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TES 26 Tense Ask most people and they would say that English has three tenses past,

, present and future. We disagree. Here s the !hoi!e "efore us# English existed. English exists. English will exist. three tenses past present future two tenses past present present

$f you learnt a"out tenses when you were at s!hool, you were pro"a"ly taught the three%tense analysis, "ut modern grammarians almost all fa&our the one with two tenses. Why' The !ru!ial (uestion is whether the future is separate from the present. The modern analysis says it s not, "e!ause will is a &er" with its own tense, and that tense is present. So in )itera!y Strategy terms, will exist is a verb chain *ust like has existed and may exist. All are "uilt out of a present%tense au+iliary &er" ,will- followed "y a parti!iple or infiniti&e ,exist-. How !an we "e sure that will is present tense' .e!ause it has a past tense# would. How do we know' Well, this is where we !an show that all this matters to the "usy tea!her of English. /ne of the things young writers pra!tise is reporting other people s words and thoughts, and one of the things they learn to manipulate is tense. English has a rather pe!uliar rule whi!h fa&ours "a!kshift % shifting present tenses into the past when they re reported in a past%tense !onte+t. 0or instan!e# E&eryone thinks that today is 0riday. E&eryone thought that today was 0riday. This rule is odd "e!ause the senten!e Today was Friday is simply weird out of !onte+t. The only *ustifi!ation for the past tense was is the past tense in the reporting &er", thought. 1ow look what happens when you report a ,supposed- future tense# E&eryone thinks that tomorrow will "e Saturday. E&eryone thought that tomorrow would "e Saturday. 1oti!e how will turns into would through "a!kshifting, in e+a!tly the same way that is !hanged into was. That s one reason why we !an "e sure that would is the past tense of will % and that will itself is present tense. Still not !on&in!ed' Well, here s another "it of e&iden!e. )et s start with this pair of e+amples# When he felt happy he looked happy. When he feels happy he looks happy. Here the &er"s ha&e the same tense. Why then does a future will look demand a present feel rather than a future will feel'

When he feels happy, he will look happy. /n!e again# the supposed future "eha&es *ust like a present tense, so it must "e a present tense. So what' Well, if you try to help !hildren to !ontrol their tenses, you !an simply forget a"out the future. The only pro"lems for them are in the !hoi!e "etween past and present ,in!luding the !hoi!e "etween past would and present will-. $t2s another reminder of the way some of the so%!alled grammar rules of the past led to !onfusion rather than !larity.