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The divisions of time that you are speaking of are just that: (mathematical) divisions of time. There is the present moment - which only lasts an instant -- and is constantly changing. Then there is everything before the present moment and everything after the present moment. In this view, almost everything that happens is either in the past or in the future. The present is only an instant in time. But this is not the way that languages usually encode meanings about time. Languages encode meanings about time based on the psychology of time, not the mathematics of time.

The present and past are really the only cases where we can talk about real activities, actions, and events. Either we can see something happen in the present or we can call up a memory of something that happened in the past. We can't see the future happening before us, and we can't remember how the future is, because it hasn't happened yet. So there is nothing definite in our brains about the future. This may be the reason why many languages have only two tenses. These languages may also have a way within their grammar to express the future, but it is not the same way that they use to express the present and past. In English, for example, we change endings to form the present and past (like s in the present and ed in the past), but we add the special word will to talk about the future.

CJ
There are 16 tenses in english. I'll list them ...

1. Present Simple - I play
2. Present Continuous - I am playing
3. Present Perfect - I have played
4. Present Perfect Continuous - I have been playing
5. Past Simple - I played
6. Past Continuous - I was playing
7. Past Perfect - I had played
8. Past Perfect Continuous - I had been playing
9. Future Simple - I will play (including "be going to + infinitive" form) I am goint to play
10. Future Continuous - I will be playing
11. Future Perfect - I will have played
12. Future Perfect Continuous - I will have been playing
13. Future Simple in the past - I would play (including the "was/were going to + infinitive" form)
14. Future Continuous in the past - I would be bathing
15. Future Perfect in the past - I would have played
16. Future Perfect Continuous in the past - I would have been playing
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Only present and past are tenses, the rest of them are NOT tenses! As CalifJim said, those are aspects and voices and I would add moods: indicative, imperative and subjunctive.
I assure you... all of these are tenses Emotion: wink
CalifJimThe divisions of time that you are speaking of are just that: (mathematical) divisions of time. There is the present moment - which only lasts an instant -- and is constantly changing. Then there is everything before the present moment and everything after the present moment. In this view, almost everything that happens is either in the past or in the future. The present is only an instant in time. But this is not the way that languages usually encode meanings about time. Languages encode meanings about time based on the psychology of time, not the mathematics of time.

CJ

Hi CJ,

It will be very kind of you, if you explain the above paragraph in little more detail.

Best wishes, Jackson
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Jackson6612
CalifJimThe divisions of time that you are speaking of are just that: (mathematical) divisions of time. There is the present moment - which only lasts an instant -- and is constantly changing. Then there is everything before the present moment and everything after the present moment. In this view, almost everything that happens is either in the past or in the future. The present is only an instant in time. But this is not the way that languages usually encode meanings about time. Languages encode meanings about time based on the psychology of time, not the mathematics of time.

CJ

Hi CJ,

It will be very kind of you, if you explain the above paragraph in little more detail.

Best wishes, Jackson

Help!
Jacksoon:

You'll find a lot of interesting and stupid things here:
http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t144.htm
http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t494-0.htm

In all my posts I tried to conciliate the mathematical and psychological visions of time. We wpould often go in rounds in that enormous thread, but there were interesting points.

When I have enough time, I'll write a summary of my views on the problem. Now I'll just vsay that there an easy and natural way to define all English tenses with mathematical certainity.

To people with the left cerebellar hemisphere prevailing my explanation may seem more clear because it doesn't refer to psychology, intuition and so on.

I'll post it ASAP.

EDIT:

CJ:

«There is the present moment - which only lasts an instant -- and is constantly changing. Then there is everything before the present moment and everything after the present moment.»

Yes.

«In this view, almost everything that happens is either in the past or in the future. The present is only an instant in time.»

No. Everything happens in the present becuase the present is the moment at which everything happens. And yes, present (Now) is only a moment, while the future and the past are time periods:

Past = (-inf, Now);
Present = Now;
Future = (Now, );

And this Now point is a moving moment. It mover from the past into the future. (One might add that the motion of this point converts future into past at a rate of 1 second per second).

If we take into account that an action is a process with a duration, then there are three alternatives.

1. The whole period (that an action occupies) is in the past (before the point of Now, to the left of it on the time axis). This is a past action.

2. The whole period is in the future (after the point of Now, to the right of it on the time axis). It is our future.

3. The point of now divides an action into two parts. This is a present action. To the left of Now lies the past part of the action, and to the right of it — the action's future part.

Example:

I am eating apples — a present action.

At some moment of time I have eaten three apples of five.

The action of eating those three apples is the past part, and, assuming all the apples are to be eaten, the action of eating the remaining two apples is the future part.

Of course not all actions occupy a single continuous time period.

For example:
"go to school every morning" — occupies a number of time periods.

(...to be continued...)

This was kinda sample fragment
Languages encode meanings about time based on the psychology of time, not the mathematics of time.
It will be very kind of you, if you explain the above paragraph in little more detail.
I'm afraid I can't do much better than that. The main idea is that the time expressions of English (and other languages) are not based entirely on divisions of time as measured in scientific work.

The psychology of time (how we think about the passage of time, different times, lengths of time, periods of time, and so on) is important in language, and the psychology of actions and states (how we think about situations: Are they states? Activities? Events? Do they happen suddenly? Over a long period?) are also important. So mathematical or scientific divisions of time are not the only important thing to consider when talking about time expressions (like tenses) in language.

CJ
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Jackson6612
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.
The French word for "tense" is the same as for "time". As much as I agree with CJ's "aspects and voices", I would tend to agree that there must be the three "times".
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