When I've phoned Jane, we can have dinner.

Could you help me to explain the difference between the two sentences:
1. When I've phoned Jane, we can have dinner.
2. When I phone Jane, we can have dinner.


  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited February 2018

    The difference is very slight.

    1. When I've phoned Jane explicitly signals that there will be a gap between the phone call and the dinner.
    2. When I phone Jane doesn't make that explicit signal because both speaker and hearer know how the world works. In normal circumstances there is a gap between the two.


    • In [1] the hearer is told of the time gap explicitly though the grammar.
    • In [2] the hearer understands the time gap implicitly though knowledge of the situation

    Our knowledge of the world tells us that we don't begin and end meals during a phone call. OK, there just could be situation in which we sit around a dinner table waiting for someone to phone Jane so that we can start eating. But this is so unusual that speaker would need to say

    When I phone Jane, we can start our dinner.

    Even this is a bit awkward. I would prefer

    We can start dinner when I phone Jane.


  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭
    edited February 2018

    I've realised that there's a further possibility.

    Normally, sentences like [1] and [2] would refer to one future occasion for the phone call and one occasion after that for the dinner.

    However, sentence [2] could just about be used to refer to a general condition for many occasions. To make such a meaning clear, I would say

    Whenever I phone Jane, we can have dinner.

    In this situation, the time-gap is irrelevant. I wouldn't be happy with

    Whenever I've phoned Jane, we can have dinner.

    As I see it, this meaning sees each example of a phone call followed by dinner as a single two-part occasion. The speaker would refer to a possible number of such occasions in the future.

  • Thank you, David. Your analysis is very interesting and helpful. :)

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