Grammar focus: have yet to

The phrase ‘have yet to‘ can be confusing! The present perfect tense in English can be difficult at the best of times, but the use of “have yet to” is another challenge for English learners.

A student came to see me the other day with a letter that he couldn’t understand. He had applied for a postgraduate course in another university and he had sent his transcript to the university admissions office. He inquired about the progress of his application and they sent him a letter. One part of the letter said:

We have yet to receive your transcript.

So the student asked me “What does it mean? Have they got it or not?”
Answer: “No, they haven’t!”

We have yet to receive your transcript = We haven’t received your transcript yet.

have yet to is formal English. It is used in formal situations, and is much less common in casual spoken English. Here are some examples of sentences with have yet to:

 

I have written to your company several times in regard to this matter and I have yet to receive a reply.

This sentence comes from a letter of complaint. I’ve written to you but you haven’t written back yet!

 

I have yet to receive an adequate explanation for your conduct!

This sounds like a teacher (or a boss!) talking. You haven’t told me why you did what you did (and you are in trouble!).

 

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.

Well this last one is a quote I heard which apparently is from Roseanne Barr. Women haven’t learnt yet that nobody will give you power – you just have to take it yourself.

Other articles about grammar on English for University.Com are  here.

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