THE NATURE OF THE ACTION OR EVENT

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1 TENSE REVIEW English tenses have two elements of meaning: time and aspect. TIME Is the action present, past or future? Does it refer to all time? It is important to remember that time and tense are not always the same in English. Present tenses often refer to the present time, but not always; similarly past tenses do not always refer to past time. Your plane leaves at tomorrow morning.(present tense form referring to the future) In the book, the heroine goes back to her youth.(present tense form referring to the past) I wish I knew the answer,but I don't.(past tense form referring to the present) I could come tomorrow, if you like.(past tense form referring to the future) ASPECT The three aspects add another layer of meaning to the action of the verb. Simple The action is seen as a complete whole. Continuous The action is seen as having duration. Perfect The action is seen as completed before another time. CHOOSING THE CORRECT TENSE The choice of verb form depends on many factors, and not on a set of rigid grammatical rules. THE NATURE OF THE ACTION OR EVENT Because English can employ its various aspects,events can be viewed with a multiplicity of implications.look at this sentence: I have been asking my husband to mend this door for two years. In some languages this verb form is in the present I ask my husband...-which indeed conveys the same basic message. But English has added on two aspects. The perfect aspect emphasizes both past and present, so that the enormity of this lack of DIY can be appreciated. The continuous aspect expresses the repetitive nature of the wife's request. She hasn't asked once but a hundred times, every week for two weeks. Neither of these ideas are expressed by the present simple. HOW THE SPEAKER SEES THE EVENT Look at these sentences: a) He always buys her flowers. b) He's always buying her flowers. c) I'll talk to Peter about it this afternoon. d) I'll be talking to Peter about it this afternoon. In each pair of sentences, the actions are the same,but the speaker looks at them differently. In sentence a, the present simple expresses a simple fact. The present continuous in sentence b conveys the speaker's attitude, one of mild irritation or surprise. In sentence c, will expresses a promise or a decision made at the moment of speaking. In sentence d, the future continuous is interesting for what it doesn't express. There is no element of intention, volition or plan. The speaker is saying in the natural course of events, as life unfolds, he and Peter will cross paths and talk, independently of the will or intention of anyone concerned. It is a casual way of looking at the future, which is why we can find it in questions such as Will you be using the computer for long?, which is much less confrontational than Are you going to be using the computer for long? THE MEANING OF THE VERB In some cases, the choice of verb form might be suggested by the meaning of the verb. A verb such as belong expresses a state or condition that remains unchanged over a period of time. Other such verbs are mean, understand, believe, adore, remember etc. It would therefore be more likely to find them in simple verb forms.

2 This house belonged to my grandfather. Now it belongs to me. Similarly, verbs such as wait and rain express the idea of an activity over a period of time, and so are often found in continuous verb forms. I,ve been waiting for you for hours! It's raining again. THE SIMPLE ASPECT The simple aspect describes an action that is seen to be complete. The action is viewed as a whole unit. The sun rises in the east. (= all time) I've read the book and seen the film. (complete) My father always wore a suit to work. (habit) He died in (action completed in the past) This shop will close at (simple fact) Because the simple aspect expresses a completed action, we must use it if the sentence contains a number that refers to things done. She's written three letters today. I drink five cups of tea a day. THE CONTINUOUS ASPECT Continuous verb forms express activities, or a series of activities, viewed at some point between their beginning and end. The continuous aspect focuses on the duration of an activity: we are aware of the passing of time. The activity is not permanent, and its duration is limited. I'm staying with friends until I find a place of my own. (temporary) Why are you wearing that silly hat? (in progress) I've been learning English for years. (duration) The activity may not be complete. I've been painting the kitchen. (We don't know if it's finished.) He was dying, but the doctors saved him. Who's been drinking my beer? (There's some left.) Compare: Who's drunk my beer? (It's all gone.) The action of some verbs, by definition, lasts a long time, for example, live and work. The continuous aspect gives these actions limited duration and makes them temporary. Hans is living in London while he's learning English. I'm working as a waiter until I go to university. The action of some verbs lasts a short time. These are often found in the simple aspect. She's cut her finger. He hit me. In the continuous aspect, the action of these verbs becomes longer or repeated. I've been cutting wood.( for a long time) He was hitting me. (again and again) THE PERFECT ASPECT The perfect aspect expresses two ideas: An action completed before another time I've read his latest book. (some time before now) When I arrived, Mary had cooked the meal. (some time before I arrived) I will have learned my lines before the play starts.(some time before then) An action producing a result or a state of affairs relevant to a later situation. I've read his latest book. (I know the story now.) When I arrived, Mary had cooked the meal.(it was on the table then.) I will have learned my lines before the play starts. (I'll know them in time for the play.)

3 An important characteristic of perfect verb forms, therefore, is that they explicitly link an earlier action or event with a later situation. If we want to direct attention specifically to the result or state produced by the earlier action without drawing attention to the activity that has produced that state,we don't use a perfect form. I know the book. It's good (present) The meal was ready.i ate it (past) I will know my lines. I'll give a good performance. (future) Another characteristic of perfect verb forms is that the exact time of the action or event is either irrelevant or disregarded. The important elements are not time when, but the occurence of the action itself and the results or state of affairs produced by it. ACTIVE and PASSIVE The passive is frequently used in English to express ideas that require a reflexive or impersonal construction in other languages, and in many cases is also used where other languages use the active. English is spoken all over the world. His books are sold in Europe. Passive sentences move the focus of attention from the subject of an active sentence to the object. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in Hamlet, one of the great tragedies of all time, was written in In most cases, by and the agent are omitted in passive sentences. This is because the agent isn't known, isn't important, or is understood. This house was built in the seventeenth century. The escaped prisoner has been recaptured. Sometimes we prefer to end a sentence with what is new. What a lovely painting! Yes, it was painted by Canaletto. In informal language, we often use you or they to refer to people in general or to no person in particular. In this way we can avoid using the passive. You can buy anything in Harrods. They're building a new airport soon. FUTURE FORMS English has several forms which express future events, and which one the user selects depends on how he or she sees the event as much as its certainty or nearness to the present. The main forms are given here in order of frequency of use. WILL Will can function as an auxiliary of the future in simply predicting a future event, official or formal arrangement. The Queen will open the new hospital next Thursday. Tomorrow will be warm and sunny everywhere. Will can also function as a modal auxiliary to express ideas of willingness and spontaneous intention. Will you help me for a minute? What a lovely shirt! I'll buy it. Going to Going to expresses a premeditated intention. I'm going to decorate the bathroom this weekend. The Government is going to reorganize the entire Civil Service. Going to is also used to predict a future event for which there is some evidence now.

4 Great news! I'm going to have a baby! They're looking very angry. I think they're going to start throwing stones. The Present Continuous The Present Continuous is used to express an arrangement, usually for the near future. What are you doing tonight? I'm going out for a meal. It is wrong to use the Present Simple in this sense. We cannot say What do you do tonight? Or Do you go to the party on Saturday? The Present Continuous cannot be used to express an event that has not been arranged by human beings. We cannot say It is raining tomorrow. Or The sun is rising at 5.00 tomorrow morning. The Present Simple The Present Simple is used to express a future event which is seen as being certain because of a timetable or calendar. What time does the film start? My train gets in at The Cup Final takes place on April 13. The Future Continuous The Future Continuous expresses an activity that will be in progress around a specific time in the future. Don't phone at I'll be having supper. This time tomorrow I'll be flying to Hong Kong. The Future Continuous also expresses an action that will occur in the natural course of events, independently of the will or intention of anyone directly concerned. In a few minutes we will be landing at Heathrow Airport. (Of course the pilot has not just decided this!) Hurry up! The bus will be leaving any minute! The Future Continuous is often used to express a casual or polite question about someone's future plans. The speaker is trying not to impose his /her will in any way. This is related to the use of the Future Continuous described above, that it can express an action that will occur independently of the will or intention of the people concerned. Compare: Will you bring Kate to the party? (Perhaps a request.) Will you be bringing Kate to the party? (I'm just asking.) The Future Perfect The Future Perfect expresses an action that will have finished before a definite time in the future. I'll have finished my work by the time you get back. Most of the leaves will have fallen by the end of November. The Future in the past. Sometimes when we are talking about the past, we want to refer to something that was in the future at that time. This is called the 'future in the past', and it is expressed by was going to, the Past continuous, or would. Would is very common in reported speech and thought. The last time I saw you, you were going to start a new job. Did you? I was in a hurry because I was catching a plane that afternoon. He said he'd give me a lift. The uses of these three forms are exactly parallel to going to, the Present Continuous, and will to refer to the real future. I'm going to start a new job. (intention)

5 I'm catching a plane this afternoon. (arrangement) I'll give you a lift. (offer) The future in the past is often found in narratives. Alice smiled as she thought of the evening to come. She was meeting Peter, and together they were going to see a play at the Adelphi Theatre. She was sure the evening would be enjoyable.

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