Has Died

I see “has died” used all the time. It seems to me that “has” is superfluous. A person died at a specific time.

“Died” is simple past tense. “Has died” is past perfect tense. Now, there might be an error in using “has” if someone is not being careful with tense, but it’s not superfluous. There’s a difference in meaning.

Right. “Died”, simple past tense, could be any time at all. “Has died”, past perfect, means it occurred very recently.

Not necessarily. “He was alive for the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration, but he has since died.” That means I don’t know when or it doesn’t matter, but sometime between then and now he kicked it.

Whoops! That’s present perfect tense. My apologies.

Here’s a page illustrating that and other comparisons between the two tenses.

“He died” is syntactically analogous to “I ate snails” (present tense, neutral aspect)
“He has died” is syntactically analogous to “I have eaten snails” (present tense, perfect aspect)

Do you object to the perfect aspect in general? If not, it’s hard to see why you’d object to its use with the verb “die” in particular.

Sorry, this was of course meant to say “past tense, neutral aspect”

The difference in meaning between simple and compound past (which I refuse to call perfect because it is the simple past that, by and large, has perfective aspect) is rather subtle. If I say that someone “has done” something, there is a clear implication that the person is alive and it kind of clashes when you use that form of a deceased person and makes me think the speaker is unaware of the death.

The present instance would seem to contradict this. I guess I would use “has died” when conveying new information. As in the sad news this morning that the autistic child who wandered off and was rescued two days later has died (from hypothermia). I am sure there is an even deeper analysis possible, but I cannot seem to come up with it.

And to further complicate the matter, there’s also:

“He *had *died.”

It’s present perfect because it’s action over and done with in the present.

Napoleon died in the 1830s/

The celebrity who passed away on Sunday has died – it’s a recent event, now over and done with, being looked at in the present. That Napoleon is dead isn’t news; that that celebrity is, is.

(FWIW, past perfect is used to describe an event occurring before an already past event. When Napoleon died, one of his foremost opponents had been dead for fiteen years already.)

I have noticed a tendency (I stress: tendency, not universal practice) in American English to use the simple past in situations where British English would use the perfect:

Am. “Do you want to watch FlashForward?” “I already saw it.”
Br. "Do you want to watch FlashForward? “I’ve already seen it.”

Br. “Do you want to watch FlashForward?” “No, it’s a load of old tripe.”

And yet,
Traditional Br. “Do you want to watch FlashForward?” “No, I’m busy eating loads of old tripe”

What would the imperfect form be, then?
I guess we should be glad English doesn’t have a past historic, like French.

“Was dying”, I’d think.

The convention, which seems to be more rigid in UK English, is that if you use the past simple you should state a point in time. “The president returned to the country yesterday evening”, otherwise you use the present perfect to indicate that it happened recently but at an unspecified time. “The president has returned to the country”.

“Since” functions as a adverb here, modifying the verb. It doesn’t change the fact that “has” marks that it’s in the past, and “died” marks that it’s further in the past.

Then we can carry this dead person’s activities into the future and the future perfect:

He will die and he will have died.

Or, if you prefer: He shall die and he shall have died.

If we keep this up long enough, we can get to “He shall have been dying”! Oh, joy!

Are we allowed to use shan’t as a negative variation on shall? Or would that open up another can of worms, so to speak?