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"SIMPLE PRESENT EXPRESSES HABIT"

In the beginning of learning English tense, we students in young days had to accept the injudicious process to fill in the 'right' tense:
Ex: Tommy (go) to school every day.
== Even on internet, today one can easily find many such exercises to help children to understand the first step of English tense.
In school, teacher will help students a bit, I am sure. "Do you see the meaning of a habit here? Yes? Good. So we fill in Simple Present, because Simple Present expresses habit." And students will do it accordingly. They usually don't ask much.

But I don't know about Adult Education about English. I estimate an adult would have enough common sense to ask, “if from the sentence I have already seen the meaning of habit, why shall we redundantly use Simple Present to say it again?”

The adult is right in hitting the point. It is redundant to use Simple Present to repeat what has been already implied by the sentence. As most learners don't know, this is the first step to error. To be worse, after the adult has to accept the idea of using Simple Present to express habit, in later days she or he will totally forget that, at the very first, we have understood Habit based on the sentence, rather than on the tense. In all discussions over internet, people completely ignore the role of sentence, as we discuss the tense. I have always pointed out and proven that, as we think we talk about the meaning of a tense, we are actually discussing the meaning of the sentence.

TS
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Comments  (Page 4) 
In order to explain tense, I have resurrected the important role of the sentence. Sentences express meanings (like Habit); tenses tell only the time of the meanings. This is the main point of the new approach.

Tenses are used tell different parts of time, namely past, present, or future, of a meaning or action, so that we may have, for example, past/present/future habits. Therefore, it is inappropriate and misleading for grammars to say merely that we use Simple Present to express Habit, or any meaning at all.

Overlooking the role of sentence, grammar writers are erroneous in the whole process of explaining the use of a tense. And a wrong process can never lead us to a right conclusion. For the time being it is hard to believe but it is true: there are no correct explanations in present-day grammars about tenses.



A reader wrote:
> Look at this sentence:
> "That girl's eyes are big!"
> Would you agree that it is a well-formed sentence? Would you also
> agree that it seems silly to assert that it means: RIGHT NOW that
> girl's eyes are big! ?
>
My reply: In "The girl's eyes are big", the sentence describes the characteristic of her eyes. Simple Present says the characteristic is "not finished by now".
"Not finished by now" is the definition of present, and past is "finished by now". The notion of present, past, finished, not finished, are the basic and the main terms I use to explain all the tenses. They are understandable by young students. They don't understand "Universal time", "Timeless statement", etc.

> How about another one:
> "I am his father."
> Is there anything about time in this sentence? I don’t think so.
>
My reply: The sentence expresses the relation between you and him. Simple Present indicates the relation is not yet finished.


I guess I have now introduced my basic ideas to a new approach of explaining tenses. Your opinion is welcome.
In most of forums, as I want to prove we are using tenses to tell the time relations between sentences -- rather than expressing something on one-sentence basis, I ask about this telltale phenomenon: why we can say things in the three tenses at the present time?
-- I eat dinner.
-- I have eaten dinner.
-- I ate dinner.
Since we always eat dinner, why we can possibly say in, for example, Present Perfect? We don't eat anymore?

The only possible or logical answer is that we use one in responding a situation, contrasting the time with it. Actually, without past, there is no present. Likewise, without present, there is no past.

Therefore, it is no use to explain a tense on one-sentence basis:
Ex: I have eaten dinner. (Present Perfect indicates a past action that has a current significance.)
== Unfortunately, most grammars explain tenses on such a basis.

The correct explanation is that we say it because it is contrasted with a present case of request:
A: Let's go to restaurant.
B: No, thanks. I have eaten dinner.

Simple Past may logically respond to something in the same time frame:
A: Did you see the new last night?
B: No. I ate dinner.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
(a) Simple Present action indicates a present action (=continuity=c):
Ex: I live in Hong Kong.
(b) Present Perfect action indicates a past action (=finish=d):
Ex: I have lived in Japan.

BUT: If we state a time frame, tenses have to be changed:
(c) Present Perfect action indicates a present action (=continuity=a):
Ex: I have lived in HK since 2000/in the past three years.
(d) Simple Past action indicates a past action (=finish=b):
Ex: I lived in Japan in 1976/five years ago.

According to these four simple rules, Present Perfect does have dual functions, expressing same as either Simple Present or Simple Past. They only have a difference in a paragraph of sentences.

In every forum, I promise people that whatever you say to Present Perfect can be said word for word again to either Simple Present or Simple Past. Actually, however, the promise is valid only on one-sentence basis, not in a paragraph of sentences. But as people will automatically do the discussion on one-sentence basis, I usually don't need to mention the condition of one-sentence basis.

I have never failed to keep my seemingly failing promise.
Prospective Past vs Retrospective Past

The Past Family are Prospective past. It is the opposite of time adverb "Ago", a retrospective past.

I want to put IN THE PAST DAY and A DAY AGO in contrast.

In the diagram below I hope you can see the right and left limits of YESTERDAY.

___the day before____|____yesterday____|____present___

IN THE PAST DAY is explained as starting somewhere in YESTERDAY, over the right limit, and into the present. Therefore it is not a finish. This is the description of prospective past. The same applies to "in the past week/ month/ two years/ few years/ etc."

On the other hand, retrospective past is to the opposite direction. A DAY AGO is regarded as also starting somewhere in YESTERDAY, yet over the left limit, and into the day before. It therefore must be a past, compared with the present time. The same applies to "a week ago/a month ago/ two years ago/ few years ago/ etc."

The difficulty of the Past Family is that both IN THE PAST DAY and A DAY AGO are Definite Past Time Adverbials, and conduct the tense-changing. As most of Definite Past Time Adverbials (in 1970s, from 1962 to 1978, yesterday, last week/month/year, etc.) are neither prospective nor retrospective, grammar writers don't need to be aware of the directions of past, and therefore they are not expected to be able to explain the Past Family.

I agree that it is easy for EFL people to see that IN THE PAST DAY, or the Past Family, stands for a continuity up to now. However, as they want to explain this phenomenon, they will have to identify the identity of IN THE PAST DAY, and thus upset the rule that "Present Perfect doesn't stay with past time expression". Therefore it is a dilemma for readers in forums to discuss with me about the Past Family.
TS"SIMPLE PRESENT EXPRESSES HABIT"

In the beginning of learning English tense, we students in young days had to accept the injudicious process to fill in the 'right' tense:
Ex: Tommy (go) to school every day.
== Even on internet, today one can easily find many such exercises to help children to understand the first step of English tense.
In school, teacher will help students a bit, I am sure. "Do you see the meaning of a habit here? Yes? Good. So we fill in Simple Present, because Simple Present expresses habit." And students will do it accordingly. They usually don't ask much.

But I don't know about Adult Education about English. I estimate an adult would have enough common sense to ask, “if from the sentence I have already seen the meaning of habit, why shall we redundantly use Simple Present to say it again?”

The adult is right in hitting the point. It is redundant to use Simple Present to repeat what has been already implied by the sentence. As most learners don't know, this is the first step to error. To be worse, after the adult has to accept the idea of using Simple Present to express habit, in later days she or he will totally forget that, at the very first, we have understood Habit based on the sentence, rather than on the tense. In all discussions over internet, people completely ignore the role of sentence, as we discuss the tense. I have always pointed out and proven that, as we think we talk about the meaning of a tense, we are actually discussing the meaning of the sentence.

TS
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Interesting points. I'm an ESL teacher in TN and found your article by doing a search on using "the present tense to express routine." I've been thinking about doing more drills that tie together the present tenses, not just simple present, but emphatic (if that's what you call it), and progressive as well. In fact, I'm wondering if there's actually a tense called present emphatic. It is the verb phrase that includes the do or does, e.g., he does go. I know that when we translate Spanish verbs in the present one of the translations is called emphatic and it is the one with the helping do verb.

I notice that some textbooks actually give a wrong impression about using the present tense. I just saw one that says present tense expresses what is happening right now. I wanted to protest.

What do you teach and what grade level? I've been doing some new things with present tense drills, like going from simple present to emphatic to progressive. The kids are catching on pretty well. I'm guessing that native English speakers might not need this, but I'm not sure.

Please advise,

Don
HI,
I get up early in the morning. after often my prayer, i want to go outside of my home. where i saw very beautiful flower .

many kinds of birds looks beautiful.
I feel happy to join you. I want to learn english more and more.
thanks a lot.

Rizwan