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March 16, 2012 / dlw43

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June 10, 2012 / dlw43

The Past Perfect – Verb Tense and Aspect Lesson (Part 6 of 13)

Since we’ve completed the Present Tense of the Perfect Aspect, we are now ready to move on to the Past Tense of the Perfect Aspect.

If you have read the Tense and Aspect post, you know that tense and aspect are different.  (If you haven’t read that post and are not aware that tense and aspect are different, go here for a quick introduction.)

We will be examining each aspect in its present, past, and future tense. In other words, we’ll be discussing each box in the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart in separate posts. Download, print out, and follow along on the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart.

The main job of the Perfect Aspect in general, that is the Present, Past, and Future Perfect,  is to order two events in time.  The main job of the Past Perfect in specific, then, is to order two events that happened in the Past.

Though using the Past Perfect aspect in and of itself means that two events are being ordered in time, adverbs are often used to give even more emphasis on this ordering of events. Some of the adverbs that are often used with the Completed Action Before Something in the Past use of Past Perfect include already, just, ever, never before, and never. And, of course, adverbs are required for the use of the Past Perfect that expresses Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-Continuous Verbs).   Since + specific point in time or for + total period of time must be used to construct this use of the Past Perfect.

The Past Perfect has two main uses: completed action before something in the past and duration before something in the past.

  

Completed Action Before Something in the Past

The blue dot with the orange circle around it should look familiar from the previous post on the Present Perfect. The blue dot with an orange circle around it represents an activity or situation that occurred at an unspecified time. The “X” can be a clause formed with the Past Tense, or it can be a time expression. By using the Past Perfect, we make it abundantly clear which event–always the clause formed with the Past Perfect–happened first. Using the Past Perfect renders the ordering of the sentences irrelevant. This is very useful when we are relating a sequence of events.

Examples:

We saw the movie in class.  One of the students had read the book. (The student read the book before seeing the movie.)

Cynthia moved to Spain. She applied for jobs there.  (If both sentences are in the Simple Past, the reader will assume that Cynthia first moved to Spain and then applied for jobs.)

Cynthia had moved to Spain.  She applied for jobs there. (Cynthia moved to Spain before applying for jobs there.)

Cynthia moved to Spain.  She had applied for jobs there.  (Cynthia applied for jobs in Spain before she moved there.)

Observe how meaning can change when the Past Perfect is not used:

He liked Los Angeles. He had visited the city many times. (First he visited the city many times. After and because of that, he liked Los Angeles.)

He liked Los Angeles. He visited the city many times. (Using the Simple Past in both sentences means the first sentence happened first and the second sentence happened second. This is called chronological order. In this sentence, he liked Los Angeles before visiting it. Maybe he got a favorable impression of the city from movies or television. The point is that the meaning completely changes if the Past Perfect is not used to express which event happened first.)

Duration Before Something in the Past (Non-Continuous Verbs)

In order to proceed, you must know the difference between continuous, non-continuous, and mixed verbs.  Go here for an explanation of continuous, non-continuous, and mixed verbs.

Like the Present Perfect, the Past Perfect uses non-continuous (stative) verbs, some non-continuous uses of mixed verbs, and certain continuous verbs that express habitual occurrence plus a “since phrase,” “since clause,” or “for phrase” to express the duration of situations.  In the Past Perfect, however, the duration of the situation does not continue to the present moment but up to another activity in the past.

Examples:

He had had that laptop for ten years before it died. (non-continuous use of the mixed verb “have”)

She had taught ESL in Japan for several years before she applied for a similar job in the United States. (continuous verb “teach” that expresses a situation more than an activity)

Normally the Present Perfect Progressive Aspect, which we will discuss in a later lesson, rather than the Present Perfect Aspect, is used with action verbs to express an activity that began in the past and continues to the present. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.  Continuous verbs that have the concept of habit embedded within their definition can be used in both the Present Perfect and Present Perfect Progressive to express Duration from the Past until Now.  These verbs include live, work, teach, smoke, wear glasses, play chess, go to school, etc.

Summary:

The Past Perfect’s two main uses are to express that a completed action has happened before something else in the past, and that a situation of a certain duration occurred in the past before another event in the past occurred.

Next: The Future Perfect

March 18, 2012 / dlw43

The Present Perfect – Verb Tense and Aspect Lesson (Part 5 of 13)

Since we’ve completed the Simple Aspect, we are now ready to move on to the Present Tense of the Perfect Aspect.

If you have read the Tense and Aspect post, you know that tense and aspect are different.  (If you haven’t read that post and are not aware that tense and aspect are different, go here for a quick introduction.)

We will be examining each aspect in its present, past, and future tense. In other words, we’ll be discussing each box in the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart in separate posts. Download, print out, and follow along on the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart.

The entire Perfect Aspect (Present Perfect, Past Perfect, and Future Perfect) is used to emphasize the relationship in time of two events. The Present Perfect makes this emphasis two ways: either as an event that happened at an unspecified time before now or as an event that began at a specific point in time in the past and continues to the present moment. In the first way, the Present Perfect expresses that something began and ended at an unspecified time before now and that this past event has had an impact upon the present moment. In the second way, the Present Perfect expresses that something began at a specific point in time  the past and continues to the present moment.

By using the Present Perfect aspect, the speaker is emphasizing the order of two events in time; however, adverbs are often used to give even more emphasis on this ordering of events. Some of the adverbs that are often used with the unspecified time before now use of Present Perfect include already, just, ever, never before, and never. And, of course, adverbs are required for the use of the Present Perfect that expresses something began at a specific point in time in the past and continues to the present moment.   Since + specific point in time or for + total period of time must be used to construct this use of the Present Perfect.

Why would we want to emphasize the ordering of events? Why emphasize the relationship between something that happened in the past and the present moment? Why would we want to emphasize that something that happened in the past and continues up to the present moment?  The answers to these questions are the same: it emphasizes the impact that the past event or situation has upon the present moment. This point is key to knowing when to use the Perfect Aspect.

Okay, let’s get into the specifics of each use of the Present Perfect.

Remember that the Present Perfect has two main uses: unspecified time before now and duration from the past until now.

Unspecified Time Before Now:

In general, the entire Perfect Aspect (Present Perfect, Past Perfect, and Future Perfect) allows us to express the idea of one thing happening before another thing.  What is difficult about the first use of the Present Perfect, Unspecified Time Before Now, is that the second thing is the present moment.  To see the present moment as a second event can be a difficult concept to grasp. But we are in fact ordering two things in time: (1) the thing that happened before now and  (2) now.  We are still expressing that one thing happened before another thing; it’s just that the other thing is the present moment.

One might ask why we don’t just use the Simple Past to express something that began and ended before now. In fact, sometimes we do just that.  Using the Present Perfect, however, allows the speaker to emphasize the impact that the past activity or situation has upon the present moment. There is a subtle but important difference between saying my son graduated from college yesterday and my son has graduated from college. (We would use the Present Perfect if we want to–and most parents do want to–emphasize the impact of that past event on the present moment.)

An obvious but important thing to remember about Unspecified Time Before Now is that the time the event or situation happened must not be specified. To make it easier to understand, Unspecified Time Before Now can be broken down into five categories: Experience, Change Over Time, Accomplishments, An Uncompleted Activity You Are Expecting, and Multiple Activities at Different Times.

The five different types of Unspecified Time Before Now:

1. Experience

Using the Present Perfect in this manner is the equivalent of saying, “I have/don’t have the experience of…”.

Examples:

I have eaten at that restaurant before.

Have you met him?

I have never been to France.

I have read that book twice.

Have you seen the movie Hunger Games?

I haven’t seen a movie in six months.

2. Change Over Time

Examples:

Japanese has become one of the most popular courses at this university over the last twenty years.

Has your English improved since you moved to California?

The government hasn’t shown much interest in arts education since the last election.

Have you lost weight since you began taking yoga?

He has become a better golfer since he joined the club.

John’s time hasn’t improved since he began training for the triathlon.

3. Accomplishments

Examples: 

Doctors have cured many diseases.

We have not determined if life exists on Mars.

Has she graduated from the university yet?

Scientists have split the atom.

He has not mastered Japanese.

Has a cure for the common cold been found yet?

4. An Uncompleted Activity You Are Expecting

This topic illustrates the use of the Present Perfect to suggest that we are expecting something to happen, but it has not happened yet. The word “yet” can be used, but using it is not required because the use of the Present Perfect in this context will indicate to listeners that the speaker expects the event to happen at some point in the future.

Examples:

Bill has not arrived.

Have you finished your homework?

I have not eaten.

Has the rain stopped?

She has not left the airport.

Have you washed the car?

5. Multiple Activities at Different Times

This topic is similar to the preceding one, An Uncompleted Activity You Are Expecting. The difference is that instead of describing a single activity that has not yet been completed but that we expect to be completed in the future, we are describing several activities completed in the past. By using the Present Perfect, we are indicating that the process is not complete, that we expect more of these same activities to occur in the future.

Examples:

I have written three papers in this class since January.

There have been several complications in this case.

The stock market has risen every day this week.

He has vetoed every proposal for reform this term.

She has gotten three tickets this year.

That book has won several awards.

Sometimes we want to limit how far back into the past we want to go in the Present Perfect with situations or activities that happened either once or repeatedly. The exact time or times of the activity/activities/situation/situations happened are unspecified do not continue to the present.  Visually, it looks like this:

The vertical line represents how far back into the past we want to go.  The time of the activity (or activities or situation or situations) can be anywhere from that limit until the very edge of “before now.” The time that the event occurred remains unspecified.  We place limits by using time expressions such as in the last year, this week, so far, up to now, since the beginning of this semester, etc.  Situations that began and ended in the past are usually expressed using non-continuous verbs, and activities that began and ended in the past are expressed using action, continuous, verbs.

She has gotten a ticket this year. (one-time activity)

He has written three essays so far this semester? (repeated activity)

The stock market has risen every day this week. (repeated activity)

He has been to Paris five times in the last five years. (repeated situation)

Have you been to the library in the last month? (one-time situation)

He has supported every proposal for reform this term. (repeated activity)

.

.

Okay, so that’s the first use of the Present Perfect. Now, let’s move to the second use.

Duration from the Past until Now (Non-Continuous Verbs):

In order to proceed, you must know the difference between continuous, non-continuous, and mixed verbs.  Go here for an explanation of continuous, non-continuous, and mixed verbs.  

The Present Perfect uses non-continuous (stative) verbs and the non-continuous uses of mixed verbs with a “since” or “for” phrase to a express situation that began in the past that continues to the present. (Activities that began in the past and continue to the present take continuous verbs.) 

Normally the Present Perfect Progressive Aspect, which we will discuss in a later lesson, rather than the Present Perfect Aspect is used with continuous (action) verbs to express an activity that began in the past and continues to the present. There are, however, some exceptions to this rule.  

There are certain continuous verbs by their definitions express habitual occurence, which means that these verbs express a situation as much or more than they express an activity. These verbs, therefore, have flexibility. In the Present Perfect they express a situation, and in the Present Perfect Progressive they express an activity that is repeated.  The continuous (action) verbs that can express both situations and activities include live, work, teach, smoke, wear glasses, play chess, and go to school. There are other verbs that act in this manner as well.  

Examples:

I have wanted a car for a long time. (non-continuous verb)

I have known John for three years. (non-continuous verb)

I have not lived in Paris since 2005. (continuous verb expressing a situation)

I have taught English for a long time. (continuous verb expressing a situation)

I have worked here since December. (continuous verb expressing a situation)

I have been in school for ten years. (non-continuous verb)

.

It is important to use a “since phrase,” “since clause,” or “for phrase” if you want to express duration. A “since phrase” (or “since clause”) is followed by a specific point in time such as yesterday, July, or last year. A “for phrase” is followed by a duration of time such as one day, one month, or one year. Without a “since phrase,” “since clause,” or “for phrase,” the Present Perfect will default to its first use, an activity or situation that has began and ended at some Unspecified Time Before Now.

Examples:

I have lived in Paris. (I no longer live in Paris. The activity began and ended at some Unspecified Time Before Now.)

I have lived in Paris for five months. (I began living in Paris five months ago and I still live there now. This is the second use of the Present Perfect, Duration from the Past Until Now.)

Next: The Past Perfect

March 6, 2012 / dlw43

The Simple Future – Verb Tense and Aspect Lesson (Part 4 of 13)

Okay, now that you’ve learned about the Simple Past, it’s time to move on to the Simple Future. (If you haven’t yet learned about the Simple Past, click here.)

Before we start with the Simple Future, you need to understand that tense and aspect are different.  It will make this and following posts much easier to grasp.  (Go here for a quick explanation on the ways in which tense and aspect differ.)

We will be examining each aspect in its present, past, and future tense. In other words, we’ll be discussing each box in the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart in separate posts. Download, print out, and follow along on the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart.

The Simple Future has two forms and four main uses: to express a voluntary action, to express a promise, to express a plan, to express a prediction.  The two forms of the Simple Future are “will” and “be going to.”

“Will” to Express a Voluntary Action:

Examples:

I will go with you to the library.

Will you make dinner?

I will not watch the game.

I will take the kids to school.

Will you help me wash the car?

I will not clean your room.

“Will” to Express a Promise:

Examples:

I will call you later.

I will not stay out too late.

I will take you to the airport.

I will not tell anyone.

I will pay you on Friday.

I will not forget our appointment.

“Be Going to” to Express a Plan:

Examples:

I am going to fly to Japan next week.

Are you going to the Fleetwood Mac concert?

He is not going to spend his vacation in Los Angeles.

She is going to lose ten pounds by summer.

Are you going to drive to Las Vegas this weekend?

He is not going to work tonight.

“Will” or “Be Going to” to Express a Prediction:

Examples:

I will lose ten pounds in the next six weeks.

I am going to lose ten pounds in the next six weeks.

Will you move to Japan next year?

Are you going to move to Japan next year?

He will not win the election.

He is not going to win the election.

 Next: The Present Perfect

March 6, 2012 / dlw43

Continuous and Non-Continuous (Stative) Verbs

February 23, 2012 / dlw43

The Simple Past – Verb Tense and Aspect Lesson (Part 3 of 13)

Okay, now that you’ve learned about the Simple Present, it’s time to move on to the Simple Past. (If you haven’t yet learned about the Simple Present, click here.)

Before you learn the Simple Past, make sure you first understand that tense and aspect are different.  By having that understanding in place, it will make it easier for you to understand this and following posts.  (Go here for a quick explanation on the ways in which tense and aspect differ.)

We will be examining each aspect in its present, past, and future tense. In other words, we’ll be discussing each box in the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart in separate posts. Download, print out, and follow along on the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart.

The Simple Past has five main uses: completed action in the past, a series of completed actions, duration in the past, habits in the past, and past facts or generalizations.

Completed Action in the Past:

Examples:

I saw a movie yesterday. (Affirmative statement)

Did you see a movie yesterday? (Question)

He did not study English last night. (Negative statement)

She ate sushi last night. (Affirmative statement)

Did she attend class yesterday? (Question)

He did not play volleyball on Saturday. (Negative statement)

A Series of Completed Actions:

Examples:

I went to school, worked out at the gym, and wrote a paper.

I washed the car, walked the dog, and went to the grocery store.

Did you put away the leftovers, rinse the dishes, and start the dishwasher?

Duration in the Past:

Duration can be defined as the the length of time something continues or exists. For instance, the duration of most movies is 90 minutes.

Examples:

I lived in Japan for three years.

She talked on the phone for two hours.

He studied all day.

They danced all night.

He studied English the entire flight.

He slept during the flight.

Habits in the Past:

An equivalent, perhaps more common, way to express habits in the past is to use the modal verb “used to” + the bare infinitive.  For instance, I used to listen to the news on the radio.  If you use the Simple Past to express a habit in the past, you it is a good idea to clarify your meaning by adding expressions such as always, often, never, usually, when I was a child, etc.  Otherwise, a habit in the past can be mistaken for a completed action in the past.

Examples:

I studied English when I was a child.

He didn’t play the piano until high school.

She read manga as a child.

She worked at an office after school.

They ate a lot of candy when they were children.

He always monitored the stock market.

By using the Simple Past to indicate a habit in the past, we are saying that this habit stopped in the past. Later, the habit may have begun anew, but the particular habit we indicated with the simple past stopped in the past.

Past Facts or Generalizations:

An equivalent, perhaps more common, way to express habits in the past is to use the modal verb “used to” + the bare infinitive.  For instance, I used to be shy.  This use of the Simple Past is very similar to habits in the past.  The line between a past fact about oneself versus a habit one used to have in the past is hard to distinguish, so these two uses of the Simple Past are quite similar.

Examples:

Children in Long Beach walked or rode their bikes to school.  (Past Generalization)

Cell phones cost much more in the 1990s. (Past Fact)

Did you live in Tokyo when you were a child? (Past Fact)

He didn’t like sashimi before. (Past fact)

The older generation didn’t use computers. (Past Generalization)

He was shy. (Past Fact)

(If you don’t know the difference between a fact and a generalization, click here.)

Next: The Simple Future

February 23, 2012 / dlw43

The Simple Present – Verb Tense and Aspect Lesson (Part 2 of 13)

We begin at the beginning: The Simple Present.

If you have read the Tense and Aspect post, you know that tense and aspect are different.  (If you haven’t read that post and are not aware that tense and aspect are different, go here for a quick introduction.)

We will be examining each aspect in its present, past, and future tense. In other words, we’ll be discussing each box in the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart in separate posts. Download, print out, and follow along on the Verb Tense and Aspect Chart.

The Simple Present has four main uses: repeated actions, facts or generalizations, scheduled events in the near future, and now (but only with non-continuous or certain mixed verbs).

Repeated Actions:

Examples:

He plays video games. (Affirmative statement)

Does he play video games? (Question)

He does not play tennis. (Negative statement)

She swims every night. (Affirmative statement)

Does she swim every night? (Question)

She does not swim every night. (Negative statement)

Facts or Generalizations:

The blue line represents the idea that the fact or generalization applies to the past, present, and future. The fact or generalization is true now, and will be true in the future. The speaker presents an idea as a fact or generalization by conjugating the verb into the simple present. It is up to listeners to decide whether or not the speaker is correct.

Examples:

The world is round. (Fact)

Is the world round?

The world is not round.

Cats are playful. (Generalization)

Are cats playful?

Cats are not playful.

Scheduled Events in the Near Future:

This use of the Simple Present is equivalent to the Simple Future.  Each of the sentences below can be replaced with “will + verb”.  Native speakers tend to use Simple Present more frequently than the Simple Future when talking about scheduled events in the near future.

Examples:

His vacation begins tonight.

Does his vacation begin tonight?

His vacation does not begin tonight.

The Dodgers play in New York next month.

Do the Dodgers play in New York next month?

The Dodgers don’t play in New York next month.

Now (Non-Continuous Verbs):

It seems logical that we would use the Simple Present to express something happening now.  However, this use of the Simple Present is limited to non-continuous and certain mixed verbs.  (If you are not familiar with non-continuous and mixed verbs, click here.)

Examples:

She is here. (Non-Continuous Verb)

Is she here?

She is not here.

He feels sick. (Mixed Verb)

Does he feel sick?

He does not feel sick.

Next: The Simple Past