How many tenses are there in English language?

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I was told that there are twelve tenses in English:

1: Simple Present Tense

2: Present Perfect Tense

3: Present Progressive Tense

4: Present Perfect Progressive Tense

5: Simple Past Tense

6: Past Perfect Tense

7: Past Progressive Tense

8: Past Perfect Progressive Tense

9: Simple Future Tense

10: Future Perfect Tense

11: Future Progressive Tense

12: Future Perfect Progressive Tense

But I read somewhere that total number of tenses in English is six or seven. Is this true?
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I think there are only six tenses: present, preterite, future, present perfect, past perfect, future perfect.
Junior Member51
There are TWO tenses in English language; present and past. There is no future tense. Let me clarify it.
What is tense? Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines tense as: Any of the forms of a verb that may be used to show the time of the action or state expressed by the verb.
Now what is time? Time is a universal concept with three divisions: present, past and future. Now look at the forms of the verb. Each main verb in English language has six different forms. e.g. Go:
1. Go = Base form
2. go = general present
3. goes = 3rd person singular
4. went = past
5. going = presnet participle
6. gone = past participle
All the above six forms refer either to present time or to past time. There is no form of the verb which can refer to future time. Then how can we say that there is future tense? There is no future tense, rather we show future aspect with certain auxiliary verbs or with the help of present tense.
Full Member116
Strictly speaking there are only two tenses, but the idea of tense is usually extended to include aspect and voice.

Tenses: Present, Past.
Aspects: Simple, Perfect, Progressive, Perfect Progressive
Voices: Active, Passive

Each tense can be expressed in all four aspect possibilities, so there are 8 tenses, not considering voice. Each of these 8 can be expressed in two voices, so the total number of tenses (so far) is 16.

If we add combinations with the modals (will, would, can, could, ...), the number of tenses increases considerably! Each modal can be used with the 4 aspects and 2 voices. Typically only the modal will is included in the count (I don't know why! would seems equally useful, for example, in indicating time relationships.), so this adds 8 more tenses for a total of 24 tenses. If we extend the count by including the 8 tenses which can be formed with would, we have 32 tenses in all.

CJ
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Each modal can be used with the 4 aspects and 2 voices. Typically only the modal will is included in the count (I don't know why! would seems equally useful, for example, in indicating time relationships.), so this adds 8 more tenses for a total of 24 tenses. If we extend the count by including the 8 tenses which can be formed with would, we have 32 tenses in all.


Please explain the above paragraph. Thank you.
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There are two.
Senior Member3,149


Each modal can be used with the 4 aspects and 2 voices. Typically only the modal will is included in the count (I don't know why! would seems equally useful, for example, in indicating time relationships.), so this adds 8 more tenses for a total of 24 tenses. If we extend the count by including the 8 tenses which can be formed with would, we have 32 tenses in all.


Please explain the above paragraph. Thank you.
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Please explain the above paragraph. Thank you.

will
used with the 4 aspect combinations in active voice:

will take, will be taking, will have taken, will have been taking.

The same 4 in passive voice:

will be taken, will be being taken, will have been taken, will have been being taken.


so that adds 8 more tenses to the 16 previously explained. 16 + 8 = 24.

_________

If you substitute would for will in the 8 patterns shown above you'll get another 8.
If you substitute could for will in the 8 patterns shown above you'll get another 8.
If you substitute should for will in the 8 patterns shown above you'll get another 8.
And so on. It would be very unusual to see these extra patterns called tenses.

_________

As it is, 24 is the count usually given -- at least in some of the books I've seen that list them -- but these 24 'tenses" are 24 verb phrase patterns that include factors other than the two principal Tenses.

By the way, the 12 you mentioned in your first post in this thread are the 12 tenses of the active voice. All you need to do is add the same 12 patterns in the passive voice to get the total 24.

_________

You will find websites that use the term 'tense' quite loosely, giving the name 'tense' to constructions such as "used to", for example.

CJ
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CalifJim, I know you are absolutely correct but don't you feel it somewhat weird that there are only two tenses, Present and Past, in English language? Naturally when I think about the tenses in any language, I come to the conclusion that there should be at least three tenses Present, Past, and Future.
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