Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(20) Verbs and the Category of Tense in Detail.

(Manifestation of Tense in English in Czech; Forms and Functions of Simple Tenses).

(20.1) Grammatical Categories of Verbs

- E: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number

- primary verbal features: tense, aspect, mood, voice

- secondary nominal features: subject-verb agreement in person and number

- verbal categories manifested in: (a) flexion/(b) auxiliaries

- CZ: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number, gender, conjugation

(20.2) The Category of Tense/Aspect

(20.2.1) Time versus Tense

- time = a universal non-linguistic concept divided into past/present/future

- tense = the correspondence btw the form of the verb and our concept of time

- present tense: actions simultaneous wrt the time of utterance

- past tense: actions preceding the time of utterance

- future tense: actions following the time of utterance

- tense => a deictic category (<> some pronouns/adverbs)

(20.2.2) Tense/Aspect System in English/Czech

- CZ: 3 tenses (past, present, future) + 1 aspect (perfect) = 5 verbal forms (combination PERF + PRES impossible)

- E: 3 tenses + 2 aspects (perfect, progressive) = 12 verbal forms modified wrt tense/aspect complex

- CZ: most verbs morphologically marked either as having no aspect [nedokonavé] or having the perfect aspect [dokonavé]

- CZ: aspect = an inherent verbal category

- E: base verb forms neutral wrt aspect, only the progressive forms marked for aspect

- E: the PROG = a tense + aspect category x the PERF = a tense category (Dušková)

- aspect = the manner of experiencing the verbal action either as completed or in progress

- perfect aspect: have (in different forms accord. to the structure) + passive participle

- progressive aspect: be (in different forms according to the structure) + present participle of the lexical V

(20.2.3) The Verbal Forms

(a) simple verbal forms (synthetic)

- positive declaratives in present simple/past simple

- present simple: distinction btw 3rd per. SG x oth. persons SG

- past simple: no distinctions wrt to person/number

- need do-support

(b) complex verbal forms (analytical/periphrastic)

- formed by AUX(s) + participle/infinitive of the lexical V

- present perfect: have + passive participle of the lexical V

- past perfect: had + passive participle of the lexical V

- future simple: shall/will + bare infinitive of the lexical V 

- future perfect: shall/will + have + passive participle of the lexical V

- contain AUX => do not need do-support

(20.3) Functions of Simple Tenses

(20.3.1) Present Simple

( Typical Reference

- habitual or repeated actions at present: he usually comes at half past eight

- universal statements: the earth revolves round the sun

- a state or action in progress at the present moment: with state V not forming the present continuous (V of perception, mental states, physical states, human external relations): I see what you mean, I don’t understand your remark

- the present period: my father works in a bank, my sister wears glasses

- future, esp. a fixed arrangement of things: the train leaves at 7.30 tomorrow morning

- historical present: Napoleon leaves Frances at the head of a great army and crosses the frontier of Russia

( Typical Usage

- commentaries on sport to describe rapid actions completed at the moment of the speech act: X passes to Y, Y makes a quick pass to Z, Z is away with the ball...

- demonstrations and step-by-step instructions: boil some water, warm the teapot, add three teaspoons of tea...

- synopses, reviews, essays

- headlines referring to past events: freak snow stops traffic

(20.3.2) Past Simple

( Typical Reference

- actions completed at a particular point in the past: I had a word with him this morning

- a series of actions in the past: he took out his notebook, tore off a leaf, wrote his phone number on it, and gave it to me...

- a habitual or repeated action in the past: he usually saw his dentist twice a year

- polite inquiries: I wondered if you could give me a lift

( Typical Usage

- typically combined with the oth. past tenses (past perfect/continuous) in narratives referring to the past

(20.4) The Future Tense

- Quirk: no obvious future tense in E corresponding to the time/tense relation for present and past

- several possibilities of denoting future time: modals, semi-auxiliaries (have to, be about to, be going to), simple present forms, progressive forms

(20.4.1) Will/Shall

- the traditional future tense form

- the closet approximation to a neutral expression of future

- structure: will + bare infinitive for all per. SG and PL

- BrE: shall + bare infinitive for 1st per. SG and PL

- used to predict events: it will rain tomorrow, will house prices rise again next year?

- to express hopes or expectations: I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film, I expect they’ll be here around 10 tomorrow

- scheduled events: the wedding will take place at St Paul’s on June 27th

- often co-occurs with V: assume, be afraid, be sure, believe, doubt, expect, hope, suppose, think

- co-occurs with ADV: perhaps, possibly, probably, surely,...

(20.4.2) Other Forms

- present simple: a fixed arrangement in the future (the conference starts on Monday)

- present progressive: near future (I’m expecting you on Sunday morning)

- be going to + bare infinitive: intention in the future or an event "on the way" (we are going to get married, she’s going to have a baby)

- be about to + bare infinitive: immediate future (we are about to leave)

- be on the point of + present participle: immediacy (look! they’re on the point of starting)

- be to + bare infinitive: formal arrangements, instructions or prohibitions (OPEC representatives are to meet in Geneva; three tablets are to be taken twice a day; dogs are to be kept on lead)

- be due to: timetables and itineraries (the BA 564 is due to arrive from Athens at 13.15)

(20.5) The Sequence of Tenses

- the sequence of tenses = a system of rules accord. to which two or more tenses are related wrt simultaneousness/priority/posteriority of the actions they express

- CZ: irrespectively of the tense used in the introductory principal clause: the present tense = simultaneousness / the future tense = posteriority / the past tense = priority

- E: the tense of the principal clause interrelated with the tense of the subordinate clause

- manifested in reported speech, indirect questions, object clauses

(a) simultaneousness > the same tense

(b) posteriority > the latter tense posterior to the former

(c) priority > the latter tense prior to the former


Dušková, Libuše, et al. Mluvnice současné angličtiny na pozadí češtiny. Praha: Academia, 2003.

Svoboda, Aleš, and Mária Opělová Károlyová. A Brief Survey of the English Morphology. Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita, 1993.

Other Sources

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Morfologie 2. ZS 2003/04.

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Syntax 1 a 2. ZS a LS 2003/04.


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