Marathon racing (has become) increasingly popular among amateur athletes in the last few years.

Why is this sentence correct? Isn’t “last few years” past, not present perfect?

Making that change would slightly change the meaning of the sentence. As it’s written, the trend is that marathon racing is STILL increasing in popularity. If we changed it to simple past tense, the sentence would be saying that the popularity of marathon racing recently increased for a few years, then leveled off. Maybe? I feel like explaining the subtle differences between tenses is not my strong suit.

Comments (2)

“In the last few years” is precisely the type of phrase that requires the present perfect — the use of “in,” “during” or “over” (e.g. in recent months, during the last few years, over the last decade) indicates that an action began in the past and is continuing into the present. You don’t need to parse the details of why; it’s simply a common construction that you need to be familiar with.

If the simple past were required, the sentence would clearly indicate that all of the action took place in the past, e.g. Marathon racing started to gain in popularity a few years AGO (starting is a one-time action that occurred in the past).

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