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I notice that many people use this sentence “what did you do”.
As far as I understand, did is a past tense and do is present tense. How come these two mixes together?
I also would appreciate if anyone can enlighten this more.
Thanks in advance
Do it now! (imperative)
I do it every day. (present tense)
Can you do it for me? (infinitive, present infinitive, to be exact)
She demands that he do it right away. (present subjunctive)
The original sentence is: He did something - the verb is in the past tense.
Since the verb 'did' is not an auxiliary verb, but a notional verb, you need an auxiliary to from a question - the past auxiliary is 'did' (this is, perhaps, the point which confuses you):
What did he do? - the did-auxiliary indicates the past tense, and the verb 'did' in the original sentence becomes a bare infinitive 'do' in the question. Infinitives are not marked for tense, so you shouldn't say that it is present.
Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
Gleb_Chebrikoff Infinitives are not marked for tense, so you shouldn't say that it is present.They are marked for tense and even for voice. Fortunately for us students English has only two infinitives. Some non-native grammarians call them the first infinitive and the second infinitive but I don't remember seeing British or American grammarians using those names. Examples:
Present active infinitive: He would do it.
Perfect active infinitive: He would have done it.
Present passive infinitive: It would be done.
Perfect passive infinitive: It would have been done.
This quotation is from A Practical English Grammar for Foreign Students by A. J. Thomson and A. V. Martinet:
"The perfect infinitive is formed with the infinitive of have and the past participle:
e.g. to have worked, to have spoken"
According to Sir Quirk et al., there are five criteria for determining whether the phrase (or, in our case, the verb) is finite or non-finite, namely:
a) occurence of VPs in independent clauses;
b) having tense contrast - the distinction between present and past tenses: He is a journalist now. vs. He worked as a travel agent last summer.
c) person concord and number concord;
d) finite VPs contain, as their first or only word, a finite verb form (operator/simple present/past form) + Do support is used for negatives and interrogatives.
We are particularly interested in number 2, and, by following the link below, we shall clearly see that infinitives do not have tense distinctions:
Non-finite VPs have no tense or mood distinctions. Here is yet another proof:
Infinitive is a non-finite form of the verb
Non-finite forms of the verb have no tense distinctions
Infinitive has no tense distinctions
There are forms used to refer to particular moments in time, but, as we know, time and tense differ.
Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
I suppose we are talking about slightly different subjects. Please, tell me:
do you agree with the statement that the infinitive, as a non-finite part of the verb, has tense distinctions?
I don't. What is your take on it?
As I now see, some of the most trusted textbooks for foreigners, such as the one written by C. E. Eckersley, give the following table for the infinitival forms:
Voice distinctions +
Aspect distinctions +
Tense distinctions = stumbling block
If 'present' becomes 'simple', things will get more simple! Distinction is where we have things of a similar kind opposed to each other, e.g. present vs. past, but here... Is it present vs. perfect? If so, present is tense, but perfect is aspect.
Gleb_Chebrikoffdo you agree with the statement that the infinitive, as a non-finite part of the verb, has tense distinctions?I have a pragmatic attitude to language and I like to have a name for grammatical forms. It would seem to me that what I and all the grammarians I am familiar with call the perfect infinitive indeed usually refers to the past:
I would have gone there yesterday.
The present infinitive, on the other hand, usually refers to the present moment or the future:
I would go there tomorrow if I had time.
However, logic doesn't always apply in English, and the perfect infinitive can refer to the future:
He will have solved all his problems by next year.
This isn't surprising since very often even the active and passive infinitives are interchangeable in English:
The chicken is ready to eat / to be eaten.
With the active infinitive the chicken may of course do the eating! (English isn't the most exact of languages.)
I suggest you use your terms and I use mine. I am sure the vast majority our non-native learners of English have learned a name for the infinitives if they have been taught any grammar at all.
Tastes differ, so here:
--- they differ, too, although A comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Quirk...) and Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Pullum...) hold they are still unmarked, and this is just a fact for our learners to be aware of.
On the whole, I believe that discussions of the kind and quality we hold here are beneficial for anyone taking time to read and understand.
Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
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