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I am wondering...

There was the following exercise on a grammar website ( if you're curious), in which you are to choose present perfect or past simple in the following sentence:

_________ (you win) the game of chess?

The answer is Did you win the game of chess? (past simple), because the game is over and in the past. But how do we know? Am I to think that every time I see the phrase "the game of chess", it must be used with the present perfect, and never the past simple. It is something very subtle connected with the definite article and the verb win, but I cannot put my finger on it. Actually, I think I have figured it out. The outcome of a chess match is not always a win. It could be a loss. So, compared with cleaning one's room, as in the sentence "Have you cleaned your room?" it is slightly different.

But I am having trouble connecting the dots with the typical grammar explanations having to do with a "result in the present" or "importance to the present moment." Who's to say what's important to the present moment? Generally, I don't say things that aren't important to the present moment. I am saying them because I think they are important!

If you could shed some light on this issue, I would be very grateful.


(Link to the exercise:

Last edited by lagrange
Original Post

Hi, Ben—One can correctly ask "Have you won the game of chess?" (or, more simply, "Have you won the game (yet)?" or just "Have you won?") of someone who has been playing a game of chess which seems to have come to a close.

One would ask "Did you win the game of chess?" of someone who has already played the game of chess to which one is referring. Because the game already occurred, it is in the past. We thus use the past tense to talk about who won.

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