Thursday, May 20, 2004

Grammar: Verb Tenses

Verb tenses express time. Tense = Time

Present tense: Expresses any time that has some element of present in it, no matter how small.

This apple tastes good (present situation).
Apples taste good (a general truth that holds all the time, such as now).
Shakespeare writes in blank verse (yes, we know that he did so in the past, but this fact is relevant today).

Past tense: Exludes the present and covers events that took place at a definite time or habitually in the past.

I went down the street yesterday (a completed event in the past).

Future tense: Expresses futurity (futurity means the future). Usually we use shall or will along with a verb to express the future.

I shall go the store tomorrow.
You will go when you want to go.

Perfect tenses: Express one action in relation to another action.

Present perfect: Expresses the idea that an action started in the past and is still going on in the present.

I have waited for you. (In other words, I started waiting for you awhile ago, and I am still waiting for you.)

Past perfect: Sometimes called past-past. There are two past actions, but one precedes the other.

I had waited for you before I went to the store.

Future perfect: Indicates that the action will be completed before a definite time in the future.

I will have finished the job before Tuesday.


An easy way to remember tenses.

1. Pick the current day; let's say it is Tuesday.
2. Present = Tuesday
3. Past = Monday
4. Future = Wednesday
5. Present Perfect = Monday going into Tuesday
6. Past Perfect = Sunday and then Monday
7. Future Perfect = Completed (past) before Wednesday rolls around

I smile (present)
I smiled (past)
I will smile (future)
I have smiled (done it in the past and still doing it)
I had smiled before I slept (two past actions, one before the other)
I will have smiled before I start to study (action to be completed before another action)

The perfect tenses (present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect) all require helping words.

Present Perfect -- have
Past Perfect -- had
Future Perfect -- will have

Also, the perfect tense always goes with the past participle of the verb.

1. arise, arose, arisen (present, past, past participle)
In other words, we would say: I arise, I arose, and I have or had or will have arisen

Here are some errors that people often make:

1. Someone says: I have went to the store. No, wrong. I have gone to the store.

Never, never say "I have went."

2. Someone says: I have began . . . No, wrong. I have begun.

3. Someone says: I have broke . . . No, wrong. I have broken.

4. Someone says: I have drank . . . No, wrong. I have drunk.

5. Someone says: I have forbade him from doing that. No, wrong. I have forbidden.

6. Someone says: I have strived or strode . . . No, I have have stridden.

7. Consider the verb hang. One can hang a picture or hang from a tree.

Hang a picture: hang, hung, hung

In other words, I hang the picture, I hung the picture, and I have hung the picture.

Hang from a tree: hang, hanged, hanged

He will have been hanged before this time tomorrow (future perfect).

Remember: Pictures get hung, men get hanged.


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