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#4071 - 07/16/00 02:00 PM tenses
william Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 07/12/00
Posts: 200
how many tenses are there in the english language?
and what are they?
what counts as a tense?
are imperative, passive and modal forms considered tenses?
having been thinking about this it seems you can only make two tenses with a verb, past and present, unless you add an auxiliary verb to a participle.


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#4072 - 07/17/00 12:54 AM Re: tenses
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Tense -- a change in the form of a verb to show, among other things, time reference. Therefore English has two tenses, past and present.

Aspect -- speaker's/hearer's viewpoint with regard to the action of a verb. English has simple, progressive (aka continuous), perfect, and perfect progressive (aka perfect continous) aspects. The aspects combine with tenses to make e.g. present perfect continous.

NB. These are linguistic features, not part of the real world. Thus, what we call past tense for convenience's sake does not have to relate to past time, e.g. It's time we were going. , refers to present time rather than past time despite the past tense form were

Voice -- active v. passive

Mood -- indicative v. imperative v. interrogative

As the question of how many tenses ran and ran in the magazine "English Today" I don't expect everyone will agree with the above.

PS I remember once seeing a cartoon of a couple in a travel agent's saying "Somewhere with no irregular verbs please."

Bingley
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Bingley

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#4073 - 07/17/00 04:14 AM Re: tenses
Rubrick Offline
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Registered: 05/18/00
Posts: 679
Loc: Somewhere outside New York
> Tense -- a change in the form of a verb to show, among other things, time reference. Therefore English has two tenses,
past and present.

Excuse me for pointing out the blatantly obvious but isn't there a future tense? I seem to remember one being taught to me at school. Also, most schoolchildren will be familiar with writing lines as punishment. 'I will not talk in class' etc. etc. ad nauseum. Past? Present? I think not!! Definitely future!


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#4074 - 07/17/00 04:57 AM Re: tenses
Bingley Offline
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Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Will is certainly one way of talking about the future, but is it a future tense?

Will is a modal verb rather than a change in the form of the verb itself, as in write - wrote , which is how I would define a tense.

Why choose will as the future tense rather than for example is going to ?
I'm going to visit my aunt at the weekend refers to the future.
"Who can that be at this time of night?" "Oh, that will be Candi. He said he was coming round." , and She will drive too fast, even though I've told her often enough to slow down do not refer to the future.

Bingley
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#4075 - 07/17/00 07:13 AM Re: tenses
AnnaStrophic Offline
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Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Sure, English has a future tense. It's not synthetically constructed, as are the present and the simple past, but that doesn't make it any less of a tense. I think we are confusing superficial construction here with deep meaning.
I agree with the grammar folks who say English in fact has a total of six tenses: the past perfect, simple past, present, present continuous, future and future perfect.
And as for Bingley's example "It's time we were going" I submit that "were" in that phrase is not in the past tense, it is in the subjunctive mood. As it were


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#4076 - 07/17/00 08:51 AM Re: tenses
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Websters seem to go for 3 simple, 3 perfect and 6 progressive variations.

When I did Latin we spent ages on "pluperfect" for example "I wish I were king" - I'm not sure where that fits in. As for subjunctives - that's all lost in haze!

SIMPLE TENSES
Present
Past
Future

PERFECT TENSES
Present perfect
Past perfect
Future perfect

PROGRESSIVE
TENSES
Present progressive
Past progressive
Future progressive
Present perfect progressive
Past perfect progressive
Future perfect progressive

http://webster.commnet.edu/HP/pages/darling/grammar/tenses/tense_frames.htm


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#4077 - 07/17/00 12:37 PM Re: tenses
william Offline
enthusiast

Registered: 07/12/00
Posts: 200
"will" is certainly always listed as the standard future tense, along with "be going to". but aren't they just present tense used for the future? is "might" also future? it certainly refers to the future.
i'm also wondering where a construction like "i am to go" comes in. the auxiliary is simple present and the verb is infinitive. what's that called?



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#4078 - 07/17/00 06:13 PM Re: tenses
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
Thanks, Jo.... I wrote my post way too fast early this morning and am not going to go back and correct it in the hope that no one but you and William saw it ... I forgot to include present perfect. That would make a total of seven common tenses. But still yes, I agree with you and your source, we have all those tenses (continuous = progressive). Doesn't matter how they are constructed - each refers to a different time frame and therefore must be considered a tense. Now, I thought pluperfect was the same as past perfect ... and your example "I wish I were king" was subjunctive mood. Homework time.....

Has anyone ever studied the Hopi language? No tenses at all.

William, again it doesn't really matter how the future tense is constructed, it exists as a tense. "Might" is a modal and not properly a tense (getting a headache now). I'd like to hear from one of our German-speaking interlocutors on this. That language has is all sorted out.


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#4079 - 07/17/00 06:37 PM Re: tenses
jmh Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
Mmmm does pluperfect only mean Past perfect?? I'm sure you are right but my Latin teacher made it sound so-ooo much more complicated than that!

Yes I think "wishing .." was subjuctive something or other. Thanks for clearing that up.

Unfortunately we were the first year of a new Latin syllabus which aimed to bring the subject "to life". Unfortunately they forgot that part of the whole reason to learn Latin was to understand a very ordered grammatical system. They discarded "nominative" and "vocative" (amo, amas, amat .. ) and talked about "form a" and "form b". In effect they threw the baby out with the bathwater and we were totally confused. I did learn a lot about the rude bits of Catullus though, so there were compensations.


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#4080 - 07/17/00 07:22 PM Re: tenses
AnnaStrophic Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 6511
Loc: lower upstate New York
>>Unfortunately we were the first year of a new Latin syllabus which aimed to bring the subject "to life".<<

Sounds like my "New Math" scars....

As for Catullus and - Ovid - I had to discover those guys on my own.
Congratulations, (I think) on your transition from an enthusuast to an addict, Jo.


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