How many tenses are there in English?
1 2 3 4
Comments  (Page 2) 
Hello Viognier

First of all, please understand I am not a linguistic expert. So I have no intention to contest with you about this kind of professional subject.

As you also know, there are many opinions about the concept of "tense" among experts. Some experts take the term "tenses" as grammatical categories expressed by verbal morphemes. But other experts think English tenses are partly made by verbal morphemes and partly by the use of auxiliary verbs.

To me, the two-tense concept is convenient to understand the historical development of the English language. The theory seems to be good to give reasons to the question why English has developed a variety of collocations to describe future events.

Hi paco
First of all, from your previous posts I reckon you as a linguistic expert. I was just interested in your view. And second, I'm not a linguistic expert.

I was into Mel'čuk's theory .. kind of..
It's a consistent system of terms, clearly defined by meta-language (according to the author).
I made a comment above, just out of curiosity, interest; plus I wanted to make my thought clearer. That's all.

But actually I know almost nothing about historical development of the English language.
And as an afterthought I think: Mel'čuk and Bybee (among others) take a typological standpoint toward grammatical categories. I'm afraid it would be off-topic here. I'm telling myself: what's wrong with Pemmican's list..?
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies

Here is some information I got online

[url=http://indoeuro.bizland.com/project/grammar/grammar43.html ]Future Tense in Old English[/url]

And now finally a few irregular verbs, which used several diffefrent stems for their tenses. These verbs are very important in Old English and are met very often in the texts: wesan (to be), béon (to be), gán (to go), dón (to do), willan (will). Mind that there was no future tense in the Old English language, and the future action was expressed by the Present forms, just sometimes using verbs of modality, willan (lit. "to wish to do") or sculan (lit. "to have to do").

[url=http://www.helsinki.fi/~mpalande/meaning_of_tense_and_aspect.html] English Tenses and Aspects[/url]

The English verbs are inflected for two tenses: present (walk(s)) and past (walked). In other words, tense is indicated by morphological marking: zero/-s for present tense and -ed for regular past tense. Tense is not necessarily straightforwardly related to what TIME the event represented by the verb takes place. For instance, the simple present tense can be used to refer to various times, as it is used for (1) events which happen regularly or habitually: He smokes, drinks, betrays people and has no guilt whatsoever. (2) timeless truths: The sun rises in the east. (3) present events: I declare the meeting open. Bremner passes the ball to Lorimer. (4) historic present, especially in literary English but also in oral narrative. It recalls or recounts the past as vivivdly as if it were present: He just walks into the room and sits down in front of the fire without saying a word to anyone. (5) events that are expected to happen in the future: When he returns to Manhattan 1000 years later, it has been destroyed and rebuilt three times.

2. What about time then?

We can, of course, situate events in time, but this is not only done by means of grammatical tense. The two tenses, past and present, combine with the aspects discussed below to indicate how the event is viewed in relation to time. In the time-line perspective, we can talk about the past, present and future time. To take an example, English, unlike many other languages, does not have a separate verb form for the future. Consequently, there is no future tense in English, even though there are, of course, many different ways in which we can talk about the future time: (1) The parcel will arrive tomorrow. (modal auxiliary will) (2) The parcel is going to arrive tomorrow. (be going to) (3) The parcel is arriving tomorrow. (present progressive) (4) The parcel arrives tomorrow. (simple present) (5) The parcel will be arriving tomorrow. (modal auxiliary will + progressive aspect)

Hi paco again. Thank you Very Much! As to Future tense in Old English I'd like to study later as it's not my long suit (not even my short suit).

As to the description in [English Tenses and Aspects], I find it quite difficult to argue against it.
But as I said I take a typological standpoint. It has different criteria. Please let me introduce a part of its criteria (although my quote needs further explanation and means absolutely nothing as it stands...I know it very well).
The following is the definition of [Grammatical categories] of an arbitrary language L: for preciseness' sake I quote it in French translation (original was in Russian):

Définition I.30: catégorie flexionnelle

Soit une catégorie C comprenant les significations sⁱ :
C={s₁ , s₂ , ... sⁿ | n ≥ 2}.

La catégorie C est appelée [catégorie flexionnelle] d'une classe K={Kj} de signes en L si et seulement si les deux conditions suivantes sont simultanément vérifiées:

1. (a) Auprès de tout signe Kj, exactement une (et une seule) sⁱ est obligatoirement exprimée

et (b) toute signification sⁱ est exprimée obligatoirement auprès d'au moins un signe Kj.

2. Les sⁱ sont exprimées régulièrement, c'est-à-dire que:
(a) une sⁱ est strictement compositionnelle (le résultat de l'union + d'une sⁱ à une K peut toujours être calculé par une règle relativement générale);

(b) si la classe K est numériquement large, alors pour toute sⁱ , le nombre de signes qui l'expriment est relativement petit et ces signes sont distribués selon des règles relativement générales;

(c) la plupart des sⁱ sont exprimées auprès de (presque) tous les signes de la classe K.
As I said it means nothing as it stands: it really needs further comment. I'll be willing to explain it, but I close now, sorry for my bluntness..!

PS. I'd better not promise, but at least I'll try to explain what I wrote above, if you don't mind, paco. About 10 days later, though! Could I?
See you later.
Dear Sir,

There are four types of tenses in English.


Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
There are 12 tenses in english
How many tenses are there in English?
Two: Present and Past.
Everything else is aspect (progressive, perfect), voice (active, passive), and modality (will, would, ...).

In an alternate point of view, all variants of aspect and voice and of the modals "will" and "would" are considered tenses.

2 "Tenses" x 4 aspects (simple, progressive, perfect, perfect progressive) x 2 voices x 2 modalities ("will", "would") = 32 tenses.

takes, is taking, has taken, has been taking,
took, was taking, had taken, had been taking,
will take, will be taking, will have taken, will have been taking,
would take, would be taking, would have taken, would have been taking,
is taken, is being taken, has been taken, has been being taken,
was taken, was being taken, had been taken, had been being taken,
will be taken, will be being taken, will have been taken, will have been being taken,
would be taken, would be being taken, would have been taken, would have been being taken

Intransitive verbs cannot form passives, so they have only 16 tenses.
Some authors, curiously, consider the forms with "will" to be tenses, but not the forms with "would".

If you want to include mood (indicative, subjunctive) under the category "tense", you'll have to add even more tenses.

there are 12 tenses.

and most important is 7 tenses....starting 6.....then Future Simple.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Paco is right, there are only two tenses in English, the 13 combinations that you suggested are not tenses, but tense+aspect(s).
Show more