Difference between revisions of "Tense"

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'''Tense''' /tens/ is generally defined in ways such as: ''the relationship of the form of the verb and the time of the action it describes''.<ref>Richards , Jack C, Platt, John and Platt, Heidi (1992) Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching & Applied Linguistics (2nd Edition), Harlow: Longman</ref>
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'''Tense''' /tens/ is a [[grammatical system]] that expresses an abstract concept of distance from the speaker.  English has two tenses, commonly known as the [[present tense]] and the [[past tense]].  The present tense expresses closeness, while the past tense expresses distance.
  
==How many tenses in English?==
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== Meaning ==
  
If we confine ourselves to the form, then English has only two simple (i.e. unmarked for any other aspect) tenses, as shown in the pairs ''play/played, work/worked, want/wanted, sing/sang''. The first of these forms is traditionally called the [[Present Simple]], the second the [[Past Simple]].  
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The present tense, which is the [[default]], expresses closeness, while the past tense expresses distance.
  
However, both tenses in English can refer to [[past time]], [[present time]], [[future time]] and [[general time]]; the traditional names are therefore misleading, and some writers prefer to call the ‘present’ tense the  Unmarked (Tense), and the ‘past’ tense the  Marked (Tense).
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The clearest way in which this distancing can be illustrated is through the use of present tense to talk about [[present time]], while the past tense is used to talk about [[past time]]:
  
==The future==
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* Present tense: "You are reading Teflpedia"
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* Past tense: "You had a birthday last year."
  
Forms with WILL, sometimes referred to as the "future tense", are simply examples of one use of a [[modal verb]] that can refer to the future, but often does not. There are at least four other commonly used ways of referring to [[the future in English]], and none can be singled out as a ‘future’ tense.
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However, both English tenses can refer to [[past time]], [[present time]], [[future time]] and [[general time]].  A distinction can be made between tense and time - see [[time-tense distinction]].
  
Some writers use the word tense for such forms as ''I am/was working'' and ''I have/had worked'', but these are better considered as [[aspect]]s.
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== Form ==
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[[Clause]]s are inflected into the past tense by use of [[preterite]] [[verb form]]s.  Within a [[clause]], if there is no [[auxiliary verb]], the [[main verb]] will be marked for tense (e.g. "I went to the park").  If there is a one auxiliary verb, it will be marked for tense.
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Preterites of [[regular verb]]s are formed by suffixation with [[-ed]]; [[irregular lexical verb]]s usually have preterites that deviate from this.
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[[Full modal verb]]s form a special category of auxiliary verbs, with their own preterites.  For example, "can" has the preterite "could".
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If the preterite is identical in form to the base form, a clause may have [[structural ambiguity]].  For example "I read the newspaper" could be present tense or past tense.  The addition of time adverbials or other clauses that are inflected usually prevents ambiguity.  For example "I read the newspaper every day", "I read the newspaper yesterday", or "I get the newspaper delivered.  I read it every day", or "I bought a newspaper and read it".
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Tenses may be combined with [[aspect]]s to form [[aspectual tense]]s.
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== Pedagogy ==
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The present tense is usually acquired by [[EFL learner]]s before the past tense.  The basics of the past tense are typically acquired at an (upper) [[elementary]] level.
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== Terminology ==
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The traditional names of present and past tense are misleading.  Michael Lewis prefers "unmarked tense" and "marked tense". An alternative would be the terms "close tense" and "distant tense" - however, the terms are so basic and well-understood that redefining them would likely confuse more than anything else.
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Often the term tense is used as a shorthand for [[aspectual tense]] in which the tense is combined with [[aspect]].
  
 
==References==
 
==References==
<references/>
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<references/>[[category:index]]
  
== See also ==
 
*[[Aspect]]
 
*[[Grammar]]
 
*[[Mode]]
 
*[[Tense: definition]]
 
  
[[category:Tenses| ]]
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[[category:tenses| ]]
  
== External links ==
 
  
[[Category:Grammar]]
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[[category:grammar]]

Latest revision as of 15:40, 21 September 2020

Tense /tens/ is a grammatical system that expresses an abstract concept of distance from the speaker. English has two tenses, commonly known as the present tense and the past tense. The present tense expresses closeness, while the past tense expresses distance.

Meaning[edit]

The present tense, which is the default, expresses closeness, while the past tense expresses distance.

The clearest way in which this distancing can be illustrated is through the use of present tense to talk about present time, while the past tense is used to talk about past time:

  • Present tense: "You are reading Teflpedia"
  • Past tense: "You had a birthday last year."

However, both English tenses can refer to past time, present time, future time and general time. A distinction can be made between tense and time - see time-tense distinction.

Form[edit]

Clauses are inflected into the past tense by use of preterite verb forms. Within a clause, if there is no auxiliary verb, the main verb will be marked for tense (e.g. "I went to the park"). If there is a one auxiliary verb, it will be marked for tense.

Preterites of regular verbs are formed by suffixation with -ed; irregular lexical verbs usually have preterites that deviate from this.

Full modal verbs form a special category of auxiliary verbs, with their own preterites. For example, "can" has the preterite "could".

If the preterite is identical in form to the base form, a clause may have structural ambiguity. For example "I read the newspaper" could be present tense or past tense. The addition of time adverbials or other clauses that are inflected usually prevents ambiguity. For example "I read the newspaper every day", "I read the newspaper yesterday", or "I get the newspaper delivered. I read it every day", or "I bought a newspaper and read it".

Tenses may be combined with aspects to form aspectual tenses.

Pedagogy[edit]

The present tense is usually acquired by EFL learners before the past tense. The basics of the past tense are typically acquired at an (upper) elementary level.

Terminology[edit]

The traditional names of present and past tense are misleading. Michael Lewis prefers "unmarked tense" and "marked tense". An alternative would be the terms "close tense" and "distant tense" - however, the terms are so basic and well-understood that redefining them would likely confuse more than anything else.

Often the term tense is used as a shorthand for aspectual tense in which the tense is combined with aspect.

References[edit]