Overview: Tenses

 

(I)

THE PRESENT TENSE

(A)

PRESENT TENSE: continuous [to be + V-ing]

1

common with dynamic verbs

think = “überlegen” (e.g. run, rain)

think = “glauben” (static)

I think he is thinking of emigrating.

2

actions in progress at the moment of speaking

Look, they are beating him up!

Look, he is being beaten up! (PASSIVE)

3

temporary activity (not performed at the moment – in the background)

Have a whiskey! – No, I am driving.

We are working overtime this week.

4

exceptional situation

He is being funny (i.e. not serious).

BUT: I don’t like him. He is funny (i.e. strange)..

5

planned future action (with time expression)

I am meeting him tomorrow night.

We are having a party on Sunday.

(B)

PRESENT TENSE: simple

1

with static verbs expressing possession, relation, preference, emotions: own, belong, believe, like etc.

I believe he owns this pub.

I like apples but I loathe figs.

BUT: I’m liking it here. (= enjoying)

2

habits (usually, never, ever etc)

regular activities (jobs etc)

skills and talents (charactistics)

She never goes to bed before midnight.

He teaches Russian; so does his wife.

She is a musician; she plays the guitar.

3

scheduled future events; timetable

The meeting starts at 5.30 pm.

The train leaves at 6 o’clock.

II

THE PAST TENSE

(A)

PAST TENSE: simple

1

with a point of time: when, in May, a week ago, last month etc.

When did you see him the last time?

I got to know him years ago/in Paris.

2

different place

Where did you buy this scarf? – In Scotland

3

consecutive actions (performed by one person

When he arrived home, he had a shower and went to bed.

(B)

PAST TENSE: continuous

1

durative past actions (descriptive)

Why didn’t you join us? – I was doing my homework all afternoon.

2

parallel actions (usually performed by different persons)

We were watching television while our mother was preparing dinner.

3

action in progess interrupted by punctual action

She was having a bath when suddenly the light went out.

(C)

PAST TENSE: simple versus continuous

1

consecutive actions one causing the other (simple – simple)

When I talked to him, he looked away.

(= my talking made him look away)

2

simultaneous actions

(continuous – simple)

He was looking away when I talked to him.

(= coincidental)

III

THE PRESENT PERFECT TENSE

(A)

PRESENT PERFECT: general rules

1

present result of a past action or event (which may still be in progress)

He has written 50 books. (still alive)

BUT: Shakespeare wrote about 30 plays.

I have seen the film. (= I know it)

BUT: I saw the film in Paris. (place)

I have eaten too much. I feel sick.

I has been raining hard. It’s wet.

I have read your report. (familiar with it)

I have been reading your report. (still studying it)

2

all day, this week, lately, recently

She has done a lot of work this month.

I have been working hard recently.

(= in the last few days/weeks)

BUT: I saw you in town recently.

(= the other day)

3

just (immediate past)

I have just eaten. I’m not hungry.

I have just been talking to him.

4

since“: time-space defined by an initial time-point (Monday, last week, May)

Since when have you had a car? – Since June.

I have been waiting since 6 o’clock.

NOTE: I’ve been waiting since you rang (i.e. since 6 o’clock).

5

for“: time-space defined by time-units (hours, weeks, months etc)

How long has he been here? – For days.

She has been lying in bed for weeks.

(B)

PRESENT PERFECT: simple

1

with static verbs

I have always liked detective stories.

2

with yet, not yet, already, never, ever, often etc.

She hasn’t eaten anything yet.

Have you ever been to London?

3

facts & results (numbers)

Liz Taylor has been married six times.

(C)

PRESENT PERFECT: continuous

1

common with dynamic verbs to express long duration

He has been feeling ill since he came back from the Tropics.

2

regular activities

She has been playing tennis since her childhood.

IV

THE PAST PERFECT TENSE

(A)

PAST PERFECT simple:

an action which was already completed when another action began

He had already left when I got home.

After they had eaten, they went to bed.

(B)

PAST PERFECT continuous:

an action which had been going on for a while before another action began

The baby had been crying for hours before its mother heard it.

V

FUTURE Tense and Time

(A)

FUTURE TENSE: simple

1

offering to act

I must do the washing up. – I’ll help you.

2

promising to act

I promise I’ll phone you as soon as I arrive.

3

requesting sb to act

Will you shut the window, please.

Don’t tell anybody, will you?

4

refusing to act

Though I’ve often asked him, my husband won’t help me with the washing-up.

(B)

FUTURE TENSE: continuous

1

describing future activities (often expressing excitement)

This time tomorrow, I will be sunbathing on the Costa Brava.

2

enquiring politely

(speaking to guests)

WAITER: Where will you be spending your holiday, sir?

(C)

FUTURE PERFECT: simple

action whose completion is predicted

I’ll have finished the letter by six.

(D)

FUTURE PERFECT: continuous

durative action whose completion is predicted

By the end of the week, I’ll have been waiting for a reply for a whole month.

(E)

FUTURE TIME (without Future Tense)

1

PRESENT SIMPLE (see I,B,3)

2

PRESENT CONTINUOUS (see I,A,5)

3

“going to”

a) to express the near future

b) decisions about the future

c) future arrangements (see I,A,5)

d) impending problem or threat

It looks as if we were going to get some rain any minute.

I am going to sell my house as soon as the children have gone.

I am going to meet him on Thursday morning.

I knew something terrible was going to happen.

VI

IF-CLAUSES

1

TYPE I: condition is 100% fulfillable (real) => focus on the future

You will win if you fight hard.

Future Present

2

TYPE II: condition is 50% fulfillable (possible) => focus on the present

If he fought harder, he could still win.

Past Conditional 1

3

TYPE III: condition is not fulfillable (impossible) => focus on the past

He might have won if he had fought harder.

Conditional 2 (Past Perfect

4

TYPE IV: mix of TYPE II and TYPE III

=> focus on the present and the past

He would be the winner now if he had fought harder (in last week‘s campaign).

5

“IF” (conditional) versus “WHEN” (temporal)

I’ll send you a card when I arrive.

I’ll send you a card if I arrive. (cynical!)

VII

REPORTED SPEECH

=> reporting verb in the PAST

she said, promised that …;he asked, wondered if …

1

Present => Past: simultaneous

He said: “I want to talk to you”.

He said he wanted to talk to me.

2

Past => Past Perfect: before

He said to me: “I ate too much last night.”

He told me he had eaten too much the night before.

3

Present Perfect =>Past Perfect: before

She said to me: “Your brother has just left.”

She informed me that my brother had just left.

4

Future => Conditional 1: after

They said: “You will get the book tomorrow.”

They promised I would get the book the day after.

5

Future Perfect => Conditional 2

He said to me: “We will have gone by noon.”

He warned me they would have gone.by noon.

6

Conditionals remain unchanged!

(to avoid change of meaning)

esp. TYPES II and III

She said: “I would go if I were you.”

She said he would go if she were I.

He said: “I would like to go home.”

He said he would like to go home.

7

Scientific statements are left unchanged

“Water freezes at zero degrees.”

The physics teacher explained that water freezes at zero degrees.

8

Modal Auxiliaries: can => could

may => might, shall => should

BUT: “must” is left unchanged!

Shall I go or stay.”

He wondered if he should go or stay.

BUT: She said she must be home before six.

OR: She said she had to be home before six.

9

Indirect Questions with “if” or “whether” (no inversion!)

with question words: how, why etc.

(no inversion!)

They asked: “Are you going to be here?”

They asked if/whether I was going to be there.

He asked: “What are you doing?”

He wondered what I was doing.

10

Comands => Infinitives

NOTE: Use CONJUNCTIONS to link up single statements.

Shut the window. It’s getting cold.”

He begged me to shut the window BECAUSE it was getting cold.

VIII

PASSIVE VOICE

1

Forms: to be + past participle

I am given an injection every day.

My car is being repaired: Can I have yours?

2

Transformation: two objects

Object(s) => subject(s)

SUBJECT => agent with “by”

The CEO gave him (1) a report (2).

1. He was given a report by the CEO.

2. The report was given (to) him by the CEO.

3

“be said to” + INFINITIVE

Active: They say he is ill.

=> It is said that he is ill. (impersonal)

=> He is said to be ill. (personal)

BUT: He was told to undress. (= asked)

4

GERMAN “man” = one, you, people

(substitute for PASSIVE)

One/You never can tell.

They like queuing in England.

5

Infinitive Passive

Basic Form Passive

She wants to be told the truth.

They must be told the truth. (PRESENT INF)

She should have been told the truth. (PERF INF)

6

Gerund (present – simple)

Gerund (perfect – continuous)

I can’t stand being criticized.

He is worried about not having been informed.

7

to have/get sth done = “etw. machen lassen” (have+OBJECT+participle)

I cut my hair (= action carried out by speaker)

I had my cut. (= cutting is done by another person)