alex-gregory-it-has-yet-to-turn-a-profit-new-yorker-cartoonSo my husband presented me with a unique problem today. What is more correct grammatically: “is yet” or “has yet”? My first answer was that both are correct, at least in terms of sentence construction, but it took me a while to understand why one is correct in some places while the other can only be used elsewhere.

Initially the difference seemed to lie in the tense. Yes, I know, that is where most problems begin. Anyway, so “has yet” is in the present perfect tense and “is yet” seems to be in the future tense.

But that still does not adequately explain the difference. When is it correct to use “has yet” in place of “is yet”? I think, based on a good deal of sentences I read today, that it essentially depends on usage. Let me explain.

Sentence # 1: Charlie is yet to look for a baby-sitter for little Emma
Sentence # 2: Charlie has yet to receive the funding for his charity.

Now in Sentence #1, “is yet” is more forceful, and implies that  Charlie has to look for a babysitter, or is supposed to, or has plans to do so. This means that “is yet” is always used as a future form that deals with some kind of plan, order, mandate, appointment, procedure, etc. that may or may not be done. So Charlie may not look for a baby-sitter at all. He is supposed to, but may decide against it. The positive or absolute aspect here is low.

But in Sentence #2, “has yet” expresses expectation. Charlie is going to receive the funds, but they have not been released to him as of now. It means that the funds will be released, but have not been released yet. So there is an element of waiting, or expectation, like I mentioned. Eventually, the funds will possibly arrive, so the positive aspect of “has yet” is higher than that of “is yet”.

I think that adequately sums up the difference between the two. But a lot of people are of the opinion that the difference is flimsy and doesn’t hold very true. They would interchange the two like nobody’s business but if you think deeply enough, I think what I am saying does work as a solid point of difference. Here’s what one guy said:

In written English, both are recorded and, I believe, both are acceptable. Note that “He is to receive X” is an acceptable idiom which must be taken into account. Ngrams suggest that up until the middle of the 19th Century cnstructions with “is” predominated, particularly in passive contexts (“is yet to be given”). Constructions with “has” moved ahead between about 1840 and 1920, with the change coming somewhat later in AmE and passive constructions than in BrE and Active constructions. “Has” surged across the board about 1960.

And here are a few examples to prove my point:

Dylan is yet to appear for the interview.
Dylan has yet to pay his taxes this year.

Marissa is yet to call the paediatrician
Marissa has yet to take her nurses’ exam.

Robert is yet to apologise to me.
Robert has yet to receive a pardon for his action.

The President is yet to comment on the incident.
The President has yet to make his closing statement in Parliament.

Makes sense, now? You get the difference? Or have I yet to explain it further?