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, and this phrase 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!"

The sentence above = We haven't received your transcript yet.

This is formal English. It is used in formal situations, and is much less common in casual spoken English. Here are some more examples:

 

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.

I think that this phrase is one which you should learn to recognise when you see it, but I suggest that you don't worry too much about producing it yourself. It is very formal and although it can be useful in academic writing, you will be able to write very successfully without ever using it. The key to successful academic writing is clarity and you can clearly convey your meaning without specific use of this particular phrase. If you read the article 'What is academic English' you can get a good understanding of the basic features of academic English.

You can read read more about this structure from the Macmillan Dictionary here.

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

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