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  1. 1. Verbs 4: Three Important Inflections (Changes): Tense, Person, Number Materials by Liz Siler
  2. 2. Inflection #1: Tense • Do not confuse “tense” with “time.” These words are sometimes wrongly used interchangeably. • Time is a concept in physics. With respect to time, English speakers recognize three general times and many more specific ones: past, present, and future. • However we only inflect (change) verbs for two tenses in English: past and present. • Tense is only shown on the left-most verb in a verb phrase.
  3. 3. Expressing The Future • We express the future by adding on modal auxiliaries such as “will” “may” and “shall” to the base form. However the lexical verb itself does not inflect (change) for a future tense and the modal is in the present or past tense. There is no future tense in English. • Examples: – I will visit my friend’s house this weekend; – I shall return; – He may arrive late/ He might arrive late.
  4. 4. The Present Tense • To understand present tense inflection we must first understand two other very important inflections: person and number.
  5. 5. Inflection #2: Person English has three persons: First person --- The speaker refers to him/herself as “I” or to the group he/she belongs to as “we” (or an equivalency) I own two cats. We enjoy them a lot. Second person -- The speaker talks to a person or persons generally addressed as “you.” You sneeze around cats, right? Third person -- The speaker talks about some other thing(s) or person(s) using “he” “she” “it” or “they” --- or equivalencies. They are black.
  6. 6. Inflection #3: Number • English verbs can show two numbers: 1 (singular) and more than 1 (plural). • For each person, there is a singular and a plural version.
  7. 7. Person and Number: Subject Pronouns SINGULAR PLURAL 1st PERSON I WE 2nd PERSON YOU YOU (ALL) 3rd PERSON HE/ SHE/ IT THEY
  8. 8. Present Tense • English overtly marks present tense ONLY with a third person singular subject. • That is where we use the “s” form of the verb. • For subjects in all other person/number combinations, we use verbs only in the base form. • EXCEPTION: The verb TO BE.
  9. 9. Ex: Present Tense: TO COOK • Singular Plural I cook we cook You cook you (all) cook He/she/it cooks they cook
  10. 10. Verb TO BE: Present Tense Singular I am You are He/she/it is Plural We are You (all) are They are
  11. 11. Present Tense: Usage • When the lexical verb is in the present tense in English, it generally describes an ongoing condition/state rather than an action happening right now. – My husband (= he) is an artist. – He throws pots on a wheel. – The images on his art(= they) reflect underelements of society.
  12. 12. Past Tense • The past tense is also an inflection. • Unlike the present tense, in which person and number of the subject is very important in determining the form of the verb, the past tense does not overtly mark person and number. • Verbs are the same form (the past tense form) in all persons and numbers. • Exception: The verb TO BE.
  13. 13. Example: Past Tense: TO COOK • Singular – I cooked – You cooked – He/she/it cooked Plural we cooked you (all) cooked they cooked
  14. 14. Past Tense: The Verb “To Be” • Singular – I was – You were – He/she/it was Plural We were You (all) were They were