You are on page 1of 4

Importance of Verbal Groups in teaching Tenses

There is no denying the fact that the English language has become the dominant
language around the world. Since it is also important as a global language of business, it
is necessary to develop the effective communication skills of English language.
Effective communication skills of English language are necessary for the people of all
professions. The concept of English verb tenses is very important in establishing
effective communication. Hence, if you want to maintain both ways of communication
better, that is, speaking and writing. You need to gain mastery over English tenses,
because a command of twelve basic tenses of English language will aid you immensely
in gaining effective communication skills.
Since there are many ways in which we express the time of action, we use tenses. There
are three main tenses, past tense, present tense and the future tense. It is important to
note that each of these tenses has four forms, they are: Simple, progressive or
continuous, perfect and perfect progressive or perfect continuous.
It must be borne in mind that in a given situation or in accordance with the time, one
should use an appropriate tense so as to maintain effective communication. In this way,
it is necessary to determine various aspects in terms of English verbs, such as, the state
of being, continuing action or action completed. In doing so, you need to know how to
conjugate verbs properly by focusing on the structures of tenses and modal tenses, so
that you can create clear and effective sentences.

TENSE refers to the absolute location of an event or action in time, either the
present or the past. It is marked by an inflection of the verb:
David walks to school (present tense)
David walked to school (past tense)

Reference to other times -- the future, for instance -- can be made in a


number of ways, by using the modal auxiliary will, or the semi-auxiliary be
going to:
David will walk to school tomorrow
David is going to walk to school tomorrow.

Since the expression of future time does not involve any inflecton of the verb,
we do not refer to a "future tense". Strictly speaking, there are only two tenses
in English: present and past.
ASPECT refers to how an event or action is to be viewed with respect to time,
rather than to its actual location in time. We can illustrate this using the
following examples:
[1] David fell in love on his eighteenth birthday
[2] David has fallen in love
[3] David is falling in love

In [1], the verb fell tells us that David fell in love in the past, and specifically on
his eighteenth birthday. This is a simple past tense verb.
In [2] also, the action took place in the past, but it is implied that it took place
quite recently. Furthermore, it is implied that is still relevant at the time of
speaking -- David has fallen in love, and that's why he's behaving strangely. It
is worth noting that we cannot say *David has fallen in love on his eighteenth
birthday. The auxiliary has here encodes what is known as PERFECTIVE
ASPECT, and the auxiliary itself is known as the PERFECTIVE AUXILIARY.
In [3], the action of falling in love is still in progress -- David is falling in love at
the time of speaking. For this reason, we call it PROGRESSIVE ASPECT, and
the auxiliary is called the PROGRESSIVE AUXILIARY.
Aspect always includes tense. In [2] and [3] above, the aspectual auxiliaries
are in the present tense, but they could also be in the past tense:
David had fallen in love -- Perfective Aspect, Past Tense
David was falling in love -- Progressive Aspect, Past Tense

The perfective auxiliary is always followed by a main verb in the -edform,


while the progressive auxiliary is followed by a main verb in the -ing form. We
exemplify these points in the table below:
Perfective Aspect

Progressive Aspect

Present Tense

has fallen

is falling

Past Tense

had fallen

was falling

The English tenses


The term 'tense' can be defined as a secondary grammatical category which
serves to locate an event or a situation in time. It accounts for example for the
difference in the sentences John leaves / John left. It encompasses two aspects:
a morphological aspect, namely a system of tenses encoded in the verb's
morphology, and a semantic aspect dealing with the temporal location of the
event or events depicted in one or more sentences: the 'meaning' of the various
tenses.
Although of course closely related, both aspects can and will be described
separately. For the description of the tenses on a morphological basis I shall use
a formula which is an adaptation of Chomsky's phrasestructure rule for the

English auxiliary (CHOMSKY 1957) as presented in Prof. Wagner's classes. An


important question arising here is whether the various tenses in this system
really only indicate temporality in the above mentioned sense, thus locating
events in time, or if they serve other functions as well. For the description of the
semantic aspect I will introduce Reichenbach's theory of tenses. The interaction
of these two aspects will be analysed, and if and how the formalmorphological
tenses can be mapped onto the semantic tenses.
The tenses are not the only means available of locating events in time. An
additional possibility is the use of other linguistic elements, for example
temporal adverbs such as yesterday or soon or prepositional phrases such as
before or in two weeks. But these expressions do not have the same status as
tense: they are lexical, not grammatical expressions of temporality, and whereas
in prototypical sentences (at least in English or German) tense is a typical
feature, the occurence of a temporal adverb or prepositional phrase is not. Still,
a theory of tense also needs to account for problems arising from the interplay
of grammatical and lexical indications of time and temporality.
The following phrasestructure rules are a possible way of describing the English
verbal group (called Verb here):
VP _ Verb + NP Verb _ Aux + V V _ hit, take, walk, read Aux _ C(M) (have+en)
(be+ing)1 M _ will, can, may, shall, must (CHOMSKY 1957:111)
The English tenses are a result of the serial application or concatenation of one
or more of the above mentioned parameters:
__tense tense is either [+past] or [past] and the only obligatory element of
each finite verbal complex (apart from the verb)
__modality the use of the modals will or shall in combination with [past] is
used to locate the event in the future; the verbal element following the modal
must be infinite
__perfect the perfect is formed with the auxiliary have and the past participle
('en') of the following verbal element
__progressive the progressive is formed with the auxiliary be and the present
participle ('ing') of the following verbal element

Tense and Aspect, Perfect and Mood


The advantage of the representation above is the fact that the verbal group is
presented as a complex construction and can be analysed accordingly. It is quite
obvious that 'tense' in a very strict sense only comprises two values: past or
nonpast. The other tenses are formed with parameters such as aspect or
perfect. An expression containing a composite verbal group such as will have
been teaching incorporates not only tense in the strict sense, but other
categories as well. Still, it will be regarded as a complex tense, in this case
future perfect progressive.

{leaves}

John

{Is leaving}

London

{Will leave}
In this case, only the verbal group will leave indicates future tense. Present
progressive indicates that the event is happening this very moment, whilst the
simple present leaves would probably not be used in isolation at all (and is marked
accordingly).

Depending on the context, this example shows that present progressive can either
be E,S or SE. Simple present can also be SE, but with leave the interpretation
E,S (which, according to the table above, is actually what present tense ought to be
all about) seems unlikely. To see why this is so, one has to realize that the tenses
carry more than just a temporal meaning in the strict sense. They are also used to
indicate other kinds of information.