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The english verb system

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Description of the english verb system

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The english verb system

  1. 1. Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology The English Verb System Tense vs. Time Tense is the linguistic reference to objective time (extra-linguistic concept). In other words, tense belongs to LANGUAGE, while time belongs to REALITY. Tense is the grammatical expression of location in time: it expresses time relation with respect to the Speech Time (NOW). For example, Past tense refers to an action/state prior to the moment of speaking (NOW), Present tense refers to an action/state simultaneous with the moment of speaking (NOW), whereas Future tense refers to an action/state subsequent to the same moment of speaking. 2. Tense vs. Aspect Aspect reflects the status of the action with respect to duration (continuous/non-continuous) and/or result (perfect/non-perfect). It is the subjective point of view relative to time. On the contrary, tense reflects the exact, objective position in time of an action/state expressed by the verb. Consequently, the English verb cannot be conceived without either tense or aspect information, the same way as a coin cannot be possibly imagined without either heads or tails. Depending on the presence/lack of information displayed by the verb relative to duration and/or result, the English language identifies four distinct aspects: REALITY time tense LANGUAGE Remember TENSE → external/objective time ASPECT → internal/subjective time
  2. 2. Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology a. simple [- duration/ - result] ● (no information about the action) Form: V/V-s, V-ed/V2, will/would V b. continuous [+ duration/ - result] (action in progress) Form: BE + V-ing c. perfect [- duration/ + result] (looking back at an action) Form: HAVE + V-ed/V3 d. perfect continuous [+ duration/ + result] (looking back at an action in progress) Form: HAVE + BEEN + V-ing Tenses in English As there are three tenses (1. present, 2. past, 3. future) and four aspects (a. simple, b. continuous, c. perfect, d. perfect continuous), and a verb is a combination of these two grammatical categories (as seen above), it follows that the English verb system displays 3 x 4 = 12 distinct forms (or tenses): 1.a. Present simple V/V-s (3rd pers. singular) e.g. you write, he writes 1.b. Present continuous BE (present) + V-ing e.g. you are writing, he is writing 1.c. Present perfect HAVE (present) + V-ed/V3 e.g. you have worked, he has written
  3. 3. Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology 1.d. Present perfect continuous HAVE (present) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.g. you have been writing, he has been writing 2.a. Past simple V-ed/V2 e.g. you worked, he wrote 2.b. Past continuous BE (past) + V-ing e.g. you were writing, he was writing 2.c. Past perfect HAVE (past) + V-ed/V3 e.g. you had worked, he had written 2.d. Past perfect continuous HAVE (past) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.g. you had been writing 3.a. Future simple will V e.g. you will write 3.b. Future continuous BE (future) + V-ing e.g. you will be writing 3.c. Future perfect HAVE (future) + V-ed/V3 e.g. you will have written 3.d. Future perfect continuous HAVE (future) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.g. you will have been writing 4.a. Future-in-the-past simple would V e.g. he said/ you would write 4.b. Future-in-the-past continuous BE (future-in-the-past) + V-ing e.g. he said/ you would be writing Remember The English verb system observes a specific rule called The Sequence of Tenses (Corespondenţa timpurilor), which states that if the verb in the main clause (= propoziţie principală) is in the past, then the verb in the subordinate clause (= propoziţie subordonată) referring to a future event MUST be in the future-in-the- past (viitor din perspectiva trecutului - timp inexistent în limba română!). The auxiliary for future-in-the-past is will + -ed = would
  4. 4. Mihai ION ● Basic English Morphology 4.c. Future-in-the-past perfect HAVE (future-in-the-past) + V-ed/V3 e.g. he said/ you would have written 4.d. Future-in-the-past perfect continuous HAVE (future-in-the-past) + V3/BE + Ving BEEN e.g. he said/ you would have been writing Now, the English verb system has gained another four tenses for a total of 16 distinct forms. Below you can see a diagram of the English verb system, intended to serve you as a visual aid in your learning process, and to offer you an instant, overall picture of the relationships established among tenses. For didactic reasons (the diagram would be too complicated), the continuous aspect has been left out. You should notice that HAVE, DO and WILL are the three major auxiliaries which position the action/state in time relative to the speech moment (now). Another major auxiliary, BE, is responsible for either presenting the action in progress, or turning a statement into the passive (i.e. switching position between the subject and the object of the sentence, as in the example above: the furniture, object in the active [what?], becomes subject in the passive [who?]). Also, it is important to remember that you cannot use WILL (the auxiliary of future) in time and condition clauses (= subordonate temporale şi condiţionale), introduced by any of those words in parentheses. Instead, you must always use the tenses in the diagram indicated by the arrows.

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