Language Matters: The English Verb System (1) Tense and Time

These materials come from our Delta Module One course, where we argue that many so-called grammatical "rules" are unrealistic, simplistic and prescriptive in comparison with the way the language is actually used. Part One starts with a brief introduction and some examples, and Parts Two and Three move on to look at the way tense and time are generally confused in traditional grammar descriptions.

Part One:  Meaning, not Rules

Pre-viewing taskBefore you watch the video (approx 10 mins), decide which of the following rules you agree with, and which you don't. If you don't agree, what is the correct rule? "Exceptions" aren't allowed! If you're not sure, check with the grammar that you're using or the Cambridge Online Grammar. Then compare your ideas / the analysis in the grammar with the analysis given in the video.

1. Will is not used in an if clause.
2. book and piano are countable nouns, rice and information are uncountable, and cheese can be either.
3. some is used in affirmative sentences and any in negative and interrogative sentences.
4. Verbs of perceiving and those describing states of mind, like knowunderstand and believe are not used in the progressive (continuous) form.

So-called "conditional" structures will be discussed in more detail in the following presentations, but for a more detailed explanation of some of the other examples discussed, see the following articles in the ELT Glossary:

Part Two: The English Verb System - Tense and Time

Pre-viewing task: Before you watch the presentation below (approx 16 mins - click on the title, not the screenshot), jot down your answers to these questions, checking if necessary with any grammar that you have available, or the Cambridge Online Grammar.

1. What do you understand by the terms tense, aspect, voice and mood?
2. How would you explain these two sentences : David got stung by a bee; David got drunk.
3. What's the relationship between tense and time in English?
4. What's the relationship between will and would?

The English Verb System - Tense and Time

NB: The terminology test referred to at the beginning of of the presentation is the Test Your Grammar activity that is included at the end of the article on Analysing Word Class, Phrase and Clause Elements

Part Three: Conditionals? What Conditionals?

Pre-viewing taskBefore you watch the second presentation (approx. 10 mins - click on the title), have a look at the task on this page, which contains the examples which are discussed in the presentation.

Teaching the so-called "conditionals"

NB: The presentation refers to a set of materials which reflect the approach to teaching this area which is discussed. You do not need these, however, to understand what is being proposed.

(Highly) Recommended Reading

Lewis, M. (1986) The English Verb, Heinle ELT