructions? How does he know that this happened in the past? Just because there is the hebben/zijn auxiliary? But the presense of the hebben or zijn verbs it doesn't seem enough for me.


I repeat, excuse me if I don't express correctly what I'm trying to ask or if it seems absurd to you.

I would like to understand a bit more the nature of this language and learn something.

Thanks a lot. :)

Aleix

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by Teodor » Sun Feb 01, 2015 1:29 pm

Hmmm... I think I understand your question, but it's rather difficult to answer :D How does a native speaker 'feel' that such a construction happened in the past? I guess because that's the way he has seen it being used ever since he was a little child :)

Perhaps the help of someone who has studied Dutch historical linguistics might be useful. Maybe the origin of these constructions lies in constructions like "Wij hebben gezeten, luisterend naar de radio." Or perhaps it even was "Wij hebben gezeten naar de radio te luisteren." somewhere in the past - but that sounds really wrong.

Note that to me "Zij is komen helpen." does not necessarily exclude the possibility that she's helping right now: it's the 'coming' that happened in the past.

I'm sorry for this rather useless answer, because I really think it's an interesting question.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by Dolo » Sun Feb 01, 2015 3:40 pm

I'm not sure whether I understand the question properly, but when it comes to Present Perfect tense in English, it is used for ex. in situations when the speaker does not give any specific time of the action 'Have you done that?' (he doesn't ask when the addressee has done the thing, but whether the action has been done at all). The same thing applies to Dutch,. i reckon: "Hebt je dat gedaan?" not 'Deed je dat?". One of your examples is: "Wij hebben naar de radio zitten luisteren", which just confirms the rule.
Besides that, at dutchgrammar.com site I have read that the Dutch do not really differentiate between these two past tenses whereas in English it is more strict.
Another thing is that, if you have some pretty long sentence with quite a lot verbs in past tense, you would get stuck in trying to put them all in Present Perfect due to this entire "verb + hebben/zijn", so it is easier to use Past Simple which requires using only one verb.
That's how I make sense out of it.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by BrutallyFrank » Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:06 pm

I guess that he means that the words 'heeft', 'willen' and 'doen' aren't past tense. But combined they are ... but what's the rule for that?
"Moenie worrie nie, alles sal reg kom" (maar hy het nie gesê wanneer nie!)

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by ngonyama » Tue Feb 03, 2015 3:46 am

I think that you are confusing the perfect with the past. In Dutch they are not the same.

E.g past: Ik zat gisteren naar de radio te luisteren (en toen ging het brandalarm af)

The past tense "zat" makes is clear that this event is situated in the past, e.g. yesterday.

Ik heb nu(!) jouw verhaal zitten lezen en geef er een antwoord op.

This is not a past tense (as the present perfect auxiliary "heb" clearly indicates), but a (present!!) perfect one: I just finished reading your story now, not in the past. Perfect means only the completion of the action, not its point in time. That point is now, not yesterday.

If you want to put it in the past you can:

Ik had (gisteren) net jouw verhaal zitten lezen, toen ik zag dat Frank er al op geantwoord had. Now the past tense had of the perfect auxiliary shows that it came to completion in the past.


Another but related point. Dutch does NOT have a "past" participle. "gedaan", "geweest" etc. are PERFECT participles. Voltooide deelwoorden.

Yes I know they are sometimes (still...) called verleden deelwoord, but that is really a terrible name. :twisted:
A good example is the future perfect. Hij zal morgen om drie uur zijn examen afgelegd hebben. The point of completion is in the future. Nothing past about it.

And yes even that you can make continuous: Hij zal morgen om deze tijd drie uur hebben zitten zweten.
zal=future tense : point of time = future
hebben=perfect aux: action comes to completion
zitten = expresses continuity
zweten= the main verb.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by aleix » Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:18 am

Hello,

Thanks to all of you for caring for my question.
Last edited by aleix on Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by aleix » Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:03 pm

Hellom
Hij heeft gisteren kunnen komen.
Still present?

Thank you,

Aleix

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by ngonyama » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:08 am

No, nonsensical sentence. Hij had gisteren kunnen komen.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by aleix » Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:04 am

ngonyama wrote:.
Wow, the web is full of these kind of sentences, though.

Example:
http://www.dutchgrammar.com/en/?n=Verbs.Re14
Afgelopen zaterdag hebben we lang uitgeslapen .
" (...) We use the present perfect for past actions and events. (...) "
mmmmmmhh



You are confusing me a lot. Please, give me some proper sources that confirm what you are saying, otherwise I assume you are wrong.


From wikipedia ( http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltooid_t ... rdige_tijd) :

Voltooid tegenwoordige tijd

Gebruik[bewerken]

·duidt een tijdstip in het verleden aan (dus geen duur)
·duidt op een voltooide handeling
·legt de nadruk op het resultaat van een handeling

Thanks,

Aleix
Last edited by aleix on Fri Feb 06, 2015 8:01 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by IgnatiusReilly » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:53 pm

I feel your pain trying to get your head round 'hebben/zijn + infinitief + infinitief' as an expression of something that happened in the past. I guess you kind of compare it with people who are learning French:

'Je viens de manger.' No sign of a past tense in this sentence, but somehow it translates as 'i just ate'. Magic! 8)

To answer your question: 'zijn/hebben + infinitief + infinitief' can express something that happened in the past because one of the infinitives actually replaces the past participle. Compare these sentences:

Hij heeft het proberen te verbeteren <-> Hij heeft geprobeerd het te verbeteren

I guess we, as native speakers, instinctively know that proberen replaces geprobeerd and that's why we regard is as a statement about the past.

I'm not sure if there is an historical explanation for this. In 'Ferguut', a Dutch text from the 13th century, you can already find this sentence: 'menegen man hebbic helpen slaen'.

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by aleix » Thu Feb 05, 2015 9:42 pm

Thanks a lot for you answer.

I'm familiarizing with this constructions and trying to identify them easily when reading or listening dutch. Just wanted to know more about them.

I guess that you "always" put more information in the sentence about the time where the action took place, like: "gisterend", "agelopen jaar", etc, and it makes totally clear that the action happened and was completed at that past time.
Correct me if I go wrong.

Thanks!

Aleix

* I do have one more question, maybe you know.

Ik heb kunnen komen roughly means... I was able to come.
How do you say in dutch "I could go",expressing an hypothetical past.

"That could happen", "I could die for you". Is it in the same way?

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by Dolo » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:29 am

aleix wrote: How do you say in dutch "I could go",expressing an hypothetical past.
This would be "I could have gone" when it comes to the hypothetical past (at least in English).

I think "Ik zou kunnen gaan" would work quite well for "I could go" whereas "Ik zou hebben kunnen gegaan" for "I could have gone".

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by Bert » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:29 pm

Dolo wrote:
aleix wrote: How do you say in dutch "I could go",expressing an hypothetical past.
This would be "I could have gone" when it comes to the hypothetical past (at least in English).

I think "Ik zou kunnen gaan" would work quite well for "I could go" whereas "Ik zou hebben kunnen gaan" for "I could have gone".

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by Dolo » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:51 pm

IgnatiusReilly wrote: Hij heeft het proberen te verbeteren <-> Hij heeft geprobeerd het te verbeteren
So, are these ones actually correct but carry different meaning?
Bert wrote: "Ik zou hebben kunnen gaan"
So is it impossible to say "Ik zou hebben kunnen gegaan" since infinitive replaces the past participle form?

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Re: Present perfect (modals, infinitive constructions)

Post by IgnatiusReilly » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:13 pm

Dolo wrote:
IgnatiusReilly wrote: Hij heeft het proberen te verbeteren <-> Hij heeft geprobeerd het te verbeteren
So, are these ones actually correct but carry different meaning?
Both of the sentences are correct and the meaning stays the same. Some might argue though that there is a stylistic difference between them.

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