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K R Lakshminarayanan

Monday, 6 October 2014

Tense forms and the messages

Tenses and the messages 

1. Meanings of Past Tense Forms

1.1 Simple Past
We use verbs in their simple past tense forms to express
1. actions beginning and completing in the past time:

   He walked into the canteen. 
   When I was a child we always visited our grandparents during summer.
     She saw a film last night.
     Did you see the boss?
       
2. habits in the past time:
      I always carried an umbrella.
     He never drank liquor. 

1.2 Past Progressive 
This tense form expresses
      · actions in progress when another action occurred:
            The sun was setting as we reached home.
            When you rang up your mum/mom, she was resting.  
      · gradual progression: 
            The sun was setting.    It was getting darker.     The wind was rising

1.3 Past Perfect
       · This is used to ‘report’ past tense and present perfect forms of 
           ‘direct speech’:
                He said, ‘ I slept well.’  (past tense --direct speech)                
                He said (that) he had slept well.  (past perfect--indirect or reported speech)
 
                She said, ‘ I have already read that book.’  (present perfect--direct speech)
                She said (that) she had already read that book. (past perfect--reported speech)

       · This is used to express actions in ‘if clauses that did not take place:
            If you had listened to me, you could’ve avoided mistakes.
           (=You didn’t listen to me and so you couldn’t avoid making mistakes.)

              If you’d explained your problem to your boss, he’d have understood it.
              (=you didn’t explain your problem to your boss and so he didn’t understand it.)

              If she hadn’t married him, she’d be living now.
              (=She married him and now she is no more.)      

        · This expresses unrealized hope or wish:
            I had hoped we would be able to leave tomorrow but I have an emergency operation.
            I had intended to see my mother but I have to stay back and finish my report.
            I wish I had taken your advice. [ But I did not]
            We had expected you to stay at least a week [But you are not]       

1.4 Past Perfect Progressive
This expresses:
1. duration of past actions:
        It was getting dark and he was exhausted because he had been digging since
                morning. 
2. repeated past actions:
                He had been trying to get on the phone, but he was unsuccessful.
3. duration of actions earlier than the completed ones:
                When I opened the door I found him on his knees outside. I knew
                he had been looking through the keyhole.

1.5 Present Tense
This expresses:
1. habitual, repeated actions/states:
          He comes to class everyday.
         She goes to office late.
         Cats drink milk.
         My brother flies planes.
         She is rich.  
          I’m good at languages.
          We are on strike.

2. action not limited to any specific time:      
          The sun sets in the west.
         My parents live near Chennai.
         My husband works very hard.

3. your knowledge of recent events:    
          I hear you’re getting married. Congrats!
         I gather there’s trouble in the hills again.

4. actions in future time in ‘if’ and ‘time’ clauses:
          If you see Sundaram, tell him to call me.
         Don’t go away until I tell you.
         When he comes you’ll meet him.
         As soon as he leaves, give me a ring.

5. actions planned now to occur in future time:
          My Colleges closes for summer vacation on 15 March 2010.
         The Centenary Celebrations begin next week.
         The President arrives at Chennai at 10 a.m. and leaves for Kerala two hours later.
  
1.6 Present progressive
This expresses:
1. definite arrangements:
                She’s leaving for London on the evening flight.
                We’re throwing a party next weekend.
                Seema is attending a Conference on the 31st.
 2. actions continuing but not necessarily at the moment of speaking:
          I’m learning French. (I may be traveling)
          My brother is writing a novel. (he may be in his office now)

3. actions happening intermittently, not necessarily now:
             Mr Vikram is writing a novel.
             Ravi is playing in the first eleven this season.
             I’m learning French.
            
1.7 Present perfect
This expresses:
1. actions  that started in the past time and completed or remains incomplete in the
    present time:
           I have filled the questionnaire.
           He has washed the clothes.
           The police have not caught the thief.

2. actions that started and completed in the recent past time:
          He’s just gone out. = He went out a few minutes ago./ He went out just now 
   
3. actions that started in the past time and continues in the present time: 
           I’ve not visited my parents for quite some time now. (= I’m yet to visit)
           He has been in the army since 1990. (=He’s still in the army.)
           Have you known him for long? (=You know him even now.)

1.8 Present Perfect Progressive
This talks about
1. actions that started in the past time and that is going on in the present time almost without
    interruption:
             He’s been writing letters all day/since morning.
             We’ve been living here almost a year/since last Christmas.
             I’ve been waiting here for an hour already/since six o’clock.

2. actions that occur more or less frequently:
             We’ve been meeting every Friday for years now/since we became friends.
             I’ve been giving guest lectures regularly since April/ for six months now.

1.9 Simple Future
Future tense forms are formed by placing
         · ‘will’* before base verbs in first person singular and plural ( I and we)
         · ‘will’ before base verbs in second person singular and plural (you, you)
         · ‘will’ before base verbs in third person singular and plural (nouns, he, she, it,
            they).       

           I will/ ll come tomorrow.   You will (ll) meet me this evening. She will (ll) see you.
           Will you talk to him?   Will he oblige?    When will she attend to the file?

Note: ’ll is the shortened form of ‘will’.       

Here, as in present tense (comes) and in past tense (talked ), there is no ‘inflection’ to base verbs to form future tenses because we simply place(add) ‘shall’/will’ before (to) a base verb. 

Note:
*Traditional grammar says shall is the correct future auxiliary to be used with ‘I’ and ‘we’. But ‘……,  many people avoid shall except in the interrogative and use will all the time for affirmative and negative…..’ say Thomson and Martinet in their A Practical English Grammar. Quirk et al in their A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language also say the use of shall with I and we ‘is nowadays widely ignored.’ People use will or ‘ll with ‘I’ and ‘we’. In other words, people say ‘I’ll meet you tomorrow’, not ‘I shall meet you tomorrow’. Shall is used with I or we in interrogatives to seek response from a listener or to make suggestions about shared activities:
             Shall I talk to my superior about this? (seeking response)
             Shall we meet at Suresh’s house for a discussion? (seeking suggestions)

For the rest of the expressions that indicate ‘future’ see under ‘advanced’ part of this Book.

1.10 Future Progressive
This expresses
1. actions that will be progressive at some point of time in future time:
           When you reach the end of the bridge, I’ll be waiting to show you the way.   

2. actions that describe normal procedures and routine events in future time:   
           The Inspector will be visiting your school again in three months.
          Good bye! We’ll be seeing you.
          I’ll be following your progress with great interest.

1.11 Future Perfect
This expresses
    actions that began in the past time, goes on in the present time and will complete some
    time in the future:
          We will have arrived  in New York by this time tomorrow.
         It’s now 6.30 p.m.; I’ll have finished my work by 10 o’clock.
         In another year or so, you’ll have forgotten all about him. 
_________________________________________________________________________


2 Time and Tense

The expression ‘time’ refers to ‘past’ time, ‘present’ time and ‘future’ time. And the expression ‘tense’ refers (for our present purposes) to ‘present tense form’, ‘past tense form’ and ‘future tense form’ of verbs.

Look at these sentences:            
              I slept well last night.      ¬® past tense form, past time
              I’m having lunch.             ¬® present tense form, present time
              I thank you for your concern. ¬® present tense form, present time
                 I’ll have a word with him. ¬® future tense form, future time

Slept is the past tense form of ‘sleep’ and indicates ‘past’ time and the action happened in the past time; ’m having is the present progressive form of ‘have’ and indicates ‘present’ time and the action is happening in the present time; Thank is the present tense form of ‘thank’ and indicates ‘present’ time and the action happens in the present time. ’ll have is the future tense form of ‘have’ and indicates ‘future’ time and the action will happen in future time.

From these four sentences we may understand that past tense forms indicate past time, present tense forms indicate present time and future tense forms indicate future time. But this is not true for all the sentences we speak.

Read these sentences:
              If I trusted him, I’d lend him the money. ¬® past tense form, present time
              It’s time I went home.                           ¬® past tense form, present time
              Did you want to see me now?                ¬® past tense form, present time
              He smokes too much.                           ¬® present tense form, all three times
              We feed the cat on fish.                        ¬® present tense form, all three times
              ‘Do you mind if I smoke?’                      ¬® present tense form, future time 
              ‘Well, I’d rather you didn’t.’                   ¬® past tense form, future time
              The Mumbai Mail leaves at 21.30.          ¬® present tense form, all three times
              What are you doing tomorrow?              ¬® present progressive form, future time     

 As you can see, no tense form matches with the time. And now read the explanations:    
 
He smokes too much.
The present tense form of ‘smoke’ indicates that the act of smoking is happening in the present time. But it also means: he smoked too much yesterday, the day before and so on, and he will continue to smoke too much tomorrow, the day after and so on. So, here the present tense form covers all the three times and expresses a habit/repeated action that was true in the past time, is true in the present time and will be true in future.
              We feed the cat on fish.
‘Feed’ here means we fed the cat yesterday, we feed the cat today and we will feed the cat tomorrow also. So the present tense form can include all the three times and talk aboutrepeated acts’.

Do you mind if I smoke?’   ‘Well, I’d rather you didn’t.’
‘Mind’ in the present tense form talks about a request for an immediate future action.
‘didn’t (smoke)’ in the past tense form talks about a request for an immediate future action not to happen.      

The Mumbai Mail leaves at 21.30.
‘Leave’ in its present tense form is not talking about a present time action. The present tense form is talking about the departure of the train as a planned activity during a given period covering past time, present time, future time.


What are you doing tomorrow?
The present progressive tense form means: Have you already planned everything for tomorrow? implying thereby (with an indirect enquiry): are you free anytime tomorrow?

If I trusted him, I’d lend him the money.
‘Trusted’ is the past tense form of ‘trust’ and as such it should indicate ‘past’ time.

But it doesn’t; instead it indicates ‘present’ time. Because we use ‘past tense form’ of a verb in an ‘if’ clause to mean that the action we are talking about is not true at the moment of speaking (in the present time): I don’t trust him. But the speaker can imagine to be trusting ‘him’ and also imagine what the speaker will do. Here the imagination is false, and to show this the speaker uses past tense form.
  
It’s time I went home.
‘Went’ is the past tense form of ‘go’ and as such it should indicate ‘past’ time.

But it doesn’t; instead it indicates ‘present’ time. Because ‘past tense form’ of a verb is used in a clause following ‘It’s time’ to mean that the action being talked about is not true at the moment of speaking: I’ve not gone. I’m still here.              

Did you want to see me now?
The past tense form of ‘go’ is contradicted by ‘now’. The speaker uses the past tense form here to express his/her respectful attitude to the listener in the present time. 

From this discussion, one thing is very clear. It is what we want to say to the listener that is important. And we choose particular parts of a language (including tenses) to how we say this.

In other words, we use, when necessary, past tense form to talk about actions in a time period that is past time and that is not past time, we use present tense form to talk about actions in a time period that is present time and that is not present time.

2.1 past tense forms and ‘time’
Past tense forms express
1. duration (length of time) of past time (no link to the present time):             
               I lived in Delhi from July 1990 to June 1998.
               Didn’t you meet your cousin at all throughout your stay in London?
               She studied music while she was in Paris.
               I was in North Africa for sixteen years.

2. a particular point of past time (no link to the present time): 
               I heard the news a while ago.
               Did they go to the dentist’s twice last week?
               We visited our parents yesterday.
               I was born in 1942.
               I became very angry when I heard the news.

3. past time without ‘time’ adverbs (no link to the present time):
                   Did you lock the front door?
                   Did you see the boss?
                   His eyes were open but he didn’t appear to hear me.   
In each of these sentences, there is no time expression showing past time. This is because the situations in which these sentences were spoken make it clear to us that we are referring to past time.
                   Napolean marched his army to Moscow.
                   I have a friend whose father was at school with our Principal.  
Neither of these two sentences have past time indicators because our general knowledge about Napolean and people spending a particular period at school make it clear that we are referring to past time.

All these fourteen sentences clearly tell us that the instances began and ended in the past time, having no relation to the present time.

But …….
Read these sentences:
                    I always knew you were my friend. (link to the present time)
                    Did you ever hear such nonsense? (link to the present time)
These are natural idiomatic expressions, using past tense. But they are linked to the present time because these statements are generally made in the present time very close to the past time. 

The direct meaning of the first sentence is in the past time: you helped me at a time when I needed help. The implied meaning is in the present time: you proved it and therefore I know you are still my friend.

The direct meaning of the second sentence is in the past time: what someone said was complete nonsense. The implied meaning is in the present time: the speaker is shocked or surprised.

4. habits or repetitive ‘state’ in the past time (no link to the present)
               There were always volcanic eruptions in this area. (repetition--state)
               I always carried an umbrella.  (habit)                    
               He never drank liquor. (habit)
               There were frequent thefts in this part of the town. (repetition--state)
       (or)  There used to be frequent thefts in this part of the town. (repetition--state)
               He scratched his head when he was in doubt. (habit)
       (or)  He used to scratch his head. (habit)
       (or)  He always scratched his head. (habit)

5. in indirect (reported) speech referring to present or future time:
               She said, ‘ The radio is too loud.’   (direct speech)
                  She said that the radio was too loud. (indirect/reported speech)       

                Raja said, ‘Will Ramesh help?’  (direct speech)
                   Raja wondered if Ramesh would help. (indirect/reported speech)  

6. present time in certain idiomatic expressions:
                 Did you want to see me now?   (to a superior)
                 I wondered if you could help me.  (to a stranger/ an acquaintance)
                 I thought you might like some flowers. (to a lady)
   Using the past tense for present time activities, the speakers of these sentences are
   being polite or courteous when this is required or necessary.   

7. present or future time actions that are not true but imagined to be true:                
                  I wish I had a memory like yours. (Then I could win prizes like you.)
                  (=I don’t have a memory like yours.)
  
                  ‘Is the report ready?’
                  ‘When do you want it?’
                  ‘(I wanted it) yesterday.’
                  (=I want it at least by today evening.)     
                 
                   If you really worked hard, you’d soon get promoted.
                   (=You’re not working hard, but I imagine the condition and the result.)
                  
                   If only I knew her response! 
                   (= She hasn’t responded, so I don’t know what her response will be.)  
                 
                   It’s (high) time he realized his error.  (But he hasn’t realized his error.)
      
                       I wish I were/was a bird.  (But I cannot be.)    

                   She wants to fly but I would rather she went by train. 
                   (=I don’t want her to travel by air.) 

                       You look as if/as though you were slapped.    
                   (You behaviour or look suggests that someone has slapped you.)

                        Suppose we spent next weekend at Ooty?  
                        (=We’re not going to Ooty but let’s imagine so.)

                  If I had the money, I’d buy a flat.[I don’t have the money but I imagine so]
                If only I knew her response!       [I don’t know what her response would be]
                Suppose we spent the next weekend at Ooty? [we have no plan to go to Ooty]
                It’s time he realized his error.     [I expect him to realize his error but I he will not]
                I wish I were/was a bird!             [I want to be free as a bird, but I know I cannot be]
                She wants to fly but I’d rather she went by train.[I want her to travel by train]
In summary then we can use past tense forms to express actions in
          (i) past time  (1, 2, 3, 4)
         (ii) present time (6)
        (iii) present or future time (5, 7) 

2.2 Past Progressive Tense Forms and ‘time’
Past progressive tense forms express 
1. importance to the continuity of the action rather than its completion:
            He was listening to the radio.
            They were watching TV.
            What were you doing all morning?
           
2. actions in progress when another action occurred:
            The sun was setting as we reached home.
            When you rang up your mum/mom, she was resting.  

3. gradual progression: 
            The sun was setting.    It was getting darker.     The wind was rising

4. actions repeated for a short period:
            The manager was typing his own letters while his secretary was ill.
            At that time, she was having regular singing lessons.
            He was taking his children out much oftener in those days.

5. annoyance or irritation at some repeated action (with an adverb):
             He was always grumbling.
             She was constantly troubling her husband for money with which to buy new clothes.

6. an intention not completed:
             You were going to give me your mobile number. (but you didn’t)
             The police were going to charge her.                 (but they didn’t)

7. an arrangement in the future determined in the past:
             You were meeting him at the Taj the next day.
             They were getting married the following spring.
             He busy packing for he was leaving that night.

8. actions that are contrary to routine:
              I was surprised to see they were drinking tea at breakfast. (They usually took coffee.)
              I felt that the fellow was telling the truth. (He usually lied.)
              Their regular teacher fell ill, so I was taking the class for history.  

9. incomplete actions because of interruption:
              I sprained my ankle while I was playing tennis.
              Father was watching TV while the lights went off.

10. interrelationship or identity with another simultaneous event:
                Do you think he was telling the truth (when he said that)?

                A: What did she mean by that?
                B: I think she was advising you not to interfere.     
11. casualness rather than purposefulness:                
                 I was talking to Mohan, and he was telling me that the job is still vacant.

Note: The use of second past progressive tense here doesn’t mean the action was a long one; nor does it
          mean the action was incomplete.  The tense tells us that the action (‘telling’ or ‘advising’) was part of
          a conversation where it was one of the several ideas that were shared. Other verbs of ‘speaking’ used
          in this manner are: apologize, thank, predict, request etc.


2.2.1 Meaning differences between past and past progressive
1.        My sister was studying for her exams while I was watching television. 
           My sister studied for her exams while I watched television.
    The past progressive tense stresses ‘continuity’ while the past tense, ‘completion’.

2.        When we arrived, my wife made some coffee.
           When we arrived, my wife was making coffee.
    The past tense indicates that coffee-making followed our arrival. The past progressive
    means that the arrival took place during coffee-making.

3.        He played for several first-class teams (before he retired).
           He was playing in a match against the North (the day he scored a hat trick.)
    The past tense indicates permanence of ‘playing’ and the past progressive, a specific 
    occasion. 
    
4.         I read a novel yesterday evening. [ie the whole novel]
            I was reading a novel yesterday evening.
    The past tense indicates completion of the act and past progressive indicates only the
    continuity of the action.    

5.          A: ‘Did you hear about Balu’s new job?’
             B : ‘ Yes, my wife was telling me about it this morning.’ 
            (or) ‘ Yes, my wife told me about it this morning.’
   The past tense suggests: ‘I know more or less all about it; I don’t need any further information.’ 
   The past continuous tense suggests: ‘I have heard a little about it, but I should like to hear more.      

6.            I talked to Gopal the other day.
               I was talking to Gopal the other day.
   The past tense implies intention/purpose. The past progressive means: I happened to talk 
    to Gopal. (I had no intention, the talk just happened.)

7.            What were you doing before you came here?
               What did you do before you came here?   
   The past progressive implies ‘politeness’ towards the listener. This is absent in the past
   tense.
8.             What were you doing in my room?
                What did you do in my room?
   The past progressive implies an accusation, which is absent in the past tense.

2.3 Present Tense forms and ‘time’
Present tense forms help talk about actions and states in the present time, in the past time, in the future time and also those that cover all the three times.

2.3.1 Actions and States in the present time:
Present tense forms
1. explain a process:
         First I boil fresh water.
         Second I rinse the teapot with boiling water.
         Next I put four teaspoonfuls of tea into the pot.
         Then I pour rapidly boiling water into the teapot.
         Last I let it brew for five minutes before serving it.

2. describe on-going activities in running commentaries:
         The President arrives. The Prime Minister welcomes her. He leads the President on to the
         dais…….  

         Raju passes the ball to Cheenu, Cheenu slips past the defence and shoots!     
         Here comes Zaheer, he bowls, Ponting misses the line of the ball completely and is bowled,
         and the whole crowd erupts

3. describe feelings (exclamations):
         Here comes the bride!   There goes the bell!   There comes the bus!  
     There she goes, goes right out of the park! (she=cricket ball) 

4. express activities related to verbs of ‘speaking’:
     I advise you to withdraw from the contest.
          We have an announcement to make.
          I apologize.
          We thank you for the hospitality.
          I reject your offer.    

5. describe ‘states’:      
          He’s rich.
          She has a headache.
          The boy is unhappy.
          He’s upset.
          They are worried.
     I see what you mean. 
     Everyone likes the new Principal.
          I believe in hard work.
          We live near Chennai.
          Sumathi is tall.
          My God! You weigh 90 kilos!
          This soup tastes delicious.  

6. express experience through ‘senses’:
           I don’t see anyone there.
           Do you hear that noise?
           I smell something burning.
           I feel a sharp pain in my chest.
           This fruit tastes sour.

7. express different ‘states’:     
           (i) mental states and processes     
                 (dis)agree, (dis)believe, differ, doubt, feel, find, foresee, forget,
                imagine, know, mean, notice, recall, recognize, recollect,
                remember, suppose, think(=opinion), (dis)trust, understand

          (ii) states of emotion or attitude                
                 desire, detest, feel, forgive, hate, hope, intend, (dis)like,
                love, mind(=object to), (dis)please, prefer, want, wish 

          (iii) miscellaneous
                appear(=seem), belong to, consist of, contain, depend, deserve,
                equal, find, hold, matter, possess, resemble, result, seem,
                suffice, have(=possess or obligation)

Note: These verbs are not used in present progressive tense forms.
             Some of these verbs can occur in the progressive tense to mean ‘temporariness’
             or ‘tentativeness’ (implying politeness):
                     What were you wanting?   I was hoping you’d give me some advice.
                 I’m hoping to borrow some money. I was wondering if you could help me.
             
2.3.2 Actions and States in the future time:
Present tense forms
8. pre-determined schedules and timetables:
           The train leaves in another half an hour.
           The ship arrives in Beirut tomorrow afternoon.
           My train reaches Delhi tomorrow evening.
           Even Semester Exams begin in April. 

9. pre-determined activities of individuals (including itinerary):
           I leave for Singapore tonight.
           We meet again the same day next quarter.
           We leave Chennai at six tomorrow morning, arrive at Salem at 2 p.m. stay
              overnight and then leave for Kerala.

10. express ‘condition’:
            If you agree we shall proceed further.
            He’ll do it if you pay him.
            If I take the four o’clock flight, I can be in Chennai in time for the wedding.  

11. express future actions in ‘time’ clauses:
            Please inform him as soon as he arrives.
            You’ll have to wait until she phones.
            I’ll ask him to give you a ring after he returns from the tour.

2.3.3 Actions and States in the past time:
Present tense forms
12. describe past events to provide ‘drama’:    
           I couldn’t believe it ! Just as we arrived, up comes Srinath,
           slaps me on the back as if we were life-long friends, ‘Come on,
           old pal,’ he says, ‘let me buy you a drink !’ I tell you, I nearly
           fainted on the spot.

           Last night, at about nine o’clock, this chap next door
           staggers into my room and falls dead on the floor.

Note: The use of present tense form helps the hearer feel the impact of surprise/shock. Replace the present
          tense forms of the verbs in bold and read it, it’ll be just a narration minus the emotion. 

13. express actions in the past time said by verbs of ‘communication’:
             The breakfast news says there’s going to be a storm around noon.
             The Book of Genesis speaks of the terrible fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.
             Macbeth, a great Shakespeare play, narrates the tragic consequences of ‘ambition’.
             The Bhagavd Gita warns us against temptation through the senses.
             I hear/I’m told you’re getting married.
             You’re looking for a house, I gather.
             You’re leaving the country, I understand.
Note:  The last three sentences are indirect (polite) ways of enquiry about information received by the
           speakers. If the speakers were informal, they’d be saying:
                You’re getting married?      You’re looking for a house?   You’re leaving the country?  
14. express the thoughts of leaders in literature, religion etc.:
              Jesus says, ‘ Treat thy neighbour as thyself!’
              In his Solitary Reaper, Wordsworth brings to life the tragic mood of the reaper.
              There is a flaw in all Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

15. express past time events in movies/dramas:
               The hero enters the hall. Everything is quiet. Only the wall clock is ticking.
               He looks around. ‘Raise your hands!’ orders a voice from behind. He raises
               his hands and turns around slowly………

16. express quotations without change:
               Speaking of life, Shakespeare says, ‘ Life is a tale told by an idiot……’
               My Sales Manager tells me the sales will improve this year.  

2.3.4 Actions and States in all the three times:
Present tense forms
17. express timeless actions and states or so-called eternal truths:
        Honesty is the best policy.
        Birds fly.
        Water consists of hydrogen and oxygen.
        Two and two makes four.
        The earth moves round the sun.
        Oil floats on water.

        The Nile is the longest river in Africa.
        India shares a border with Bangladesh.     

18. express events that happen regularly (habits, customs, routines):
        We go to Ooty every summer.
        Deva drinks heavily.
        The newspaper arrives at seven o’clock.
        People buy new dresses for Deepavali.
        Sri Krishna’s birth is celebrated all over India.

In summary, the present tense forms help us to express action (activity and state) in
      (i) all the three times (17, 18)
     (ii) past time only      (12, 13, 14, 15, 16)
    (iii) future time only   (8, 9, 10, 11)
    (iv) present time only (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)

2.4 Present progressive tense forms and ‘time’
Present progressive tense forms express
present time
1. actions at the moment of speaking:
                It’s raining.  
                I’m not wearing a coat.
                Why are you sitting at my desk?
                What’s the baby doing?
                The sun is shining.  
                The baby is crying.
              The train is arriving at platform number 3.
2. exceptions to routines:
                The suppliers are asking for immediate payment on delivery.
                  [The usual time limit is thirty days.]
                He always works hard but now he’s overdoing things.
                I’m making an exception, just this once.

future time
3. definite arrangements:
                She’s leaving for London on the evening flight.
                We’re throwing a party next weekend.
                Seema is attending a Conference on the 31st.
                We’re singing at a charity concert next Saturday.
                I’m seeing my dentist next Monday.
              He’s leaving for the States next month.
               Are you doing anything tonight?
               Srinivasan is coming next week and is staying here till his departure to London.

4. actions continuing but not necessarily at the moment of speaking:
          I’m learning French. (I may be traveling)
          My brother is writing a novel. (he may be in his office now)

5. annoyance or irritation at repeated activities/habits:
           I’m always forgetting people’s names.
          You’re continually finding fault with me.
          My husband is forever losing money at the races.

Past, present, future time
4. a frequently repeated action which annoys the speaker or
    seems unreasonable to him/her:
             He’s always working late at the office.
             The train is continually arriving late.
             He’s always grumbling.
   Note: There’s no such negative implication in: I’m always learning.

5. repetitions during a given period of time:
             The Principal is typing her own letters while her P.A. is ill.

6. repetitions at a given moment of time:
             Whenever I see him, he’s roaming around.
             Remember that when you’re taking rest, someone is always working.

7. an on-going change of ‘state’ over a period:
             The weather is getting colder.
             The sun is ripening the mangoes nicely.
             Our economic prospects are now improving.
8. actions happening intermittently, not necessarily now:
             Mr Vikram is writing a novel.
             Ravi is playing in the first eleven this season.
             I’m learning French.
9. actions happening again and again:
             Every time I hear about him, he’s making trouble for himself.
             Whenever you see him, he’s either sleeping or gossiping.
             Don’t let it worry you; he’s constantly trying to impress others.

2.4.1 Present progressive tense versus present tense forms:        
10. The present tense expresses permanence while the present progressive,
      temporariness: 
       We live in the suburbs.           [ permanent residence]
             We are living in the suburbs.  [ for the time being, we may move out]

             Where does Gopi work?         [ permanent place]
             Where is Gopi working at present? [Gopi changes jobs frequently.]

             We start work at nine o’clock, but for this week we are starting at 8.30.

             Father retires next year.        [ which is his normal retiring age]
             Father is retiring next year.   [ though he’s only fifty-five]

11. The present tense refers to competence whereas the present progressive,
      performance on a particular occasion or during a particular season:  
       Suguna sings well.         [ her ability is almost permanent]
             Suguna is singing well.  [ her ability is visible in the given situation]

12. When used with first person in a letter,
       the present tense form of  ‘write’, ‘send’, ‘hasten’ implies an official (formal) tone: 
         I write this to inform you that…………    
    the present progressive of these verbs implies informality:
                  I’m writing to inform you that …………… 

13. Verbs like ‘see’, hear’, ‘have, ‘like’, ‘feel’, ‘expect’, ‘resemble’, ‘hope’, ‘smell’, ‘taste’, ‘impress’, doubt’,
        ‘find’, ‘forget’, ‘want’, ‘mind’ are used in present progressive tense only when they
       carry meanings (messages) different from their normal meanings. See the different
       meanings in the following sentences:
              I don’t see anything here. ( refers to ‘normal sight’) 
              I’m seeing the dentist this evening. (meet by appointment)
              They’re seeing their cousin off. (say goodbye)
              We’re seeing about a work permit for you. (trying to arrange…)
              The plumber is here; he’s seeing to the leak in our tank. (dealing with….)

              This is your last warning. Do you hear me? (do you understand)
              I’m not hearing as well as I used to. (my hearing is not good now)
              I’ve been hearing all about this accident. (receiving the news/information)
              The judge is hearing our case tomorrow. (the trial starts tomorrow)

              I think you’re wrong. (in my opinion ……….)
              I’m thinking of emigrating. (mental process)

              I have a house. (possession)
              I can’t open the door; I’m having a bath. (taking a bath)
              We’re having a wonderful time. (enjoying ourselves)
              I’m having a tooth taken out tomorrow.(getting the dentist to take out the tooth)
              I was having difficulty staying awake. (experiencing)

              He likes me very much. (finds me pleasant/attractive)
              How’s liking his new job? (is he enjoying it)
                         
              I love my wife. (have very strong feeling of affection)
                 I’m loving every moment of it. (am enjoying…..)
                        
                 I feel you are right. (think/believe/ in my opinion)
                 Are you feeling alright? (are you having a problem—physical or mental)
                    
              Parents expect their children to be high achievers.(demand as a duty)    
                 I’m expecting a courier. (waiting for)      
                 She’s expecting a baby this June. (giving birth to)

              She resembles her father. (the likeness is permanent)
              She’s resembling her father more and more.(the likeness is happening over a
                                                                                                                period)
              I hope you’ll come. (an expectation directly expressed)
              I’m hoping you’ll come. (an expectation politely expressed

              Our roses smell sweet.
              She’s smelling our roses. (sniffing)

              The soup tastes bitter.
              She’s tasting the soup to check the seasoning.(checking)

              His views impress me. (I think highly of him)
              He’s impressing his views upon the Management. (trying to influence)
                    
              Do you doubt my word? (on one occasion)    
              He’s always doubting my word. (on several occasions)   

              I find that I was mistaken. (have a feeling/opinion…..
              I’m finding that this problem is more complicated than I had thought.
              (am slowly discovering….)
       
              I forget her name. (can’t recollect)   I’m forgetting my French. (gradual loss)
              Aren’t you forgetting your manners? (failing to show manners)

              He wants to be a doctor.
              What’s he wanting this time? (what’s his latest request/demand)

               Do you mind if I open the window? (object to opening)
               My neighbour is minding the baby while his wife is out shopping.
                     (looking after)  

In summary, the present progressive tense expresses
  (i) actions in the present time (1, 2)
 (ii) actions in the future time (3)
(iii) actions in the present, past, future time (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Differences in the use of present tense and present progressive tense (10, 11, 12, 13)

2.5 Present perfect tense forms and ‘time’
The present perfect tense forms express
1. actions  that started in the past time and completed or remains incomplete in the
    present time:
           I have filled the questionnaire.
           He has washed the clothes.
           The police have not caught the thief.
           I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunset.  
2. actions that started and completed in the recent past time:
          He’s just gone out. = He went out a few minutes ago./ He went out just now 
          The post has just come.= The post came only a moment ago./ The post came just now. 
   
   Note: ‘Recent’ means that the past time is so close to the present time that action is considered more
                present that past.

3. actions that started in the past time and continues in the present time: 
           I’ve not visited my parents for quite some time now. (= I’m yet to visit)
           He has been in the army since 1990. (=He’s still in the army.)
           Have you known him for long? (=You know him even now.)
           You haven’t given me an answer. (You’re yet to reply.)
           They haven’t faxed the particulars. (=The particulars are not here even now.)
           He has sung in this choir ever since he was a boy. (=He continues to be in the choir.)
           This district has suffered from disastrous floods throughout history.
             (=The suffering exists even in the present time.)
           I’ve never seen a cheetah. (=I’m yet to see a cheetah.)

4. the results in the present time of actions that completed in the recent past time:
           I’ve lost my pen. (=I lost it last night. I’m unable to write.)
           I’ve forgotten to bring the cheque book.
              (I forgot it at the time of starting for the office, so I am unable to help you now.)
           My dad has bought a car. (=My dad bought it yesterday. So, we don’t have to take the bus.)
           We’ve gathered all the information you wanted.
              (= You can now discuss how to put the information to use.)
          
5. the results in the present time of actions whose completion is indefinite in the past
    time (what is important here is not when the action took place; what is important is whether we
    can do now some activity related to it):
            Have you read David Copperfield?
                  (=Do you know the story?/ Can we discuss it?)
            Yes, I have been to London. (=I can give you useful information about London.)
            All our children have had measles.
                  (=They know now what it is like/ They are now immune to it.)
            I’ve never known her to be so angry.
                  (=She showed her anger in the past, but now she’s very angry. What could be the reason for
                          such anger?
            I’ve already met your sister.
                  (=I met her in a party a few weeks ago. So, there is no need for introduction.)

6. actions in ‘time’ clauses that will be completed sometime in the future:
            I’ll repair your bicycle when I’ve finished this job.
            By the time you’ve read the book, you’ll know all the answers.
            I’ll come with you, but wait until I’ve written this letter.       
            Let him go once he has answered all your questions

2.5.1 Meaning differences between past tense and present perfect:
      Somu lived in Paris for ten years. (=he no longer lives there.) 
      Somu has lived in Paris for ten years. (=he still lives there.)
           
            Where did you put my wallet? (=Do you remember where ………) 
      Where have you put my wallet? (=I want to know where it is now.)

      I saw wolves in that forest once.
                  (=There may be no wolves now./ The forest has been cut down.)  
      I’ve seen wolves in that forest. (Possibly you can see wolves even today.)

2.5.2 Adverbs we use with present perfect tense forms:
      Have you had lunch yet?  
      Have they still not replied to our letter?
            Has anyone ever climbed Mt. Everest alone?
      I’ve already decided how to deal with him.
            The population has increased tremendously during this century.
            We’ve lost a lot of business this year.
            He’s rung up three times already.
            I’ve lived here for twenty years.
            I’ve lived here since 1991.

Note: Most of us make the mistake of saying ‘since twenty years’.
          Remember
                  for + length of time/duration of time of the action
                for a long time, for the third week in succession, for two weeks, for the last week
      
                  since + the starting time of the action
                since yesterday, since last week, since Monday, since September, since 2002   

2.6 Present Perfect Progressive Tense Forms and time:
The present perfect progressive tense forms talk about
1. actions that started in the past time and that is going on in the present time almost without
    interruption:
             He’s been writing letters all day/since morning.
             We’ve been living here almost a year/since last Christmas.
             I’ve been waiting here for an hour already/since six o’clock.

2. actions that occur more or less frequently:
             We’ve been meeting every Friday for years now/since we became friends.
             I’ve been giving guest lectures regularly since April/ for six months now.

3. actions expressing intentions that are yet to become facts:
             Don’t pay any attention to their promises; they’ve been promising to repair the
             roof.
             I’m so sorry; I’ve been meaning to see you for ages but I’m so busy at work.
             The Committee has been threatening to resign—but I don’t expect they will in
             the end.
             He’s been asking Sumathi to marry him ever since they first met.(without success)
             We’ve been trying for a World Bank loan for a year now.(we haven’t got it yet)


2.7 Future Tense
It can be said that there’s no future tense in the English language. The argument goes like this:
1. To form past and present tenses, we inflect (= make changes in) regular verbs
    with the addition of ‘s/es’, ‘-ing’ and ‘ed’ at the end
    and we inflect irregular verbs, with difference in their spellings:
      
                                Full verbs
        Primary verbs
tense forms
regular
               Irregular
be
have
do
base form
-s form
-ing participle
past form
-ed participle
talk
talks
talking
talked
talked
begin          speak        put
begins        speaks       puts
beginning   speaking   putting
began          spoke        put
begun          spoken      put
be
am/is/are*
being
was/were*
been
have
has
having
had
had
do
does
doing
did
done
* These are derivatives of ‘be’.

It is these inflections (=additions and different spellings ) that result in the past and present forms of full and primary verbs.

2. There is no such inflection in the tense forms with regard to expressing ‘future’. We
    don’t make any changes by adding to the verbs or changing their spellings. We simply
    use different expressions to convey ‘future’ time:

          1. will/ ’ll  for ALL ‘persons’ before full verbs and primary verbs
                   indicates actions and states as occurring in future time:     
                   full verbs                                                                 primary verbs                 
                 I’ll             }                 
                 We’ll          }                                      I’ll be rich soon.
                You’ll        } talk to the manager.         I’ll have a solution soon.
                He’ll          }                                      I’ll do what you say.
                She’ll         }
                They’ll       }

         2. will/ ’ll  for all ‘persons’ before full verbs and primary verbs
                   indicates ‘habitual’ actions:
                  Spring will come again. Birds will build nests.

          3. be + going to + full verbs 
                  I’m going to complain if things don’t improve. (future fulfilment of the present)
                      She’s going to have a baby.  (future result of present cause)

            4. be + -ing participle   
                  The match is starting at 2.30 (tomorrow).
 
         5. present simple tense form (bare verbs)          
                 School closes on 31 March.
                 What will you do if I don’t marry you? (conditional clause)
                 I’ll inform her when she arrives. (time clause) 

         6. be + to-infinitive        
                 The Prime Minister is to visit Japan next month. (present arrangement for future
                 You’re to meet the Company representative and collect the documents.
                     (order about a future duty/responsibility)

         7. Verbs in imperative
                       Be quiet!
                     Search the room thoroughly!
                     Make yourself a cup of tea.
                     Don’t drop it!
                     Don’t wait for me!   

The messages are different between simple future and future progressive:
            When will you pay back the money?
            (=I’m not interested in your problems; I want my money back.)

               When will you be paying back the money?
            (How soon can you pay the money back? / Repayment here is a matter of course.)

                We will fly at 30,000 feet.
            (The pilot had just decided to fly at that height.)

            We will be flying at 30,000 feet.    
             (It’s the normal height that the pilot is talking about.) 

                The next train to Tambaram will arrive at platform four.

            The next train Tambaram will be arriving at platform four.             
               There is no direct human involvement. The difference between these  two is not as important here as it
               is in the other two examples. However, the future progressive is more informal than the simple future.                    
                 
There are other verbs that express activities in future time:
              The weather may improve. (tomorrow)
             You must have dinner with us. (sometime soon)
             I intend to resign next Monday.
             I hope to be married soon.

Future perfect tense forms express 
1. actions or states of some duration upto a certain time in the future:
          On July 29, we’ll have been married for 38 years.
         At the end of this academic year, you’ll have taught for 43 years.
Note: This use of future perfect means that the action/state will not complete at a given time in the future
            but will in all likelihood continue to be true.

2. assumptions or possibilities in the present time:
          You’ll have heard, I expect, that Srikala is going to be married in another two
         weeks.
          It’s five o’clock; they’ll have arrived home by now.
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