Wrong tense used in the media, I have to argue--do you agree?


Here's a tragic news story:  "A 16-year-old has died as the result of a helmet-to-helmet collision during a high school football game over the weekend, according to multiple reports out of New York." (Link--I just realized no links are allowed on here, but I would have linked you to the story if I could).  I have to argue that the present perfect, "has died," is incorrect.  I often see it used (and I have read it has something to do with the new hot news tense), but I have to say it is wrong.  None of the present-perfect usage conditions is applicable:  It is not a continuing action (once one dies, they die), and it is not indefinite in time ("during a...game over the weekend").  So, I'd argue it should say as follows:  "A 16-year-old died," without the "has" present-perfect part.  If I am definitley wrong, please explain why.  I realize British English has been having more and more of an impact on American English, but I find it wrong, lol.

tenses edited Sep 18 '13 at 12:21 Heather New member

2 answers


I don't see a problem with this. The sentence specifies the time of the collision as over the weekend, but the death actually happened after the player walked off the field and was taken to a hospital. I think 'has died' or 'died' would work equally well.  I see a bigger problem in your parenthetical expression,  (once one dies, they die), where you use a singular pronoun (one) as the antecedent to a plural pronoun (they). But neither usage will lead to a life of sorrow.

link comment answered Sep 18 '13 at 13:11 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

In news reporting, the present tense is generally used in headlines to create a sense that the news is being reported immediately.  A common style is to also use the present tense in the introductory sentence. 


The present perfect is used for something that happened at an unspecified time before now.  An indefinite period of time is different than an unspecified time.  Indefinite means that something lasted for an unknown amount of time.  Though during the game (or after) may seem like a specific time to you, one might argue that it isn't specific enough. 

link comment answered Sep 18 '13 at 15:34 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

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