Sunday, August 23, 2009

English Tense System

By. Quirk and Greenbaum

For a start, it is useful looking at what 'tense' does actually mean. A "classical" definition of the Eng-lish tense system is one that Quirk and Greenbaum give: "Tense is a grammatical category that is realized by verb inflection" (Greenbaum/Quirk 1997: 47). This view implicates that there are two states a verb can express: present tense and past tense, the first characterised by the absence of inflection (to which from now on will be referred as 'non-inflection'), the second by adding the suffix -ed (cf. Greenbaum 1997: 48). However, Bernd Kortmann distinguishes between a large range of tense models:

Starting from the two-tense model suggested by Quirk and Greenbaum, which refers only to synthetic language, he counts up to a number of sixteen tenses (cf. Kortmann 2004: 106-109) not only being marked by inflection, but including analytic elements such as the auxiliaries have and be, too. When examining the two-tense model we have to precise that the tenses referred to are on the hand the simple present tense, e.g. in 'He sleeps eight hours per night' and, on the other hand, the simple past tense, e.g. in 'He arrived in the morning'.

1 Simple Present Tense
For the usage of simple present tense there can be several intentions: it can be used either to ex-press present time or past or future. The basic function is the first case, namely to express a present time, for which Greenbaum and Quirk propose three components, starting with the state present which expresses general statements such as 'We trust in God', continuing with the habitual present which describes actions executed regularly such as 'On weekends I sleep until 11 am' and ending with the instantaneous present which is applied to events taking place simultaneously, e.g. 'I name this ship Queen Elizabeth'. In addition to that, the simple present tense can also assume other roles: the historic present is used to liven up narrations, such as 'suddenly the king stands up and announces that...' even if the action actually took place in the past; similar to this, Greenbaum and Quirk list expressions like 'The news say that the weather is still stormy'
which originally belong to the past but are still valid in the present. Finally present tense statements can refer to the future, e.g. when saying 'Tomorrow I go to school' (cf. Greenbaum/Quirk 1997: 48-50).

2 Simple Past Tense
In comparison to that, the simple past tense expresses solely past time events and states. Again, Greenbaum and Quirk differentiate between three sub-types: By analogy with its present time counterpart, the state past expresses general statements about past time, such as 'I loved to watch the Simpsons on TV', while the habitual past, again matching with its present time complement, describes events and actions that regularly took place in the past, such as 'I went to the football club when I was a child'; but finally there is a different
type of simple past tense: the event past which describes something that took place at a certain point of time in the past, e.g. 'She called me at 2 am.' There are three additional "special uses" that Greenbaum and Quirk list: the indirect speech which converts speech

from past into simple past, e.g. 'I told him that I wasn't interested'; the hypothetical past that denominates an unfulfilled condition, such as 'If I knew how cope with it, I wouldn't have these problems'; the attitudinal past which represents a more polite way of talking to another person, e.g. 'Did you like a cup of tea or coffee?' (cf. Greenbaum/Quirk 1997: 50-51). It is important to notice for the corpus analysis that past tense, except for the earlier mentioned historic present, which however has no influence on the mainly spoken corpus, represents the only way of talking about a past event, so that it is virtually impossible to confuse deviant use of present tenses in past tense positions with correct use. This means that normally it is quite obvious whether a statement belongs to expressions typical for a variety such as Hong Kong English or whether it conforms to Standard English grammar.

There a kind of english tense, and we know at least sixteen form of english system tense, we ussually found two form that mostly used in daily compersation, there are simple past tense and simple present tense, but we also used future tense in special compersation. The english system tense used to make english language have a structure and it make be learning to another person who want learning a second language, english system tense make more easier to learn english language.

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