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Admitted playing / admitted having played

Posted by GPP on August 14, 2003

In Reply to: Admitted playing / admitted having played posted by GPP on August 14, 2003

: : I am teaching English in Japan.
: : A thing I do not understand is:

: : What is the difference between the two sentences
: :
: : (A) I admitted playing tennis with her.

: : (B) I admitted having played tennis with her.

: : Both A and B mean "In the past I played tennis with her"

: : Does (A) always mean "Sometime in the past a
: : I played tennis with her."?

: : Does (B) always mean "Continusly I have been playing tennis with her."?

: : Thanks in advance.

: I would interpret these two constructions just the opposite from the way you've proposed. I'm no grammarian, but (A) is basically a simple past tense, while (B) is a perfect tense, indicating that the action is perfected, completed, no longer ongoing. There's no way to determine from either sentence whether I played tennis with her only once, or many times; but (B) implies there's no expectation of our playing tennis again in the future. On the other hand (unless she's now dead, as might be the case since I have 'admitted' to something), this is not the same as suggesting that we may NOT play tennis again in the future--merely that there is no expectation now of our doing so. (A) carries no such implication either way; it simply says, yes, I played tennis with her--maybe once, maybe over a long period of years, maybe when I was young, maybe up until just a moment ago.

: Of course the playing of tennis, if it happened on more than a single occasion, will have been (this "will have been" construction is the future perfect) continual rather than continuous. Continuous means that we never stopped for a break; continual means that we played tennis on several different occasions, more or less regularly.

: Also, for what it's worth, my mind was toying with inserting the word 'to' in both of those sentences, but Fowler contradicts that impulse; one confesses to playing, but admits playing, without the 'to'.

A copy of Fowler would be extremely useful to your teaching; he discusses all of these problems in detail. Try to find a copy of "Fowler's Modern English Usage (Oxford Language Classics Series) by Henry Fowler