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TENSE

TENSE The grammatical category, expressed in forms of the VERB, that locates a situation in time. In English, tense must be expressed in all finite verb phrases. It is marked by the choice of the first or only verb in the verb phrase: play versus played; has played versus had played; will play versus would play; is playing versus was playing. Since contrasts in number and person, where they apply, are also marked on the first or only verb, these choices combine with tense: present I/They play versus present She plays; present I am/She is versus present We/They are; past I/She was versus past We/They were. By definition, non-finite verb phrases do not have tense marking. There is also no tense choice for the imperative (‘Play harder’) or the subjunctive (‘We insisted that he play harder’).

Tense in English

In terms of morphology, English has only two tenses, the present or non-past (take/takes) and the past (took). The paradigm is extended by the use of the auxiliaries be and have: be followed by the present participle forms the progressive or continuous (is taking); have followed by the past participle forms the perfect (has taken). Although these are traditionally known as tenses, recent terminology refers to them as aspects (such as progressive aspect) and (for the perfect) phase. All three features can be combined: had been taking is past, progressive, and perfect. The passive voice is formed within the same paradigm, by be followed by the past participle, but is not a tense. The sequence of the auxiliaries is fixed: have + be + present participle, be + past participle, with the full verb in final position and a MODAL VERB preceding all other auxiliaries: may have been taken.

The simple present

With dynamic verbs, this tense expresses habitual activity and ‘timeless truths’: He goes to London every day; Water boils at 100 Celsius. In commentaries, demonstrations, and performatives, it serves to report events simultaneous with the speech event: He passes the ball to Smith, and Smith scores; I take three eggs and beat them in this basin; I name this ship ‘Fearless’. With static verbs, it refers to a present or timeless state: It contains sugar; Air consists of oxygen and other gases. With private verbs (of sensation, mental processes, etc.) it expresses how things are: I smell something burning; I think he'll come. In statements about the future, it shows that events have been arranged: We fly to Paris tomorrow. In literature and conversation, as the historic present, it reports past events dramatically and dynamically: He comes up to me and says … With verbs of communication, it states or informs: The Bible says …; John tells me that he is going to Spain.

The simple past

Generally, this tense refers to events, habitual activities, and states in the past: I talked to my brother this morning; The Normans conquered England in 1066; He went to London every day; It contained sugar. In the ‘sequence of tenses’ rule in reported speech, it restates the present tense of the original utterance: ‘He likes chocolate’ as reported in She said he liked chocolate. However, the present tense may be retained if the state of affairs being reported is covered by the time of speaking: John said he likes chocolate. It is used to express unreality, especially in unreal conditional sentences (If John came, Mary would leave; compare If John comes, Mary will leave), with wishes and recommendations, etc. (I wish I knew; It's time we went), and for tentativeness or politeness (Did you want to talk to me?). This accounts for some of the uses of the modal forms might, could, and would, as in: Might they want to see her?; Would you like us to come?

The progressive

The present progressive is most commonly used to indicate an event in progress at the time of speaking: He's reading a book. With the past progressive, the time of the continuous event is often explicitly shown to overlap a point of time or another briefer event: I was reading at ten o'clock/when he arrived. In contrast, the simple past would suggest that the event was subsequent to the point of time or other event: When he arrived, I left. In standard English, static and private verbs are non-progressive, in that they do not usually occur in the progressive, the simple present being used instead (not *I am loving you, not *I'm thinking he will come, although such usages occur in varieties of IndE and PakE). There are a number of verbs with inherent duration which may be used in the non-progressive form, even if the duration is clearly indicated: I worked all morning; She slept for eight hours. The progressive may indicate: (1) Incompletion: I was painting the house this morning versus I painted the house this morning. (2) Simple futurity, especially with verbs of motion: I'm flying to Paris tomorrow. (3) Limited duration of habitual activities or with non-progressive verbs: We're eating more meat now; We're living in London these days (compare We live in London). (4) Sporadic repetition: My car's always breaking down versus My car always breaks down when I forget to service it.

The perfect

The non-progressive perfect refers to an event in the past with current relevance: I've broken the window indicates that I broke the window and that the window is probably still broken; I've seen John might suggest that I have told him what I intended to, or that he is now nearby. It is also used with just for events in the immediate past: I've just seen him. The progressive perfect relates to activity beginning in the past and continuing up to the present, or, for past-tense forms, to a point of time in the past: I've been reading for two hours; I'd been reading for two hours when he arrived. It may also indicate continuous activity in the past with current relevance: Someone's been moving my books—they are no longer where I left them. The present perfect is not normally used with past-time adverbials: not *I've broken the window yesterday. The simple past is often used in AmE where BrE uses the perfect: (1) BrE Have you washed your hands?, AmE Did you wash your hands? (2) BrE Have you done it yet?, AmE Did you do it yet? There is, however, wide variation in the use or non-use of the perfect in AmE.

The future

Traditionally, grammarians have taught that English has a future tense formed with shall and will, shall being used with first-person subjects (I shall be happy to see her) and will with the others (She will be happy to come). However, will is also commonly used with first person subjects (I will be happy to see her) to indicate futurity, though conversely shall is not used in the same way with the other persons (not *She shall be happy to come). The view that will and shall mark the future tense is widely held and often strongly asserted, but there are three arguments against it: (1) Morphologically, there are only two tenses, present and past; to talk about the future tense is to confuse time marking with grammatical tense. (2) Will and shall are formally modal verbs, and should be handled in the modal system, not the tense system. (3) Be going to is as good a candidate for the marker of the future tense as will and shall.

In the majority of instances, will and shall express a conditional future and are the forms used in the apodosis of future conditionals (the part without if): If you ask them, they will do it. Be going to indicates an envisaged progression towards a future event: It'll cost me a lot of money may imply ‘if I buy it’, whereas It's going to cost me a lot of money suggests that the decision to buy has been made. There are two arguments in favour of treating will and shall as markers of the future tense: (1) Future tenses in other languages also often express conditional futures. This is not unexpected, since the future is not factually known as the present and past are, and it is not surprising, therefore, if the future tense in English is marked by modal-type verbs. (2) Will and shall function in some ways more like tense markers than modal verbs, particularly in that they cannot be marked independently from the main verb for negation, as most modal verbs can. Thus, there is only one negative of You will see him tomorrow (You will not/won't see him tomorrow), as there is only one negative of You saw him yesterday (You did not/didn't see him yesterday), but there are two negatives of He may be in his office: (1) He can't be in his office (It is not possible that he is in his office). (2) He may not be in his office (It is possible that he is not in his office).

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"TENSE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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tense

tense [O.Fr., from Lat.,=time], in the grammar of many languages, a category of time distinctions expressed by any conjugated form of a verb. In Latin inflection the tense of a verb is indicated by a suffix that also indicates the verb's voice, mood, person, and number. Tense specifies whether the verb refers to action in the past, present, or future. A tenselike distinction found in many languages (e.g., Russian and Hebrew) is that of aspect, by which verbs specify whether or not the action has been completed; thus, he is risen might be translated by a verb in the perfective aspect, and he is rising by the same verb in the imperfective aspect. Aspect also refers to the distinction that a verb can make between repeated or ongoing action (he ran daily) and an event represented as occurring at a single point in time (he ran that race). Some terms borrowed from Greek grammar into English suggest aspectlike differences of meaning; these are imperfect (I was reading when …), perfect (I've read the book), and aorist (I read it last year). English tenses can also be classified as simple (e.g., look and looked) or compound (e.g., have looked,am looking, and will look). Any conjugated form of a verb that indicates tense is said to be finite; the infinitive is a special verb form that lacks all tense (as well as mood, person, and number), although it may indicate the active (to read) or passive (to be read) voice.

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"tense." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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tense

tense1 / tens/ • adj. (esp. of a muscle or someone's body) stretched tight or rigid: she tried to relax her tense muscles. ∎  (of a person) unable to relax because of nervousness, anxiety, or stimulation: he was tense with excitement. ∎  (of a situation, event, etc.) causing or showing anxiety and nervousness: relations between the two neighboring states had been tense in recent years. ∎  Phonet. (of a speech sound, esp. a vowel) pronounced with the vocal muscles stretched tight.The opposite of lax. • v. [intr.] become tense, typically through anxiety or nervousness: her body tensed up. ∎  [tr.] make (a muscle or one's body) tight or rigid: carefully stretch and then tense your muscles. DERIVATIVES: tense·ly adv. tense·ness n. ten·si·ty / ˈtensitē/ n. ( dated ). tense2 • n. Gram. a set of forms taken by a verb to indicate the time (and sometimes also the continuance or completeness) of the action in relation to the time of the utterance: the past tense. DERIVATIVES: tense·less adj.

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"tense." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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tense

tense2 drawn tight XVII; highly strung XIX. — L. tensus, pp. of tendere stretch, TEND2.
So tensile ductile XVII; pert. to tension XIX. — medL. tension XVI. — F. or L. Hence tensor (-OR1) (anat.) muscle that tightens some part XVIII; (math.) in quaternions XIX.

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tense

tense1 †time; (gram.) form of a verb indicating time. XIV. — OF. tens (mod. temps) :- L. tempus time.

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"tense." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/tense-1

tense

tenseaskance, expanse, finance, Hans, Hanse, manse, nance, Penzance, Romance •underpants • happenstance •advance, Afrikaans, à outrance, chance, dance, enhance, entrance, faience, France, glance, lance, mischance, outdance, perchance, prance, Provence, stance, trance •nuance • tap-dance • square dance •freelance • convenance •cense, commence, common sense, condense, dense, dispense, expense, fence, hence, Hortense, immense, offence (US offense), pence, prepense, pretence (US pretense), sense, spence, suspense, tense, thence, whence •ring-fence • recompense •frankincense •chintz, convince, evince, Linz, mince, Port-au-Prince, prince, quince, rinse, since, Vince, wince •province •bonce, ensconce, nonce, ponce, response, sconce •séance • pièce de résistance •announce, bounce, denounce, flounce, fluid ounce, jounce, mispronounce, ounce, pounce, pronounce, renounce, trounce •dunce, once

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