[EDLING:981] FW: Info about English Tense
warholt at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Wed Sep 14 15:54:01 UTC 2005
>>From the AAAL listserv . . .
tangshun2005august at yahoo.com
Do you know some disputed English grammars? What about some basic grammars
that grammar writers hide away and don't even want to dispute?
In supporting a rule that the Present Perfect tense doesn't stay with past
Ex: *They have worked here yesterday.
== It should have been in Simple Past instead.
English grammars have been avoiding to talk about the Past Family, a
frequently used group of time adverbials containing the adjective 'past': in
the past, in the past year, for the past two years, over the past three
months, during the past four decades, within the past five weeks, etc.,
because these past time adverbials can stay with Present Perfect:
Ex: They have worked there within the past few years.
No grammar books or websites will display the use of these past time
adverbials, for displaying them will undermine the "golden rule" above. If
they know there is any explanation at all, why don't they ever put it in the
books or websites?
A couple of decades ago, I posted letters and consulted many universities
overseas how to explain the Present Perfect tense. They posted to me a free
issue of ELT (English Language Teaching) Journal, which was published in
October 1984 by Oxford University Press in association with The British
Council. In the Journal Tregidgo had posted his rather well-known yet
startling comment titled: How far have we got with the present perfect? He
expresses his doubles and dissatisfactions over both conventional and
contemporary methods in explaining the tense. At the end of the article he
concludes: "Meanwhile, one thing seems to me to be pretty clear. Whatever
the grammarians may say about it, the problem of the English present perfect
remains very much alive and kicking!" Put it shortly, they admitted they
could not explain the tense. Admitting the difficulty will alleviate the
pain in the ones who pursue the answer.
Now in the Internet epoch, people still have a difficulty to explain the
tense. In English forums, both students and teachers are asking for your
better idea, just as I did decades ago. During a discussion on the web, I
searched for Tregidgo's article and noticed an "updated version" in the
The author thought he could explain the tense to a developing teacher, and
finally found he could not. The tense had made his student 'wailing'. The
author has now turned a critic to the tense. They don't put the comment
there without reasons. Again, it helps relieve the pain in studying the
With good intention, I post this message to notify those who are interested
in English study: there is now a new approach to the explanation of the
tense in my website. I have found out the tense-changing process:
(a) Simple Present action indicates a present action (= incompletion):
Ex: I live in Hong Kong.
(b) Present Perfect action indicates a past action (= completion):
Ex: I have lived in Japan.
BUT: If we mention a definite past time, tenses have to be changed:
(c) Present Perfect action indicates a present action (=incompletion =a):
Ex: I have lived in Hong Kong in the past three years.
(d) Simple Past action indicates a past action (=completion =b):
Ex: I lived in Japan five years ago.
It is a breakthrough in the explanation of English tense. The process at
once explains the use of both Present Perfect and the Past Family. According
to it, Present Perfect is actually either Simple Present or Simple Past,
while old grammars have been wrongly doing the opposite, proving Present
Perfect is neither Simple Present nor Simple Past! It is small wonder they
could not explain the tense in the past.
I am not creating time, but old grammars have missed a concept of time. I
agree "Last Week" is a past time, and "Now" is a present time. But what
about the time between last week and now? It is neither Last Week nor Now,
but something between them. It has no name and Present Perfect is used to
indicate things finished in this time span. It explains Present Perfect. Who
has found out this concept of time and tell it clearly? This is the whole
point in my website.
Even with good intention, I will post very scarcely. But if you don't want
to receive notice from me anymore, please unsubscribe your email address in
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