Syntax

10 Mar 2007

The perils of collaboration

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I am something of a creature of habit, and therefore will stick to the same blogs for a long time. Lately though, I've been trying to expand my reading, and so I've been following links from the sites I frequent to language-oriented sites that I haven't visited before. In the process, I have discovered 1) Language Log really needs to update their links. At least half the sites on their sidebar are defunct.
Consider the difference between the following sentences: (33a) Cerise worked efficiently (33b) Cerise was working efficiently Sentence 33a, which uses the simple past tense, refers in general to a completed action. Sentence 33b refers to the action as being in progress at some particular time.
Some people have trouble accepting that English lacks a future tense. If you are in that group, there are several points to keep in mind. First, remember that tense is not the same as time. To say that English lacks a future tense does not mean that it has no way of referring to the future. It has many ways to do that. In English, the future is a time-reference, but not a tense.
At some point in your schooling, you were almost certainly introduced to verb tenses. We'll develop a precise understanding of tense in a moment, but for now, think back to what you were taught. What is tense? How many different tenses can you remember learning for English? Take a moment to jot down what you can remember before continuing.

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