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The Verb. The category of tense. The opposition of tense forms.

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Time and tense (He likes to read. He will read for hours. – He will read at 5 o’clock.)

3 basic categories of the verb: aspect, correlation and voice. They are constituted by 2 forms of the verb – analytical and non-analytical. The categories of mood, tense and person are basically different. They are characteristic of only finite forms of the verb. The category of tense, being a predicative category, differs from other categories in its structure, grammatical meaning and its syntactic function because it is connected with the essence of the speech act, with interpersonal relations.

The opposition of past and present is not the opposition of just 2 verbal forms but the opposition of 2 systems of forms:

Present Past

Works Worked

He is working He was working

He has worked He had worked

He has been working He had been working

He is working He was working

He is going to work He was going to work

He is to work He was to work


Functionally all the forms, entering these two systems, are the same. They’re used in the syntactic function of the predicate in the sentence. But in speech in the plane of communication the present forms reveal their specific character: they reflect facts and evens as actual, immediately related to the participants of the speech act. On the contrary, the forms of the past reflect something that is already the past, history, not immediately related to the participants of the speech act. What is represented by the past forms is of some cognitive interest to the addressee.

e.g. I have just seen him. I saw him just now.

e.g. They are coming tomorrow.

If we admit that the tense forms of the present express reality and make the information actual for the participants of the speech act, it is possible then to account for the rule ‘in clauses of time and condition forms of the present are used instead of the future’ (though the verb expresses a future action). The same is relevant for the use of the forms of the present in object clauses after the verbs with the meaning know, learn, find, imagine, see (that), look, take care, mind, etc.:

I’ll let you know what happens when I speak to him.

I’ll take care that he doesn’t.

If you watch, you’ll certainly find that he gets a good job in a few months.

The problem of the future tense: will+Infinitive.

An instant or spontaneous decision to do something (We’ve run out of paper for the printer. – I’ll go and get some. I think I’ll go home.)

Predictions of a general character (Over the next few years, interactive TV will make a great impact on consumer behavior, and advertisers will have to approach customers in a completely different way.)

Requests, promises, threats, offering help, etc. (Will you give me a hand with those boxes? –Of course I will.)

Other ways to express a future action: Present Continuous, going to (What are you doing on Friday afternoon?- We should have left much earlier. We are going to be late.)

Compare: I don’t think the present government will win the elections. - I don’t think the present government is going to win the elections.

Look – looked or look – looked or look – looked – will look?


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