“Are left” or “have left”?

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference.

Imagine there’s a business meeting. There are 10 people when the meeting begins. Before the meeting is over, three people leave the meeting for some reason.

Suppose a colleague calls you and asks you to check how many people are present in the meeting. You go to the meeting room and check it: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Now you can go back to the phone and answer your colleague in two different ways. You can say:

  1. There are seven people left.
  2. Three people have left.

In the first case “are left” means stay. It refers to the people who stay in the meeting, the people who didn’t go away. They are the people who are left in the meeting.

In the second case you are saying that three people went away.

Either way the listener will understand that out of the original group of ten people there are seven people in the meeting room right now.

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