I have served in the army?

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I saw a sentence in an email and thought it was a bit awkward. Please see below

"I have served in the army for over 20 years until I retired."

The person is no longer in the army but wrote me such a sentence. If the person is no longer in the army, can the person use "have served"? Shouldn't it be "I served in the army for over 20 years until I retired"? Or is this person simply stating that he has the experience of serving in the army some time in the past?

Pato

Posted 2013-05-13T12:28:43.263

Reputation: 433

Answers

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This should be, as you say,:

"I served in the army for over 20 years until I retired."

Most native speakers don't know how to use the present perfect, and most non-native Anglophones make many errors in tense and aspect in English. Tense in English is sometimes quite difficult.

user264

Posted 2013-05-13T12:28:43.263

Reputation:

1+1. You can say "I have served in the army for 20 years. I joined in 1983 and I'm still there now!", but "I have served until I retired" isn't quite right. – Matt – 2013-05-13T13:12:13.833

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That sentence seems similar to "I have walked downtown every day for a year." In both the sentences, the present perfect tense doesn't imply I am still doing the action I described.

kiamlaluno

Posted 2013-05-13T12:28:43.263

Reputation: 20 456

However, "... have <action> ..." implies discrete action or activity. – GalacticCowboy – 2013-05-13T15:08:21.497

It does not imply that you are currently in the act of walking downtown, but it says that walking downtown is a habit that you currently have (and that it is a habit you started a year ago). I would expect you to walk downtown every day for the next year as well. Therefore, the interpretation cannot apply to the OP's construct. – Hellion – 2013-05-13T16:39:17.413

No, they're not similar. Actually, I think your sentence does imply that the walking is still going on; at least, it reads that way to me. Moreover, even if your sentence didn't imply you're still waking downtown - it doesn't imply you're not still taking daily walks, either. In the O.P.'s sentence, there is no question that the army service is in the past, and is no longer ongoing. – J.R. – 2013-05-14T02:52:44.863

@J.R. Do you mean that the next sentence could not be "I am not taking walks anymore because my work leaves me less time for such activities."? – kiamlaluno – 2013-05-14T11:24:15.030

@k: By itself, I wouldn't think so; that verb tense seems to imply the activity will continue for the foreseeable future. Moreover, if I were to string those two thoughts together, I'd use the conjunction but: "I have walked downtown every day for a year, but now I won't be able to, because of my new job." – J.R. – 2013-05-14T13:01:26.447