For many people, using the words ‘saw’ and ‘seen’ comes quite intuitively. However, sometimes the sentences may be structured in a complex manner. The GMAT sentence correction offers many such examples and the best fit among the two may confuse the test taker. It is good to have a basic understanding of these two words before going ahead.
‘Saw’ is the past tense of the word ‘see’ while ‘seen’ is the past participle. Typically, ‘saw’ comes immediately after the noun or pronoun. For instance, “Steve saw the movie.” ‘Seen’ is never used as a standalone verb and is generally accompanied by words such as ‘have’, ‘had’, ‘was’, among others.
If anything has happened in the past, you have to use the word ‘saw’. You cannot say “Steve has seen the race yesterday.” While the verb form is correct, the statement is still wrong because it is in the past. You have to be careful about such sentences. If you have to use the word ‘seen’, plug it with a word like before. Before can indicate past up to the present and saying “Steve has seen the race before” is correct usage.
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In a question however, the word ‘seen’ can appear with the noun. For example, “Has Steve seen the movie?” In this case, it is perfectly fine to use the word ‘seen’.
While you may think of this area as too simple to warrant an article, it is important to fully understand these basic concepts. While straightforward questions on this topic might not appear in the GMAT, it can be tested with other areas such as modifiers. Knowledge of these basics can come in pretty handy at such times.