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Encyclopedia > Grammatical tense

Grammatical tense is a way languages express the time at which an event described by a sentence occurs. In English, this is a property of a verb form, and expresses only time-related information. The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ...


Tense, along with mood, voice and person, are four ways in which verb forms are frequently characterized, in languages where those categories apply. There are languages (mostly isolating languages, like Chinese) where tense is not expressed anywhere in the verb or any auxiliaries, but only as adverbs of time, when needed for comprehension; in the same condition, grammatical tense in certain languages can be expressed optionally (such as Vietnamese), for example, "sinh" meaning "birth" and "sanh" meaning "birthed"; and there are also languages (such as Russian) where verbs indicate aspect in addition to or instead of tense. In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood (or mode), which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. ... In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc. ... Grammatical person, in linguistics, is deictic reference to the participant role of a referent, such as the speaker, the addressee, and others. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ... An isolating language is any language where the vast majority of morphemes are free morphemes and are considered to be full-fledged words, rather than particles that are agglutinated. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ...


The exact number of tenses in a language is often a matter of some debate, since many languages include the state of certainty of the information, the frequency of the event, whether it is ongoing or finished, and even whether the information was directly experienced or gleaned from hearsay, as moods or tenses of a verb. Some grammarians consider these to be separate tenses, and some do not.


Tenses cannot be easily mapped from one language into another. While all languages have a "default" tense with a name usually translated as "present tense" (or "simple present"), the actual meaning of this tense may vary considerably.

Contents

English tenses

Viewed in the strictest linguistic sense, English has only two tenses, marked in the verb alone: nonpast tense (present tense) and past tense. They are shown with the verb endings and -ed. For referencing in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Citing sources. ... The past tense is a verb tense expressing action, activity, state or being in the past. ... In morpheme-based morphology, a null morpheme is a morpheme that is realized by a phonologically null affix (an empty string of phonological segments). ...


The following chart shows how T/M/A (tense/modal/aspect) is expressed in English:

Tense Modal Aspect Verb
Perfect Progressive
-Ø (nonpast)
-ed (past)
Ø (none)
will (future)
Ø (none)
have -en (perfect)
Ø (none)
be -ing (progressive)
do

Since will is a modal auxiliary, it cannot co-occur with other modals like can, may, and must. Only aspects can be used in infinitives. Some linguists consider will a future marker and give English two more tenses, future tense and future-in-past tense, which are shown by will and would respectively. Also, in nonlinguistic language study, aspects and mode are viewed as tenses. In linguistics, an auxiliary (also called helping verb, auxiliary verb, or verbal auxiliary) is a verb functioning to give further semantic or syntactic information about the main or full verb following it. ... In grammar, infinitive is the name for certain verb forms that exist in many languages. ... It has been suggested that Future perfect tense be merged into this article or section. ...


Compound tenses

The more complex tenses in Indo-European languages are formed by combining a particular tense of the verb with certain verbal auxiliaries, the most common of which are various forms of "be", various forms of "have", and modal auxiliaries such as English will. Romance and Germanic languages often add "to hold", "to stand", "to go", or "to come" as auxiliary verbs. For example, Spanish uses estar ("to be") with the present gerund to indicate the present continuous. Portuguese uses ter ("to have") with the past participle for the perfect aspect. Swedish uses kommer att ("come to") for the simple future. These constructions are often known as complex tenses or compound tenses (a more accurate technical term is periphrastic tenses). For other uses, see Indo-European. ... In linguistics, an auxiliary (also called helping verb, auxiliary verb, or verbal auxiliary) is a verb functioning to give further semantic or syntactic information about the main or full verb following it. ... A compound is a word composed of more than one free morphemes. ...


Examples of some generally recognized Indo-European and Finnish tenses using the verb "to go" are shown in the table below. For other uses, see Indo-European. ...

tense Germanic: English:
to go
Romance: Spanish:
ir
Romance: Italian:
andare
Celtic : Irish:
téigh
Germanic: Swedish:
att gå
Finno-ugric: Finnish:
mennä
Slavic: Bulgarian:
отивам/отида[1]
notes
Present simple I go. (Yo) voy. (Io) vado. Téim. Jag går. (Minä) menen. Аз отивам. In most languages this is used for most present indicative uses. In English, it's used mainly to express habit or ability ("I play the guitar").
Present continuous I am going. (Yo) estoy yendo. (Io) sto andando. Tá mé ag dul. Jag är gående[2], jag går. (Minä) olen menossa. Аз отивам This form is prevalent in English to express current action, but is absent or rarer in other Indo-European languages, which prefer the simple present tense. Continuous is more an aspect than a tense and is included here only because of its prevalence in English to substitute for the Simple Present.
Present perfect I have gone. (Yo) he ido. (Io) sono andato. Jag har gått. (Minä) olen mennyt. Аз съм отишъл. Common past compound tense. In some languages indicates recent past, in others indicates an unknown past time. No equivalent in Irish.
Preterite I went. (Yo) fui. (Io) andai. Chuaigh mé. Jag gick. (Minä) menin. Аз отидох. In English (unlike in some languages with aorist tenses), this implies that the action took place in the past and that it is not taking place now.
Imperfect I used to go. (Yo) iba. (Io) andavo. Théinn.
Past continuous I was going. (Yo) estaba yendo. (Io) stavo andando. Bhí mé ag dul. Jag var gående[2], jag gick. (Minä) olin menossa. Аз отивах.
Pluperfect (past perfect) I had gone. (Yo) había ido. (Io) ero andato. Jag hade gått. (Minä) olin mennyt. Аз бях отишъл. This expresses that an action was completed before some other event.
Future I will go. (Yo) iré. (Io) andró. Rachaidh mé. Jag ska gå. (Minä) menen. Аз ще отида. This can be used to express intention, prediction, and other senses. In Finnish and Japanese there is no future tense; when speaking of the future, the present tense is used; a telic object may implicitly communicate the time.
Future perfect I will have gone. (Yo) habré ido. (Io) saró andato. Jag kommer att ha gått. (Minä) olen mennyt. Аз ще съм отишъл. This expresses a past action in a hypothetical future. As Finnish has no future tense, present perfect is used.
  1. ^ отивам and отида are two different verbs, both meaning "to go", and both can be conjugated in all the above tenses, but in order best to preserve the English and Bulgarian meaning, only some of their forms are shown.
  2. ^ a b This only works with adverbs, such as "I was going when someone suddenly stopped me"; not just "I was going to their house"

The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... The Romance languages, also called Romanic languages, are a subfamily of the Italic languages, specifically the descendants of the Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people evolving in different areas after the break-up of the Roman Empire. ... The Romance languages, also called Romanic languages, are a subfamily of the Italic languages, specifically the descendants of the Vulgar Latin dialects spoken by the common people evolving in different areas after the break-up of the Roman Empire. ... Proto-Indo-European Indo-European studies Celtic languages are a branch of the Indo-European languages. ... Geographical distribution of Finno-Ugric (Finno-Permic in blue, Ugric in green). ... The Slavic languages (also called Slavonic languages) comprise the languages of the Slavic peoples. ... For referencing in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Citing sources. ... The continuous and progressive aspects are grammatical aspects that express incomplete action in progress at a specific time: they are non-habitual, imperfective aspects. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ... The present perfect tense is a perfect tense used to express action that has been completed with respect to the present. ... The preterite (also praeterite, in American English also preterit, or past historic) is the grammatical tense expressing actions which took place in the past. ... Aorist (from Greek αοριστος, indefinite) is a term used in certain Indo-European languages to refer to a particular grammatical tense and/or aspect. ... The imperfect tense, in the classical grammar of several Indo-European languages, denotes a past tense with an imperfective aspect. ... The progressive or continuous tenses of a verb are those denoting an incomplete action in progress at a specific time. ... The pluperfect tense (from Latin: plus quam perfectum more than perfect) is a perfective tense that exists in most Indo-European languages, used to refer to an event that has completed before another past action. ... It has been suggested that Future perfect tense be merged into this article or section. ... Telicity or telic aspect is a verb aspect, indicating a reached goal or action completed as intended. ... The perfect tenses are verb tenses showing actions completed at or before a specific time. ...

Tense, aspect, and mood

The distinction between grammatical tense, aspect, and mood is fuzzy and at times controversial. The English continuous temporal constructions express an aspect as well as a tense, and some therefore consider that aspect to be separate from tense in English. In Spanish the traditional verb tenses are also combinations of aspectual and temporal information. In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ... In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood (or mode), which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ...


Going even further, there's an ongoing dispute among modern English grammarians (see English grammar) regarding whether tense can only refer to inflected forms. In Germanic languages there are very few tenses (often only two) formed strictly by inflection, and one school contends that all complex or periphrastic time-formations are aspects rather than tenses. English grammar is a body of rules specifying how meanings are created in English. ... Inflection of the Spanish lexeme for cat, with blue representing the masculine gender, pink representing the feminine gender, grey representing the form used for mixed-gender, and green representing the plural number. ... The Germanic languages are a group of related languages constituting a branch of the Indo-European (IE) language family. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ...


The abbreviation TAM, T/A/M or TMA is sometimes found when dealing with verbal morphemes that combine tense, aspect and mood information.


In some languages, tense and other TAM information may be marked on a noun, rather than a verb. This is called nominal TAM. Nominal TAM is the indication of tense, aspect or mood by inflecting a noun, rather than a verb. ...


Classification of tenses

Tenses can be broadly classified as:

  • absolute: indicates time in relationship to the time of the utterance (i.e. "now"). For example, "I am sitting down", the tense is indicated in relation to the present moment.
  • relative: in relationship to some other time, other than the time of utterance, e.g. "While strolling through the shops, she saw a nice dress in the window". Here, the "saw" is relative to the time of the "strolling". The relationship between the time of "strolling" and the time of utterance is not clearly specified.
  • absolute-relative: indicates time in relationship to some other event, whose time in turn is relative to the time of utterance. (Thus, in absolute-relative tense, the time of the verb is indirectly related to the time of the utterance; in absolute tense, it is directly related; in relative tense, its relationship to the time of utterance is left unspecified.) For example, "When I walked through the park, I saw a bird." Here, "saw" is present relative to the "walked", and "walked" is past relative to the time of the utterance, thus "saw" is in absolute-relative tense.

Moving on from this, tenses can be quite finely distinguished from one another, although no language will express simply all of these distinctions. As we will see, some of these tenses in fact involve elements of modality (e.g. predictive and not-yet tenses), but they are difficult to classify clearly as either tenses or moods.


Many languages define tense not just in terms of past/future/present, but also in terms of how far into the past or future they are. Thus they introduce concepts of closeness or remoteness, or tenses that are relevant to the measurement of time into days (hodiernal or hesternal tenses). A hodiernal tense is a grammatical tense defined relative to the current day (hodie is today, in Latin). ... Hesternal tense is a group of grammatical tenses that are defined relative to the previous day. ...


Some languages also distinguish not just between past, present, and future, but also nonpast, nonpresent, nonfuture. Each of these latter tenses incorporates two of the former, without specifying which.


Some tenses:

  • Absolute tenses
    • Future tenses. Some languages have different future tenses to indicate how far into the future we are talking about. Some of these include:
      • Close future tense: in the near future, soon
      • Hodiernal future tense: sometime today
      • Post-hodiernal future tense: sometime after today
      • Remote future tense: in the more distant future
      • Predictive future tense: a future tense which expresses a prediction rather than an intention, i.e. "I predict he will lose the election, although I want him to win". As such, it is really more of a mood than a tense. (Its tenseness rather than modality lies in the fact that you can predict the future, but not the past.)
    • Nonfuture tense: refers to either the present or the past, but does not clearly specify which. Contrasts with future.
    • Nonpast tense: refers to either the present or the future, but does not clearly specify which. Contrasts with past.
    • Not-yet tense: has not happened in present or past (nonfuture), but often with the implication that it is expected to happen in the future. (As such, is both a tense and a modality). In English, it is expressed with "not yet", hence its name.
    • Past tenses. Some languages have different past tenses to indicate how far into the past we are talking about.
      • Hesternal past tense: yesterday or early, but not remote
      • Hodiernal past tense: sometime earlier today
      • Immediate past tense: very recent past tense, e.g. in the last minute or two
      • Recent past tense: in the last few days/weeks/months (exact definition varies)
      • Remote past tense: more than a few days/weeks/months ago (exact definition varies)
      • Nonrecent past tense: not recent past tense, contrasting with recent past tense
      • Nonremote past tense: not remote past tense, contrasting with remote past tense
      • Prehesternal past tense: before hesternal past tense
      • Prehodiernal past tense: before hodiernal past tense
      • Preterit: past tense not marked for aspect or modality
    • Present tense
    • Still tense: indicates a situation held to be the case, at or immediately before the utterance
  • Absolute-relative tenses
    • future perfect tense: will have completed by some time in the future, will occur before some time in the future
    • future-in-future tense: at some time in the future, will still be in the future
    • future-in-past tense: at some time in the past, will be in the future
    • future-perfect-in-past tense: will be completed by some time which is in the future of some time in the past, eg., Sally went to work; by the time she should be home, the burglary would have been completed.
    • past perfect tense: at some time in the past, was already in the past
  • Relative tenses
    • relative future tense: is in the future of some unspecified time
    • relative nonfuture tense: is in the past or present of some unspecified time
    • relative nonpast tense: is in the present or future of some unspecified time
    • relative past tense: is in the past of some unspecified time
    • relative present tense: is in the present of some unspecified time

It has been suggested that Future perfect tense be merged into this article or section. ... Close future tense exists in French; where it is called the future proche. ... The past tense is a verb tense expressing action, activity, state or being in the past. ... Hesternal tense is a group of grammatical tenses that are defined relative to the previous day. ... This article is about the grammatical term. ... For referencing in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Citing sources. ... The future perfect tense is used to describe an event that has not yet happened but is expected or planned to happen before another stated occurrence. ... The pluperfect tense (from Latin: plus quam perfectum more than perfect) is a perfective tense that exists in most Indo-European languages, used to refer to an event that has completed before another past action. ...

Bibliography

  • Bybee, Joan L., Revere Perkins, and William Pagliuca (1994) The Evolution of Grammar: Tense, Aspect, and Modality in the Languages of the World. University of Chicago Press.
  • Comrie, Bernard (1985) Tense. Cambridge University Press. [ISBN 0-521-28138-5]
  • Downing, Angela, and Philip Locke (1992) "Viewpoints on Events: Tense, Aspect and Modality". In A. Downing and P. Locke, A University Course in English Grammar, Prentice Hall International, 350--402.
  • Guillaume, Gustave (1929) Temps et verbe. Paris: Champion.
  • Hopper, Paul J., ed. (1982) Tense-Aspect: Between Semantics and Pragmatics. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
  • Smith, Carlota (1997). The Parameter of Aspect. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
  • Tedeschi, Philip, and Anne Zaenen, eds. (1981) Tense and Aspect. (Syntax and Semantics 14). New York: Academic Press.

See also

English grammar is a body of rules specifying how meanings are created in English. ... For the rules of English grammar, see English grammar and Disputes in English grammar. ... In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). ... In linguistics, many grammars have the concept of grammatical mood (or mode), which describes the relationship of a verb with reality and intent. ... In linguistics, the grammatical aspect of a verb defines the temporal flow (or lack thereof) in the described event or state. ... It has been suggested that Verbal agreement be merged into this article or section. ...

External links

  • Tenses Flowchart and worksheet (pdf-file)
  • 12 Verb Tenses Explained + Exercises
  • Greek tenses

  Results from FactBites:
 
Kids.Net.Au - Encyclopedia > Grammatical tense (0 words)
Grammatical tense is a way languages express the time or place at which an event described by a sentence occurs.
Tense, along with mood and person, are three ways in which verb forms are frequently characterized in Indo-European languages.
The more complex tenses in English are formed by combining a particular tense of the verb with certain verbal auxiliaries, the most common of which are "to", various forms of "be", various forms of "have", and the conditional auxiliaries "may" and "might":
Tense | Encyclopedia of Philosophy (0 words)
Tense is a grammatical category by means of which some natural languages express the temporal location of the event described by the sentence in which the grammatical tense occurs.
When a language does not have grammatical tenses, as in the case of Chinese, the temporal information may be conveyed by lexical categories, such as adverbs.
The mapping between the grammatical tenses of a natural language and the expression of temporal location is very complex, and one of the goals of linguistic semantics is to investigate the relation between grammatical tenses and the expression of time.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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