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Dear teachers of English,

Before getting to the crux of the matter, let us ask ourselves a simple question:

What do we leach when we leach English? Most teachers would say the answer depends on what skills are actually taught, who-they are taught to, and what the goals of teaching are, which means tbat"teaching English" is too broad a tenn. We might, of course, put it straighter, having in mind this particular brochure,

. and ask, What do we leach when we teach grammar? or, even more precisely, What grammar ought we to teach? Some teachers would immediately start listing grammar terms, and most probably their list will start with the word Tenses. However, let us try to discuss this very subject first.

In fact, what grammar we ought to teach depends on the goals of teaching as well. If you are a school teacher, you hardly ever know what your students' professional interests will be. Every teacher of physics hopes there are at least a couple of future physicists in her class, and every teacher of literature hopes there are some future ... critics? editors? Perhaps a future journalist or a philologist would do. But what sort of future professional do you imagine for? And what will he or she need English for? If you imagine a translator, an interpreter, or a philologist, you might be making a mistake. These are not the most common professions, are they? However, nearly all a/your students might need English in their work though the English they will need may be quite different from the one you teach them. It might not necessarily imply spoken communication - the only sphere in which using the tenses is essential. (By the way, fluency is much more important in communication than accuracy.)

In writing and reading for occupational purposes, for example, we need formal English, deprived of any emphasis, questions, inversions, past perfect or perfect continuous forms, unreal past statements, etc. If you are familiar with the TOEFL test, you must have noticed that the section aimed at checking accuracy, Structure and Written Expression, deals with the 3rd person -s in most items - despite all the very specific advanced vocabulary, grammar, register peculiarities, and other "unimportant" things!

This does not mean that your students won't need any grammar besides the present simple. They may just need something more important. Accuracy becomes paramount, but the most "horrible" and misleading Russian mistakes are not with the tenses, but with sentencestructure, prepositions, and articles. These three categories should be cons.idered the most essential ones for every professional in every field,

Today, European and American universities are mainly concerned with teaching academic writing to Chinese and Russians. They consider us incapable


of a) expressing our own original ideas, and b) organizing the text as it is they are necessary in professional communication. Our students have no idea of how a paragraph should be arranged, what a topic sentence is, or what a conclusion should convey. They keep writing "literature" instead.

Arethe tenses really so important then? Many EFL teachers in Russia use British coursebooks and manuals. most of which traditionally start with the tenses. There are, however, some contemporary editions that break the ice, such as Collins Cobuild English Grammar with the remarkable subtitle 'helping learners with mgJ English' (which is truel). Despite my own preferences and international needs. I start my Logical Grammar with The Tenses just because -

You asked for it!


What is Difficult?

Let us face the truth: it is Russian that is difficult to learn, not English. Just think: which of the two has involved gender - the most inexpl icable category? Which one has dozens of different case endings not only for nouns, but also for adjectives, pronouns, and numerals, and not only in several genders, but also in several systems in each of them? Which one changes the verb according to person, number and gender? Why on earth does a Russian preposition depend upon a particular noun? Why do we use three ofthem instead of one: _ Maza3UH. Hd pa60my, Ii: iJpyzy when we mean 'where to' and have to remember where we went in order to use the appropriate 'wherefrom': c pabomu, "3 Ma2a3UHa, om iJpY2a? What if all the trouble in learning the English tenses is also caused by the irregular Russian language? Then looking at our native system of tenses might help us a lot, and we'll find out the simple to sand from s of the Engli sh verb?

First of all, let us make things clear: when we consider the verb, there are two absolutely different categories we deal with: time and tense. The former exists in all languages and is used by all people. The latter depends on the language. Let us start with the more objective and universal category of time.

The Idea of Time

First of all, would you believe we have a different idea of time here in Russia?

Of course not. Time has one dimension, but people all over the world usually refer to it as past, present, or future. It is uncountable, to say nothing of expressions like 'Times are a-changing '. Both past and future depend on the present, or now. Everything before now is past, and everything after now is future. But what is now? Actually, it has no length; it is just the borderline between past and future. Moreover, it keeps moving - or we keep moving with it, so it's just im.possible to fix it in one:


Time categories could therefore be viewed like this:


But there exists no future! What has really happened is in the past, whereas what hasn't happened yet can only be imagined. (All this might seem pure phi-


losophy if it weren't directly reflected in the English verb, as we will soon find out.) Therefore, it would be more correct to show time as follows:

This particular figure demonstrates the English conception of the future best of all! You are not allowed to speak about the future as something real: you have to use a special grammatical category - modality. The only purpose of this special category (which has no analogies in Russian!) is to enable the speaker to express his or her personal, subjective ideas about the future (e.g. She might agree, She can agree, She will agree, etc.). Here, the action itself is clearly hypothetic (a cloud hanging in the air, not connected with "the earth" - the reality of the past), whereas the modal verb shows the speaker s idea ofits probability or necessity.

People, however, have never been satisfied with such a system of time. Not only do they want to think of the future, but they also need to live in the present, being able to discuss things in three categories. Thus, they take parts of both past and future, and call it present, or now:


How long can this present be? It's up to you: once you've broken the law, you are free to use it to your best advantage, e.g. Earth CJ2£! round the Sun. Tbere is no limit to this vague and unclear present. Nevertheless, it does not in the least influence the initial concept of reality: the borderline between past and future remains as thin and negligible as ever: you had the past a moment ago, and you '/I have the future in a moment to come!

In English, the idea of present is very well organized. You are allowed to speak about the whole of the present you imagine (Sheila ~ in a bank in Boston; Shes doing a course in management now), but if you wish, you may also refer to either of its parts - the "past" one (She s worked there for eight years; She S been dojn~ the course for a month) or the "future" one (She~ flJI:n.i11g to Boston on Friday; Her train kaves at 5 p.m.).

Present is considered as real and objective as past, - and it certainly is for all of us, unlike the hypothetic (modal) future. Thus. the part of the present on the "future" side enables us to act in the future as if it were now. It's a real life we are living in our fixed plans, schedules, timetables. appointments, etc, (We are hayil1Z.a class on Thursday. It starts a! 2 p.m.) Because of this, it is more convenient to deal with the following pattern:






However, to understand the real functioning of the English verb, it is extremely important to keep in mind the previous patterns. Now it's time we considered the tenses. Before we do so, let us see what sort of language our native tongue is.

The Idea of Tense

.Translate, Compare, or Contrast?

Many people, especially at the beginners' level, think that the only way to speak and understand a foreign language is to translate what you want to say from your native tongue. Moreover, in many schools, translation is a significant part in EFL teaching, which is strange! Translation is a specific skill of being able to think in two languages at a time, and being able to produce the best correspondences between them. For most people who speak both languages, it is really an advanced and a very narrow, specific, difficult, time-taking and hideous task!

Translating does not help learning a language. In teaching reading, for example, students are taught to run through the text quickly, grasp the main idea, get the necessary details, interpret the infonnation and use it properly, Therefore, you teach skimming and scanning, guessing unknown words, summarizing and note-taking. There is no use wasting time on translating anything! In your reading class, it is much more useful to have ten or even twenty texts per lesson with activities developing different skills, rather than one text, isn't it?

In teaching writing, you have to organize your ideas - you start with brainstorming, planning, building up paragraphs, writing introductions and conclusions. Coming down to the sentence level, you have to organize your subject as a group, agree the verb, and proceed with the correct object! There is no space for Russian, which has an absolutely different sentence pattern and ways of connecting ideas into word groups. Nothing interferes more with teaching writing than translation!

The key skill in speaking, as we have already mentioned, is fluency. What use can we make of time-taking translation, when one has to remember the exact patterns of small talk, be politically correct and react to what others say immediately? And one may only sympathize with a student who tries to translate something while listening! Teaching translation skills therefore can only be useful for future translators and interpreters - who are taught at specific faculties in universities.


However, being able to reflect on the differences between your first and second language may be quite useful. Moreover, it may help better understand the language acquired. This reflection and comparison has nothing to do with translation skills; on the contrary, it helps go deeper into real English and avoid the traps provided in abundance by your "helpful" Ll . Therefore, before getting into the system of English tenses, it would be very useful to see how our native tongue organizes them.

Russian Tenses

To be able to present the Russian time-tense system, we should answer two questions; How do we regard time? and How many tenses do we have in Russian? The answer to the first one is clear: we consider time in three categories, each of which seems, equally real to us (we do not have any special ways of speaking about the future), As to the tenses, we have two.

Thus, the Russian system can be viewed like this:

Perfect Now we have to demonstrate (imagine, you have to explain to a foreigner) how the appropriate 'forms are made up (to make it easier, let us use the singular maseuline 3rd person form only). For instance, you ntight say that Imperfect Past is made up by adding -n, Imperfect Present by adding -( ••• )m, and Imperfect Future by using the auxiliary 6yt)em plus Imperfect Infinitive (e.g. Z)lmM, zyJlJl+m, 6yOem zyJlJl~mb). The latter looks a bit strange as it does not follow the pattern of past and present, but - future should be different, shouldn't it? OK, says the foreigner, so we get, for example, KJlnu~Jl, xynu-m, 6yOem KJlnumb? Oh, no! KJlnU,l is not Imperfect, but Perfect Past (?), uynum is not Imperfect Present, but perfect Future (?!), and 6yQem K)lnUJnb does not exist at all (??!!). Why? Because you cannot use a Perfect Infinitive after 6yoem. Why not? How then do you form your Perfect Future? Following the logic of the Imperfect forms, it should be the auxiliary ~'oem plus Perfect Infinitive! And here you explain to the puzzled foreigner that we form our Perfect Future from Imperfect Present (?!!!) by adding a ... prefix: ecm - coecm, eyssem - noeyssem, uecem - npunecem. Which prefix? asks the foreigner in astonishment, - Any, you say. Depending on the situation - C1>ecm, noecm, euecm, ooecm, etc. - But how on earth do you form the Perfect Present then?! - Well, you see ... we do not have that one at all. We only have the perfect Past. And it is formed from our Imperfect Past by adding a ... prefix. Which one? ... (see above).


- OK, says he, so the verb nokynas is Past Perfect? - NO! IT'S PAST IMPERFECT! - But it has the prefix! What's Perfect then? - THE PERFECT IS KYflJlJI! - Oh, but it has no prefix, not any ...

We'd better stop here. If you are a good teacher, and you know Russian - go ahead! Explain the Russian tenses to an Englishman. And remember, it's only theforms. You'U have real trouble when you get to the meanings. You will have to explain how to choose the prefix in each particular case. You will deal with the only one form to speak about the present, and therefore have to explain how we manage without most of the usuaJ European tenses at all. You will have to add suffixes (op2aHU3~8a-Jl, opeauus-y-e-m - by the way, the latter represents both Present Imperfect and Future Perfect, though this verb is quite a regular one!). You will deal with JI-less verbs like Hec or n08UC. By the way, have you noticed that there is a list of irregular verbs in every English manual, but there is not a word about Russian irregular verbs anywhere. Why? Because all of them are irregular!

To sum up, let us try to fit a more or less regular example into the table above (the arrows show how forms are produced):

Imperfect "f =<: 6ytjem ecmb
!L11 <; -'necm
Perfect ? Now that we know all about the Russian system of tenses, we can easily turn to the English one.

English Tenses

Firstly, we won't have any cross-arrows. Each English tense follows its own pattern made up of two elements - A+L: the auxiliary (A) and the lexical form (L), both of which are special for each tense (e.g. has eaten, is eating, doesn ~ eat).

Secondly, there are no gaps - every tense is freely used in time. The pattern A+L can even follow a modal to speak about the future: M+A+L (e.g, can be eating, might have eaten, should [ J eat).

Moreover, each tense has a definite meaning (Russian tenses don't: compare xopotuo cnan= XOPOUJO nocnan; R.?IC~ 30eCb ysce 080. uaca - R nposcoax soec« ysce oea 'lOcal.

Thus, we can easily get the pattern of tenses that can be regarded even without any reference to time (remember the Russian joke: the soup goes separately, and so do the flies). To sum up, there are three tenses in English, and each of


them has its own meaning and its own pattern, consisting of its own auxiliary and its own lexical form:





Simple Tense

[do] eat

Fact, event


That's all! The rest of the problem is to put this simple model into the real time environment and see how it works in the language. Any language is a living organism, so it uses models and patterns quite freely to meet its needs. Besides, there are traditions, exceptions, and historical heritage.

The Difficult Simple

The main difficulty in the model is simple. That is ~ the Simple Tense. What puzzles you is: where is Lexical form II (as you see, we've used three lexical forms: I, IV, and III) and what happens to the auxiliary do? If the Simple Tense followed the model exactly (like the Continuous and the Perfect tenses), we would always have A + L (do + L I). We would say, for instance, When we ~ power from the tides, we ~ turbines in the mouth of a river: When the tide does come up. it does turn the turbines. and when it does run back towards the sea. it does turn them again. Or, in the past: Mr Holland did bggjn to go to his office on his bicycle. When all the cars did stop at a red light, he diJi.gQ past them. As the Simple tense is the most common one, and all stories and all facts are given in the Simple, we would have to put this do/does/did practically before every verb! The language therefore simply found a way to get rid of unnecessary words: .in the neutral positive, we simply use the lexical form only (run, turns, or stopped), and remember to use the auxiliary when it is really necessary - in negatives, questions and emphatic structures: e.g, The tide does not turn the turbine. Rarely does it turn the wheels. Where does it tun? He did stop at the red light! By the way, we omit the auxiliary in the infinitive as well, so we have very short Simple infinitives and very short future/modal forms: to run, to see, may run, should see, will turn, etc. The shorter, the better! Just compare these with the other tenses: to be running, to have run, 10 have seen, may have turned, might be running, will have turned, etc.

However, in the present we have the 3rd person -s (does, like is, has), and in the past we have the -(e)d (did, like had). In both the other tenses the auxiliaries


never disappear, so these two little jobs are done by them: have done, has done, had done; is doing, are doing, were doing, was doing, etc. The lexical forms (consequently, III - done and IV ~ doing) stay as they are. The Simple Tense is the same when the auxiliary is there (Does he ill? Did it turn? He didn t S1QJl.. It doesn t om.. He did lli). But if there's no auxiliary ~ we have to put the -s or-d somewhere, don't we? Thus, we put them into the lexical form: run-s (does run), see-s (does see), turn-ed (did turn), stopp-ed (did stop), etc. Of course, returning the auxiliary when asking questions or forming negatives, we rid the lexical form from this irregular job, and it turns back into L L The whole tense form returns into the regular two-element model.

Unfortunately, this is not the only problem caused by the simplification. There are the traditional irregular verbs, which means that when you add -ed to them, they become "perverted" isee+ed=saw; buy+ed=bought, etc.), Therefore, you don't say it runned, but it ran, or he seed, but he saw. When you return the auxiliary do, the -ed returns into it, and the lexical form, consequently, returns into its natural state - L I: He l2il1IJ:h1- He did not lHzy, !JiJ1 he llYJ!.? Why did he fu!.t:? etc. You can see that L II exists only due to taking in the signal of the past - which is otherwise the job done by auxiliaries, whereas the meaning of it remains the same as in L I. Suppose we had verbs perverted when adding -s, how many irregular forms would we have?

Now you see where the need of the language to be shorter and simpler has led us! Still, the inconvenience of the forms is worth the effort, as it economizes such a horrible lot of"meaningless" extra words in the text and in speech! As to the Perfect or the Continuous tense, we don't need to shorten or "simplify" their forms because, on the one hand, we use them much more rarely (see any text!), and, on the other hand, we use them when we stop developing information forwards! Any time we use another tense, we stop and refer to other things. Which things? Now we have to involve the meaning.

The Simple Idea

As we have said, the Simple is the main tense ~ the tense we give information with. Only inthis tense do we present facts, relate events, give instructions, and tell stories. Whatever is told in the Simple gets its logical and/or time consequence. For example, I au:. my lunch when John ~ in. This means I expected John to come, and my lunch logically followed his arrival. There are two events in this sentence expressed by two Simple verbs. We can say,flrst John came in, and then I bad lunch; or: John came in, so I had lunch. One event follows the other.


The-Simple tense relates events in strict time or logical order. The sentence with two Simple verbs (our first example) is already a short story. We can use the time line to demonstrate the idea. Letushave anotherexample:

/'. L /' :7 L ....
:7 7 7
event I event 2 event 3 evenf4
Caesar came: Caesar saw. Caesar conquered. Caesar died. If we say, "Caesar conquered. Caesar saw. 'Caesar died. Caesar came", we will change the order {If events: first he conquered, then he saw whatH was, died. and finally came - after death!

The character of the Simple tense never changes. You may retell any storyin the present instead of the past without loosing the meaning. This is the way we tell jokes, or make our stones sound more dramatic: Felix ~ the open window. "That's it! "he~; Heflj,§J.. out of the cage, and out of the window/ Giving facts does not always mean giving them in time consequence. If I say, 1 hale cofJee, Ialways get up ear'y, 1 never eat. rice, 1 don't play tennis, I just give information about myself in my own order. Still. it's a listoffacts about me that . inform you ~ for instance, about my likes and dislikes.

Simple vs, Continuous


Let ustake our first example and change the, tense i,n one verb: I Was eating my lunch when John ~ .in. Here we have only one event: John came in. Nothing else happened because the Continuous describes my state at "he moment of the event. The idea is expressed by the verb be, which is stative and takes us nowhere. How was 11 Where was I? What was I doing? If you want to check yourself (to be sure whether or not you need the Continuous), drop out the lexical form, and use be only; as in the questions above (see also fig. I). For instance. When he us driyioithe car, a wheel came off (as he ~ in the car). The mirror broke when lie was sharinz (when he l£a.t in front of it). In these examples there is one event, or one fad that happened (the wheel came off,' the mirror broke). But if we use-another Simple verb: The mirror fl.t:Qkwken he it:JJJlm!. into it, we wiU mean thatfirst he looked into the mirror, and then it broke, or itbroke because he looked into it! Similarly, When he drove the car, the wheel came ofJwiU mean that it-happened because of him! If these statements are logically wrong, and we relate only one event, we ought to use the verb be with the other part of the statement, and add (ifnecesssry) the appropriate L IV (which also deals with states, as we'll Soon see).

What about a brief activity?

Task 1. The event and its backgrormd

Mr Pratt has §l lot of dreams.

He's telling apsychiatrist about them. How does he describe his . dreams? Look atthe pictures and the psychiatrist's notes.

Walks across bridge - meets


Roof falls in - watch TV Climbs stairs - sees ghost Looks into mirror - it breaks Wind blows him over cliff-

. walks along path

Lie on beach - elephant comes out of sea

Digs garden -finds dead body


the modal future we can only imagine (I hope they Wilget married one day! or:

TheyliJmdd.n t'get married). The expression is Continuous in form, which is quite logical because we have some evidence at the moment that enables us to say so: They are going to get married - they are discussing it with friends and relatives, trying to decide upon the church, etc. However, as the date hasn't been actually fixed, we cannot say They are getting married. Nor can we use a modal verb here, as the situation is not based on our own ideas, but on the objective evidence. Similarly, when we say, Its going to rain, we mean we see heavy clouds in the sky, though the rain itself is not fixed according to the timetable. However, a sick old woman may say, I think It Wil rain - I've got a terrible headache! -even if the sun is shining. And it may rain indeed!

Task 3. Events va. Processes: Present and Future Choose the correct tense.

I. More and more people (move) to the countryside these days. 2. Sheila (work) as a costume designer for the local theatre company.

3. Computec (hold) a five-day seminar on computers for all its


4. No wonder the phone bills are so high! You (always/talk)

on the phone!

5. Jacob (never/cbange) a flat tyre again.

6. They (prefer) to go on holiday in spring when the resorts

are less crowded.

7. Chris and Helen (have) a garden party on Sunday after-


S. In the end of the film Willy (escape) and (swim)

out to sea. He (meet) the rest of his family and they _

(swim) away together.

9: Hurry up! The train (leave) at 2:30.

10. My new jacket (fit) me perfectly.

11. (Bettylinvlte) Monica to her wedding? - I (bave)

no idea.

12. I __ -'---_ (Dot/feel) very well. I (think) I' lllie down

for a few minutes.

13. Michael (be) very quiet today. Is anything wrong?

14. These towels (feel) as soft as silk.

15. We (think) of moving back to England.

!6. What perfume are you wearing? It (smeD) lovely.

17. He (taste) the potatoes to see if they're cooked.


Key: Task 3. _

1. are moving; 2. works; 3. is holding; 4. are always talking; 5. is never changing; 6. prefer; 7. are having; 8. escapes, swims, meets, swim; 9. leaves; 10. fits; - II. Is Betty inviting, have; 12. am not feeling, think; 13. is being; 14. feel; 15. are thinking; 16. smells; 17. is tasting

Simple vs. Perfect

We know now that both the auxiliaries and the lexical forms are absolutely special and logical in the two tenses. Do and L I refer to objective facts (things we know, or events we list), be and L IV refer to subjective processes (change-

able pictures or opinionated ideas). What about the third one? _

Let us change the verb form again: I had eaten my lunch when John &Jl1!1il in. Again, as with the Continuous tense, we get one event instead of two, the one expressed with the Simple verb: John came in. As to the lunch - there was none, or - I had no lunch at the time when he came. I had empty plates. The situation is as stative as with the Continuous tense, but now we do not refer to what I am (was), but to what I have (had). These two verbs are equal-

E~~~~lli;Stj ly stative, compare: I l!::Q£ i/l- I had flu. She y blond - She !isM blond hair. She is. married - She bss a

husband. etc. Neither have nor be takes us forwards in time (of course, we do not mean expressions with have like have lunch, have a baby, have a talk, or have a shower - these act as regular lexical verbs).

Both the" Continuous and the Perfect tense are subordinate to the Simple.

They both serve to support or illustrate the fact/event (John came in). There is no story in them, no progress. Nothing coines first, and nothing follows. That's what I had (or, with the Continuous, what I was like) when John came in.

Actually, we can see the time line only in the Simple tense as it is the only one to take us forwards in time - from the past to the future:

He came He saw He conquered

I .. I ... II - .. Ill-


. ~I ..


It is not even necessary to add time modifiers here because the order of facts (events) is a strict list from the earliest to the latest, or from the first to the last. Therefore, we can say tbat the Simple tense itselfforms the time line:

----I .. ~ He came ... He saw Ill- He conquered

The Continuous tense takes us nowhere - it's a stop on the way.


The Perfect looks backwards:

} had eaten my lunch <111 ... _--- John came in

If we give events in the right order (forwards), we do not need the perfect: I au: my lunch. and then John ill!.!1f. in. We use the Perfect only if we go backwards in relating events: John came in. but I had already eaten my lunch. The order of events is similar. You can check yourself by adding first and then.

Task 4. Witness to Crime: Make it Simple!

A witness can only tell his story as it happened to him because he couldn ~ know what had happened before. An inspector; however, is interested in the strict logical order of events. Read the statement and help the inspector to put the events into the correct time sequence.

NAME OF'MlNESS: Albert Peal'1lon WITNESSING OFFICER, p. C. Ik:Llntock 90176

Ill' n.... 11 A l ~rt PearlO\\. I.. tbe _In of the lieU 0"-1 ITo'Ildent BanI: In lrIo ..... l el" Street.

On F'10148y 21) JW>e I ""turned hOlle n five ~'eloek. I,. ~na. _thin, was wronl because tbe Lock on the ~nt door Iuod been bt'oken, I ca nad to .,. .ir, but hurd no an ... r ao I w.Ued upnal... to tbe bedrooa. M I walked into the. <'0<)11 __ body .but the door behind ••

II)" wife wu sI tt1n, on the bed. Sbe h.d been tied up. The ......... two .. n In th' 1'OOaI. The), told _ that unle .. I tOOk the. to the bant .ad oP<tned tit ... fe tb_y would kILL "¥ wUe. Of course t bid no choice but to obe,. tha ••

IIonull,. I wou I dn 't be • bla to o ... n t be .. fe on &f 0"" bee ..... -the ... ..... two h,..; t~e ot~e~ ke), 11 kept b)' ay ... i.Unt, Jlllle Weale,.. But .. rHer that IIOrn1nl '" lrIealey llad e_ Into ay orrlce .nd told .. that her Mtller ...... rloull, 111, ud obe bed to bel'. '0 .bt h.d "k.d lie to keep bel' ke, 1IIIt11 .be returned .fter till ....... nd.

I took the tYO lOOn to tht bini< .m opened n. II f. . Th.,. tied l1li up

and locked !It in. For"""", NHon the electroniC al d1d not aound,

.0 obdo,,"l), 'olliehody had turned it ott be fon we l, d. l1li'1111,.

II, We. t.,. cbeeks that 1 t 10 turned on .. .he 1. the IIoIHon to lnve.

r .... d lIe overed by tbe ~ I........ on Mond.y &omt nl •






a) Mr. Pearson walked upstairs to the bedroom .

b) Two men broke into Mr. Pearson's house.

c) Mr. Pearson was discovered by the cleaners.

d) Mr. Pearson took the men to the bank.

e) Julie told Mr. Pearson about her mother's illness;

f) Mrs. Pearson was tied up.

g) Mr. Pearson opened the safe.

h) Mr. Pearson went home at five o'clock. I) Mr. Pearson was locked in the safe.

Key: Task 4.

l e, 2b. 3f, 4h, Sa, 6d, 7g, Si, 9c.

Although it seems clear. you have to be very careful not to mix the order of events and the order of verbs! The sentences above consist of independent clauses. In dependent clauses the only event is given in the main verb, whereas the verb in the subordinate clause gives subordinate information about it. Therefore, it is not important whether the subordinate clause precedes or follows the main sentence. The sentences When he came, I gg my lunch and} !JE. my lunch when he came are similar. as well as the sentences He came after I had eaten it and After I had eaten it, he came. The difference between the two depends on the logical order of events and - on the type of subordination. Let us reveal here.

The Great Secret of Subordinate Clauses

The great secret is that subordinate clauses play the same role as adverbials: they are modifiers of place, time, reason, consequence, condition, etc. Thus, their subjects and verbs are not the subjects and verbs (predicates) of the sentence. Moreover, their position in the sentence-is like that of adverbials, and the punctuation works similarly .

The subject of the sentence (the real, main one!) always comes first, the verb follows. then come objects, and finally modifiers. These follow in order as well: place, time, and then others (usually expressed by clauses). When everything is in order, there is no punctuation in the sentence, e.g, Everything went perfect 011 the big day. She had left by the time he arrived. You should stay in bed if you are ill. If something (a clause or an adverbial) goes before the subject, it has to be punctuated. Compare: On the big day. everything went perfect. By the time he arrived, she had left. If you are ill, you should stay in bed.

The relationship between the subordinate and the main verb always remains the same. Clauses, however, can be different. It is essential that when-clauses


(unlike after, before, or until-clauses) indicate the time of the main event as if it were, for instance, the year, the hour, or another modifier of time. Compare, They went to sleep when the sun set - They went to sleep at J 0.00. When the war started, he went into uniform -In 1914 he went into uniform. Other clauses show the order of actions, so it is essential to consider first the main verb of the sentence, and then the subordinate one.

Both the auxiliary and the lexical fonn of the Perfect tense reflect reality.

Whenever we make a list of what we have done, we mean what we have, and we use the third form of the verb to show the way we have it. As L IV, the ing-fonn, represents the picture, so does L III represent the result.

-Some people consider the Perfect tense the least clear for Russians. In fact, it's clearer than the other two. Just reread what was said above about their usage! There are no direct correspondences between Russian and English concerning L I and L IV, but there, is one concerning L Ill! Moreover, the Russian and the English "third forms" are not only identical in meaning, but also inform!

Let us make one more digression and have a closer look at the notorious irregular verbs.

The Great Secret of Irregular Verbs

The oldest English verbs are irregular (they remind us of the Germanic origin of English), and nearly all of them can be divided into two categories: the nverbs and the r-verbs. T-verbs always have similar L II and L III which end with .-/: send - sent - senl, buy - bought - bought, keep - kept - kept, etc. N-verbs always have different L II and L III, the latter ending with -n (-ne), and L II changing the vowel: see - saw - seen, break - broke - broken, take - tooktaken. bear - bore - borne (born), etc.

To be aware ofthis system helps a lot. First, if you remember the -I in one of the forms (e.g. feel- felt), be sure the other one is the same (felt), and if you remember the changed vowel (e.g.Jall- fell), be sure to add -n in L III (fallen) or vice versa (e.g, wear -worn, change the vowel in L II .:.. wore).-

You can easily divide the two main groups into subgroups.

The biggest r-subgroups are: the ght group (bring - brought - brought), the dlt - t group (send - sent - sent, build - built - built, put - put - put), and the group of (i:] - [e J+t (keep - kept - kept; mean - meant - meant). In the ghr group you just remember the two exceptive forms with a instead of 0: ceught and taught. They have a in the first forms: catch, teach, whereas the rest have various first forms (buy, bring, seek, etc.).

The other two subgroups are based on the same principle: add -I, and shorten the vowel. In the dlt - t group, however. all vowels are short, and you can't shorten them: cut. cost, send, hit, etc. Also, you cannot add -t to -t or -d: there



are no -tt or -dt endings in English (though they are popular in German). Every time you just leave one -1: bend+t=bent, cut+t=cut, send+t=sent, cost+t=cost, let+t=let, hu+t=hu. etc.

About the same happens in the last group, though here the L 1 vowel is the long [i:] - keep. sleep, feed, mean, dream, read, deal, etc. and when you add -I, it shortens into [e]. To show it in spelling, there are two ways: if you have -ee-, you leave out one e: sleep+t=slept, weep+t=wept, etc.; if you have -ea-, you have to remember that it can be read as [e], like in head or bread, so you just leave it in spelling, but pronounce properly when you add -t: deal+t=dealt, mean+t=meant, dream+t=dreamt, etc. As you see, in this group the preference is given to -d when we avoid -dt: feed+t=fed, breed+t=bred, read+t=read. spread+ t=spread, etc. Of course, you leave one -t in meet - met! Although some verbs are a bit irregular: e.g, spread has [e J in L I, and lead is spelt led despite its -ea-, the grouping is quite helpful and broad.

Shortening the vowel when adding -t can be considered the general rule for

all r-verbs e.g. spell- spelt, lose <lost, etc. '

N-verbs can be devided into the grow-type subgroup (throw - threw- thrown. blow - blew - blown, draw - drew - drawn, grow - grew - grown, saw - sew - sawn, etc.) which also includes some different L I forms like./ly; the wear-type

. .

subgroup (fear- tore - torn, bear - bore - born); the hide-type subgroup (bite-

bit - bitten); and the write-type subgroup (ride - rode - ridden, drive - drove - driven). N-verbs also include patterns like [i] - [ae]..., [a]: swim -swam -swum, begin - began - begun, drink - drank - drunk, sing - sang' - sung, and some similar with a bit different vowel change: come - came - come, run - ran - run, hang - hung - hung. etc. The reason why there is no -n in them is similar to the -dtl-ft problem: you just can't pronounce or spell endings of verbs like -mn, -nn.

-ngn or -nknl (Compare the German comment).

Concentrating now on L III, we can see another important feature of the irregular verbs: -n and -t endings unite the Russian and English Perfect ideas! Indeed, if we get rid of the unnecessary endings and gender forms, we will see the Russian Perfect fonn with the same [-n 1 and [-t]: 6bli'JUl:JfCeH, xynne«; omoa«; yspaoe«, ceeoe«, c6um, euuum, paCKOJlOm, etc. However long you might try to continue the list, you will never find a different ending! The meaning of the Russian Perfect form is absolutely identical to the English one, so there is nothing to explain!

All. you have to do to form the similar Russian Perfect tense is to add the correct (similarl) auxiliary, which is have. How do we say it in Russian (mind your translation skill here), he has a big house, we have two children, she has blue eyes, I had a cat, you'll have trouble? - y neeo 6oJlbluOU oew. y Hac oeoe oemeii, y nee eojy6ble enasa, y MeHR '6blJla KOUtKa, y Gac 6ydym uenpusmnocmu.

.. ~


Thus, we get: y MeHR KWWeH6u.1em - I have bought the ticket, or y NUX 6/zV1 fiblMblm f1OJI, K020a .«&1 nputusu - they had cleaned the floor when we arrived, ' or K ¢e6paouo V Nee QyQem onytirIuKo6aHa cmamsn - by February, she'll have published the artie/e. The only problem you will encounter is not with the English language, but Russian: we can only use transitive verbs in these-constructions!

The typical Perfect usage refers therefore to what someone has, had or might have as a completed action for a particular moment. We cut off the time after the moment and look backwards. If we say Frank has ironed his shirts, we mean he has them all ironed at the moment. If we say, He has" ~ ironed them yet, we mean that for the moment being be has no ironed shirts!

Task 5. What has he done?


Frank does the housework every Saturday morning. In picture A, he is just starting to tidy up the kitchen. Picture B shows Frank still him/ at work one hour later: What jobs has Frank done and what jobs hasn i he done yet in picture B?

Use verbs: put. away, empty, vacuum, sweep, hang up, iron, clean, clear, wash, do the washing up.

Key: Task S.

e.g, He has washed the tea towels, but he hasn 't done the washing up yet. Extension 1: e.g, When we came to see Frank last Saturday, he had ironed

his shirts, but he hadn't emptied the rubbish bin yet.

Extension 2: e.g, F,.~nk is so regular! Ifwe come at 10 next Saturday morning, he will have put away the plates, but he won't have cleared the table yet!

Perfect Plus

All the three tenses are independent both in form and in meaning, This does not mean, however, that they can't be combined - both in form and in meaning.

The Simple idea is to give facts, and the Continuous idea is to watch the state.

If you remember the vague idea of the, present time, you know that in both these tenses we take part of before and part of after. The Perfect idea is 'to look back, or to cut off any after. Thus, we may choose to loo~ back on processes as well as facts, and cut off the after in the Simple or Continuous, depending on what we need. For example, if I say that 1 live in Moscow, or 1 know Kate, I observe the time line around the present moment in general. If I look back at the years that have passed, I should say, I've lived in Moscowfor 20 years, or I've known Kate -since we went to university, In both cases I tum back to view the events, but what I am concerned with is the present: what 1 have for the moment being. I have years of friendship or years of living here. We cut off the facts at this very moment, Formally, we take. live or know, add have, and make them L III: have+Ilffhver=have lived; have+IU(know)=have known.

But what if we cut offa process? For example, I live in Moscow, but you meet me in Bonn.Tm staying in Bonn. I'm traveling in Germany. If you want me to look back on what precedes this moment, I'll cut off these processes and form the Perfect from the Continuous: have+Hl(be travelingj=have.been traveling; have+III(be staying)=have been staying. To be exact, calling these forms Perfect Continuous, we should remember to call the previous ones Perfect Simple.

Task 6. Norbert's Life: Present Simple lIS. Present Perfect

Write out the following story. Change all the pictures and symbols to words.

The character .~. name is Norbert, but you should use pronouns (he, him) whenever possible.


Norbert Life

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di"" ~ TIIAT """""" ~~ Q ('nNOl ,v'lW AFTlilt(!) lEI THl ~, ..... HUI TII'Y (!ill 0 A ,pi, 8. ~ THIi. -t:rs. IUT ~ (NI.VIiR GO) GI+ THt. ~ SINei tfr C/IoI'IE ~ 'l"Hi ~ 'lieMS& d'r rr"INKl T"...-r ONI.'( ll.l)ERI.'f ~ 0 @§) - ~ S.

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EiLl'lIR'S WII"I; , toN", @ WORRI"I ABoUT tir 'S' +jEALT~ FOR "'/\NY' Y£AIt$. SNE ~-d'r 1fOM£ MAOIi SOU,. & FltUIi F;:'" "1.1. WUK, J. 'SHE (MAkll dr' ... 0 - ~ AT q,oo 5Vrft'l' ~. nr~ ...,io .. n PRO&I.I;M @ THAT 51t1l @ ,slNCIE TUiSllAV - f'i:I!\UMi: dr-+ ~iTll.£ 4 & GoET /"VIR!!,IE!)" HIS' 1. tfr ~ Till!> FI!OM I4E.I! FOR ~V V£AI"'. avEit'( TIME, ~ (5141<) &. (TiLl) II£R TilE SAM .. TIUNC;" TAAT d( (!i) A ~UOR AI.~ <ilS' LIFE, & dr ~- t.I1 .... Ne,£ NOW.



Key: Task 6.

Elmer's brother, Norbert, is 97 and lives alone in the city, He's lived there since he left the farm 75 years ago. He's bad an apartment on the top floor of a tall building (high-rise) for the past 20 years,

Norbert is a very cbanning person, so he has a lot of friends, and he leads a busy life, He almost never gets out of bed before noon (twelve) each morning because he usually stays up late at night He likes toplay cards with his friends in the afternoon. Sometimes be goes to the horse races, and he always wins a lot of money. In the evening he usually takes his girlfriend to an expensive restaurant. He's known her for over 30 years, but he doesn't feel that be's ready to get married.

Norbert knows that many people spend every afternoon in the park, where they sit on a bench and feed the birds. But he's never gone into the park since he came to the city because he thinks that only elderly people go to parks.

Every summer, he takes a train down to his brother's farm and spends some time there, He's there right now. He's only been there for five days, but he's ready to go back to the city,

Norbert and his brother Elmer are very different from each other, and they've argued about everything ever since Norbert arrived on Tuesday, The problem is that Norbert's never liked the life of a fanner. He's complained for four days about getting up at dawn (sunrise) and helping Eimer with the cows, He's fed the chickens and gathered eggs all week, but he hasn't enjoyed it. The truth is that Norbert hates animals. He thinks that horses belong in the races and birds belong in the park, and he's sure that people belong in a city!

Elmer's wife, Iona, bas been worried about Norbert's health for many years" She's fed him homemade soup and fresh vegetables all week, and she's made (makes) him go to bed at 9:00 every night. Norbert's worst problem is that she's tried since Tuesday to persuade him to settle down and get married to his girlfriend. He's heard this from her for many years, Every time, he sighs and tells her the same thing: that he's been a bachelor all his life, and he doesn't want to change now.

, I


Tense Goes Loose!

If you think it over logically. as I did, all your tense problems will disappear.

, And so will your students'. However, you ought to get as much practice as possible because learning a language is not a matter of knowledge but of skill, The more you go through all sorts of situations and exercises, the more skillful youwill become. Actually, thereis little more to say - all you have to do is drill, but drill with understanding,

Go ahead!


To distinguish between the Past Simple and Present or Past Perfect is very easy if you do not hold on to your Russian. First, you see the time line in the Simple, so you can see the time or logical order of events, taking you forwards in the past. In the Perfect, you stay where you are (now or in a past moment), as if you had a tick-list, saying what you have for the present moment~ or had for the past. Moreover, you look the opposite way - backwards. I would distinguish also between two types of Past Perfect - let me call them the tick-type and the arrow-type. The former says what you had for that very moment, the latter just takes you back to events that had happened some time before.

For example, They were sure now they were the last men on Earth (Past Simple of the verb be to fix the 'present moment' in the past). The submarine had been deep beneath the Ocean when the war started (a'rrow-type Past Perfeet plus Past Simple in a when-clause to state the exact time). The crew had never discovered (up to "now", lick-type Perfect) which side had pressed the button first, or why (arrow-type Perfect, taking us back to when the war started). They had argued about it for a while (probably during the war, or soon after it, arrow-type), hut now it seemed (Simple for "now") unimportant. They had stayed below the surfacefor nearly six months (arrow-type - during and probably after the war). For the first few days there had been some news (arrow), but then the last radio messages died away (Past Simple taking youforward with the word then), lost in the radioactive storms sweeping across the burnt-out planet.

You can see that the whole content of the text above has no development in time. It describes the "present moment" situation referring to what had happened before. The "present moment" is set in the past to make it as narrative as all good stories are, while the time of the story itself, described by the author, should be considered in the future - the nuclear war has never yet happened. If you wish, you may call the whole item past-in-the-future - and it will make much more sense than any future-in-the-past, which is nonsense! Why? The answer lies with the medals, but it's quite another story ...





Preface 3

What is Difficult? 5

The Idea of Time .......................................................•.................................... 5

The Idea of Tense 7

Translate. Compare, or Contrast? 7

Russian Tenses : 8

English Tenses : 9

The Difficult Simple 10

The Simple Idea II

Simple vs. Continuous : 12

Simple vs. Perfect 19

The Great Secret of Subordinate Clauses 21

The Great Secret ofIrregular Verbs 22

Perfect Plus ...........................................................•................................ 25

Tense Goes Loose! 27


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