Learn English – Would it be ‘meet’ or ‘have met’ in this structure


If I bumped into someone, who happened to be called John, yesterday, and I am telling someone else of the encounter, would I say:

I happened to meet John yesterday.


I happened to have met John yesterday.


The question, in other words, is this:

Does the sense of past lie in the act of 'happening,' or the act of 'meeting,' or in both. It confuses me because a) I already happened to meet [?] him, and b) I already 'met' him.

Thank you in advance.

Best Answer

"to meet" refers to the bare event of "meeting", which was in the past, hence "happened to meet".

"to have met" refers to the state of "having met", which is a present state, hence "happen to have met". I don't think there is any use of "happen" where you would need to refer to a past state, and so "happened to have met" just won't be used.

The differences between "happened to meet" and "happen to have met" can be seen in the following:

Just yesterday, I happened to meet him.

*Just yesterday, I happen to have met him. (WRONG because "happen" is semantically incompatible with "just yesterday")

I happen to have met him just yesterday. (correct because "just yesterday" here modifies "to have met him")

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