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Time 4 GRAMMAR…or is it TENSE?…with a touch of Scotland

Weather you like it or not, there comes a time when you really need to study it, learn its rules and exceptions, do boring exercises and, maybe, end up thinking about it while using the language. Yes, it’s true; I’m talking about GRAMMAR and, particularly, TENSES – my personal favourites but many students’ nightmare. English has one of the easiest grammar structures of all languages and it is pretty accessible to learn if you grasp the main rules.

ENGLISH TENSES. Characteristics. Time and tense do not usually coincide in English grammar. Time mostly refers to the abstract notion of time, interpreted in philosophical terms, while tense is a purely grammatical category. That is why in some circumstances there are ‘unreal tenses’; this means that although the reference is in the present, the tense of the verb is past.

I wish I had a BMW. (‘Aş vrea să am un BMW’). Who wouldn’t?? 😀

Verbs in English are divided according to many criteria. One of them is in terms of their function: lexical verbs (or full verbs): play, go, ask; modal verbs: can, may, must, etc., auxiliaries: have, be, and semi-modals: used to, be bound to, be to, and others.

In English verbs have different forms for present and past only, but not for future. Maybe future has been considered too uncertain. Thus some verbs have three forms (cut, cuts, and cutting), four (play, plays, played, and playing), five (write, writes, wrote, written, and writing;) or eight forms (be, am, is, are, was, were, been, and being). They are used to form tenses: simple, perfect and progressive. Simple tenses refer to actions that are in general habitual or repeated.

Present simple: I get up at seven every morning.

Past simple: He walked to school.

Future simple: She will come to the party.

Perfect tenses refer to actions done before other present, past or future actions: Subject + HAVE + Verb3 (past participle)

Present perfect: She doesn’t know what has happened.

Past perfect: I had no idea that he had been here.

Future perfect: He will have finished his paper by 5 o’clock tomorrow.

Progressive tenses are usually used to express actions in progress at a certain time in present, past or future: S + BE + V-ing.

Present progressive: I’m reading this grammar exercise now.

Present perfect progressive: She has been having dinner for half an hour now.

Past progressive: He was talking on the phone when I came in.

Past perfect progressive: They had been playing cards for three hours when he got to their house.

Future progressive: Tom will have been writing for an hour by the time his mother calls him out.

Problems with the English tenses? Have a look at the time line, it might help you understand when to use which tense. As there is a similarity between past, present and future tenses, there are just a few rules to keep in mind.

If you know how to use the present progressive correctly to express present actions, you will as well be able to use the past progressive correctly to express past actions.

moment in time

  • action that takes place once, never or several times
  • actions that happen one after another
  • actions that suddenly take place

period of time

  • action that started before a certain moment and lasts beyond that moment
  • actions taking place at the same time


  • action taking place before a certain moment in time
  • puts emphasis on the result


  • action taking place before a certain moment in time
  • puts emphasis on the course or duration of the action

I know I must have lost some of you along the way and, in my attempt to get you back and as I promised yesterday,  we’re going to have some fun with a little bit of Scottish English – a variety of British English spoken in Scotland and in some parts of Northern Ireland – trying to capture that unique and, in my opinion, sexy 😀 Scottish accent.

But, before that, I’ve prepared some homework :). What did you expect? I’m still a teacher.



3 răspunsuri

  1. I got 2 work the homeworrrk…. where do I send it?

  2. Maybe you could deliver it in person :D….if not, we’ll find a way…

  3. wat is your myspace page

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