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Ileana Baciu 2010-2011 Verbal Categories in English

THE CATEGORY OF TENSE

1.Time vs. Tense


1.1. The generally accepted definition of the category of Tense, as a category delimiting the
part of speech verb, explains Tense as representing the chronological order of events in time
as perceived by the speaker at the moment of speaking. The notions to be accounted for in
this definition are: chronological order, Time and moment of speaking. These notions will be
clarified in what follows.
1.1.1. Such notions as change or motion the latter understood as change in location ,
which, as we have seen, are important notions in the conceptual/semantic delimitation of
situation/eventuality types, are possible only through and in the representation of Time.
Moreover, as already mentioned, the conceptual properties of a situation are visible only as
the situation unfolds in Time.
To exemplify, the presence of a thing in one place and its non-presence at the same
place can be perceived by a human subject if and only if these two contradictory properties
are placed sequentially, one after another, that is in Time (Stefanescu 1988:216). What this
actually means is that Time ( just like Space) is the form of our experience of the world.
This means that (for human beings) Time is an epistemic notion not an ontological notion1.
If Time can be viewed as being not a determination of outward phenomena, then it has
to do with neither shape or form. Currently, this want is supplied by analogies and the course
of Time is represented by a line progressing to infinity. This linear representation of Time
preserves the sequential character (i.e. chronological order) of our perception of the world.
We perceive Time in the same way we perceive Space, i.e. we cannot live in two times
simultaneously as we cannot, at the same time, occupy two spatial locations. It means that
when Time is measured by lived-through eventualities the measurement is unidirectional, i.e.
forwards.
Time is a single unbounded dimension, conceptually analogous to Space. Just as an
orientation point is needed to locate positions in space, so an orientation point is needed to
locate situations in time.
As already suggested in the previous chapter, in natural languages the basic
orientation point is the time of utterance (UT-T) (i.e. the moment of speaking), which is
always the Present, that is to say that linguistic communication centers at the speaker. All
linguistic expressions (such as: adverbs : here, there, tomorrow etc.; pronouns: I, you, this,
that) that are related to the time of speech are known as deictic (i.e. pointing) expressions.
The speakers centrality enables the identification of time and place. It also implies an
organizing consciousness which provides a temporal standpoint from which the speaker
invites his audience to consider the event (Smith 1991:138).
Every sentence has a temporal standpoint (identified as AS-T), in simple cases the
same as the temporal location of the situation (EV-T). Generally sentences about the Present
have a present standpoint, and sentences about the Past and Future have past and future
standpoints, respectively.
As already mentioned, Time is conventionally represented as a straight line stretching
in both directions from Utterance Time. Such a representation is given in (1) below:

(1) Time line: -------------------UT-T---------------------


Past Present Future

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Ontological: relating to the study of existence. Situation types are viewed as ontological categories. Epistemic:
(from Greek episteme knowledge) (approx) something discovered through sense/experience.
2

On the Time line, times and situations are located at moments or intervals relative to
the Time of utterance. The situations may occur in order (i.e. sequentially) or they may
overlap, wholly or in part.
All sentences give us temporal information which helps us locate in Time the
situation talked about. This temporal information is given by Tense morphemes and time
adverbials.
1.1.2 Tense is a functional category, expressed by a set of verbal inflections or other verbal
forms, that expresses a temporal relation to an orientation point( Smith, 1991).
Tenses have consistent relational values: anteriority, posteriority or simultaneity.
Tenses may have a fixed or flexible orientation. Tenses with fixed orientation are always
related to UT-T. Whenever tenses, or rather, Tense systems are oriented to the moment of
speech (i.e. the speaker) we say that they are used deictically (i.e. they are interpreted as
pointing expressions, just like adverbs (tomorrow, now, here, there) or pronouns (this, that, I,
you)).
The traditional term for tenses that relate to UT-T is absolute tenses. Tenses that relate
to an orientation time other than UT-T are known as relative tenses .
Not all temporal reference is made by Tense. In English, the Future is indicated by
another type of morpheme, the modal auxiliary shall/will. It is also common to have a
combination of present tense (or present tense progressive in English) and future time
adverbial that indicates the future, sometimes called Futurate.
Some languages have tenses that indicate Present, Past and Future. Some others have
a tense distinction between past and non-past, still others have a distinction between present
and non-present. Some languages (e.g. Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Classical Hebrew) do not
have the functional category of Tense. For these languages temporal location is expressed
directly by adverbials and indirectly by (viewpoint) aspect.
There are also languages where tenses contribute temporal location as well as
aspectual value, i.e. aspectual viewpoint may also be conveyed by Tense. The French
Impairfait and the Romanian Imperfect, for instance, may also convey a general
imperfective viewpoint. In English, as we have seen, the expression of aspectual viewpoint is
independent of Tense.

1.2. Temporal Adverbials

Alongside Tense, temporal adverbials help us locate in time the situations talked about. As we
have seen in our discussion of Aspect, temporal adverbials also contribute to the aspectual
interpretation of sentences. The classification we adopt has been standardly recognized since
Bennett and Hall-Partee (1972,1978) and Smith (1978), and the list below has been borrowed
from Crainiceanu (1997).
Temporal adverbials fall into the following classes: (a) locating adverbials (Smith
1978/)1991) or frame adverbials (Bennett &Hall Partee, 1972); (b) duration adverbials; (c)
completive adverbials (Smith, 1991) or containers; (d) frequency adverbials.
Our discussion of temporal adverbials will consider first those under (b) and (c) above,
i.e. duration adverbials and completive adverbials, respectively, because these types of
adverbials also have an aspectual value, requiring compatibility with the situation type.
A. Duration adverbials include the following expressions: for three weeks/a month/a day, for
a while, since the war/Christmas, at night, all the afternoon, half the afternoon, for hours, all
the time, over the weekend, through August, a few days, during the war, always, permanently,
all day long, throughout, from June to/till October, all day/night long, etc.
Duration adverbials have been defined as:
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- indicating the duration of the described event by specifying the length of time that is
asserted to take (Bennett & Hall- Partee, 1978);
- expressing measures of time that are not specifically confined to future or past (Quirk, 1985)
- contributing to the location of a situation in time (Smith, 1991)

The definitions above suggest that duration adverbials have aspectual value: they are
compatible with atelic sentences and odd with telics, that is to say that duration adverbials are
sensitive to the aspectual character of the eventuality description they combine with. They are
restricted to homogeneous eventualities/situations (processes and states) as the examples
below indicate:

(2) (i) Susan was asleep for two hours (atelic)


(ii) Andrew swam for three hours (atelic)
(iii) (?)John wrote a/the report for two hours (telic)
(iv) *The train arrived late for 2 hours

De Swart (1998) adopting current views (Vet, 1994, Moens,1987 and others) points out
that duration adverbials bring in a notion of boundedness.
According to Smith (1991) the role of a single durational with atelic situation types is to
locate an eventuality within the stated interval,. The interpretation of the sentences above is
that the situation denoted by the predicate (the verb phrase =VP) lasts at least as long as the
denotation of the durative adverbial. Whenever the situation type features and the adverbial
features are compatible, the standard interpretation of the adverbial is to locate the situation
within the stated interval.
Whenever telic events occur in the context of duration adverbials there is a clash
between the aspectual properties of the situation type and the aspectual properties of the
adverbials. Such clashes are resolved by a shift in the value of the verb constellation which
receive a marked interpretation. De Swart (1998) building on ideas developed by Moens
(1987) assumes that the contextual reinterpretation is made possible by the process called
coercion.2
Instantaneous atelic eventualities (semelfactives)3 in the scope of durative adverbials
and durative telic verb constellations (accomplishments) are reinterpreted as atelic/durative in
the context of durationals:

(3) (i) I read a book for a few minutes.


(ii) Jerry wrote a report for two hours.
(iii) John knocked on the door for two hours.

The event of book -reading and report-writing is coerced into a process; so is the
semelfactive, which gives the sentence an iterative reading (i.e. the knocking is that of a
process of the multiple- event type; actually an instantaneous atelic eventuality is interpreted

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Coercion is viewed as an operator that would yield an eventuality of the appropriate type which, then, can
combine with the durative adverbial to result in a bounded process. The value of the operator is dependent on
linguistic context and world knowledge
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The incompatibility of atelic instantaneous eventualities of the knock type suggests that actually the feature
that characterizes durationals is as their name suggest [+durative]. One of the reasons to include such predicates
within the class of achievements must have been the incompatibility of these predicates with this class of
adverbials.
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as durative). The two telic events (3a,b) are not interpreted as involving natural endpoints. It
is to be noticed that the direct object NPs are indefinite.
In the case of accomplishments with definite NPs in object position the sentence is
interpreted as a process of the multiple-event type (i.e. an iterative reading) or as a state (i.e.
iterative/habitual reading); the same interpretation is valid for achievement predicates. It is
true that in the examples below the form of the adverbial crucially contributes to the habitual
reading:

(4) (i) John played the sonata for 2 hours.


(ii) For years, Mary went to school in the morning.
(iii) For months, the train arrived late.

We think that a distinction should be made between the example in (4c) above and the
example borrowed from Dowty (1979) and given in (4) below. In this latter case, (as already
mentioned) the entire situation is interpreted as a process (habitual of the multiple-event type)
due to the uncountable NP in direct object position, i.e. the adverbial takes in its scope a
process predication not an achievement predication:

(4) All that summer, John found crabgrass in his yard

We have to stress the fact, acknowledged by linguists, that the felicity of an aspectual
reinterpretation is strongly dependent on linguistic context and knowledge of the world as the
example below indicates. In this case there is no possible shifted interpretation and the
sentence is odd:

(5) (??)Mary reached the top for an hour

B. Completive adverbials are also known as containers (or adverbials of the interval (Smith,
1991)) and include expressions like in 2 hours, within two months, and their role is to locate
a situation/eventuality at an interval during which the event is completed/culminates.
Aspectually, completive adverbials are telic. The assumption, then, is that they are
compatible with telic eventualities and odd with atelics. The examples below (borrowed from
Smith 1991:157) confirm this assumption:

(6) (i) John drew a circle in five seconds


(ii) Mary wrote a sonnet in ten minutes
(iii) ?Bill swam laps in an hour
(iv) ?Mary believed in ghosts in an hour

Since completives denote an interval within which the situation occurred/took place,
the atelic situations in (6iii,iv) are difficult to interpret. If they can be understood at all, they
impose an ingressive interpretation to the entire sentence, in the sense that the adverbials refer
to an interval elapsed before the beginning of the situation and not to an interval during
which the situation occurs. Depending on linguistic context and knowledge of the world the
sentence in (6iii) above may also be reinterpreted as telic in the context of completive
adverbials, i.e. the reinterpretation may ascribe a natural endpoint to the eventuality. The
possible readings for (6iii) would be as in (7i,ii) below and (7iii) for (6iv):

(7) (i) Bill swam his planned number of laps (with)in an hour.
(ii) In/After an hour, Bill swam his laps.
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(iii) At the end of/after an hour she began to believe in ghosts.

As far as (6iv) is concerned, the eventuality is taken as inchoative, as the paraphrase in (7iii)
shows. The inchoative is an Achievement and has the ingressive interpretation that standardly
occurs for achievements (and semelfactives, for that matter) with completive adverbials as in
the following examples:

(8) (i) They reached the top in ten minutes.


(ii) He won the race in ten minutes.
(iii) She knocked at the door in ten minutes.

Another clash is to be noticed with the imperfective viewpoint. Telic adverbials are
incompatible with the progressive aspect. According to Smith (1991:159), in general, all
imperfectives in combination with completive adverbials have an ingressive reading, i.e. the
eventualities occurs at the end of the time interval referred to by the adverbial. The example
below has such a reading:

(9) In an hour, Bill was walking to work.

C. Frequency adverbials also give information that contributes to the temporal location of a
situation (Smith 1991). Specifically they indicate the recurrent pattern of situations within the
reference interval. The adverbial expression of frequency reinforces the notion of repetition,
iteration:

(10) (i) Samuel cycles to work most days, every day.


(ii) We always/often went to the mountains in wintertime

As already mentioned such sentences express a series of individual events which, as a whole,
make a state of the habitual type. Examples of frequency adverbials are: frequently, on
Sundays, never, sometimes, often, whenever, monthly, daily, once a week, every
week/month/year, usually, seldom, etc.
D. Locating Adverbials (or Frame Adverbials). This type of adverbials contribute to the
specification of Situation Time or Assertion Time. Generally, sentences with one time
adverbial specify Assertion Time.
As the name frame adverbial indicates, they refer to an interval of time within which
the described action is asserted to have taken place (Bennett& Hall Partee, 1978). The
situation talked about in the sentence fills all or part of the time specified by the adverbial
(Smith, 1991).
Just like Tense, frame adverbials require an orientation point, and just like Tense they
mirror the three possible temporal relations: simultaneity, anteriority and posteriority. Frame
adverbials have the role to locate situations in time by relating them to other times or to other
situations (Smith, 1991). According to the time of orientation they indicate we can distinguish
three classes:

(i) Deictic adverbials: which are oriented to the time of utterance. Such adverbials are
represented by the following expressions: now, today, last Sunday, last week, this
week/year, tomorrow, next week, the day after tomorrow, tonight, a week ago, etc.
As can be noticed, all adverbials in this class refer to some specific time span
which is related to some other specific time span which is UT-T, but most of them
give only the maximal boundaries of the time span(s) in question (Klein, 1992)
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(ii) Anaphoric adverbials include time expressions that relate to a previously


established time (Smith, 1978) such as : until, till, in the evening, on Sunday, at
night, early, before, in three days, on Christmas, at lunchtime, two years later, in
March, already, etc. In this case too, we have only the maximal boundary of the
time span in question.
(iii) Referential adverbials which refer to a time established by clock or calendar
(Smith, 1978), such as: at six, August 19, in 1987, etc

The time adverbials that are explicitly related to the time of utterance are known as
anchored adverbials. Deictic adverbs are anchored adverbials. The last two classes are
known as being unanchored, i.e. they are not anchored to the utterance time, their
interpretation is made possible by an orientation point other than the time of utterance.
According to their form, frame adverbials can be (i) simple or (ii) complex.
(i)Simple adverbials include expressions like :now, yesterday, tomorrow
(ii) Complex adverbials exhibit two types of complexity:

(a) the complex adverbial consists of two or several concatenated adverbs:


yesterday afternoon, tomorrow morning at 5. Complex time adverbials, in
these cases, are taken as single units in temporal interpretation establishing the
interval of time within which the described action is asserted to have taken
place . For examples like the one below the complex adverbial, in conjunction
with the tense morpheme, specifies AS-T:

(11) Bill visited us last Sunday afternoon.

b) the complex adverbial may consist of a preposition and a nominal, the


entire group forming one constituent syntactically:

(12) Phyllis decorated the cake before last night.

In simple tense sentences (i.e. without morphological aspect) the relation between the
EV-T and AS-T is taken to be simultaneous, or rather EV-T is included/within AS-T. In such
cases, we may consider the adverbial, in conjunction to the Tense morpheme to specify EV-T.
To conclude, with simple tense forms in root clauses the Event/Situation time is non-distinct
from Assertion Time regarding their relative order to Utterance Time, hence we can assume
that with simple tenses adverbials actually specify EV-T.

2.0. The syntax and interpretation of tenses in root sentences


As we have already mentioned there are three times that are required for the
temporal-aspectual interpretation of sentences. The three times involved are Utterance Time
(UT-T) , Assertion Time (AS-T) and Situation Time(Sit-T), also known in the literature as
Event Time (EV-T)
Adopting current approaches we define Utterance Time as the time at which the event
of uttering the sentence takes place and it may function as an anchoring event for another
event or time interval defined as Assertion Time. AS-T has a dual role: it is part of the system
of temporal location for complex sentences, and it gives the temporal standpoint of a sentence
i.e. the locus from which the situation talked about is presented.
The Assertion Time is explicitly given by the finite component of an utterance, i.e. by
the tense morpheme on the verb or auxiliary and represents the anchoring time for the
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interval when the situation denoted by the predicate occurs. Locating adverbials like
yesterday, on Sunday etc. generally specify Assertion Time.
Event Time is the time interval at which the situation occurs or holds. It is related
to whatever is expressed by the nonfinite component of the utterance (the lexical (semantic)
content of the utterance).
Tense is defined as a relation between AS-T and UT-T, while Aspect relates EV-T to
AS-T. We have also mentioned the fact that in the simple tense forms EV-T and AS-T time
are non-distinct regarding their relative order to UT-T and in such cases UT-T can be taken to
be the orientation/reference point for the time of the situation/event.
In the simple tenses, therefore, Tense relates the time of utterance, which functions as
reference/anchoring point, and the time at which the situation denoted by the VP occurs or
holds (EV-T/AS-T). AS-T, as we have seen is important for the progressive forms and, as we
shall see, for the Perfect forms and the Futurate.
The standard assumption is that in the simple tenses UT-T may precede (BEFORE),
follow (AFTER) or be included (WITHIN) in the EV-T/AS-T:

UT-T BEFORE EV-T/AS-T = PAST [-ED]


UT-T AFTER EV-T/AS-T = FUTURE [WILL]
UT-T WITHIN EV-T/AS-T = PRESENT [-S]

The discussion so far has tried to highlight the fact that both Tense and Aspect relate
two times. This parallelism can be captured syntactically (Stowell 1993, Demirdache&Uribe-
Etxebarria, 2000) by proposing that Aspect (Asp) and Tense (T) are in fact dyadic predicates
of spatio-temporal ordering that take as arguments time-denoting phrases.4 T takes as external
argument UT-T (in root sentences) and AS-T as an internal argument ; Asp takes AS-T as
external argument and EV-T as internal argument.
The phrase structure for temporal relations looks like:

(13) TP

UT-T T

T AspP

AS-T Asp

Asp VP

EV-T VP

T is a spatio-temporal predicate with the meaning of AFTER (past), BEFORE (future) or


WITHIN (present). ASP, in its turn is also a spatio-temporal predicate with the meaning of
AFTER (perfect aspect), BEFORE (prospective aspect) or WITHIN (progressive aspect).
Whenever ASP (or T) lack morphological content, the external argument and the internal

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The representation in (13) is the syntactic phrase structure of the linear temporal representation given in the
chapter on Aspect.
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argument are co-indexed; this co-indexation indicates that the two times/events overlap or
coincide. One such particular case occurs in sentences with morphological tense but without
morphological aspect that is the simple tenses. In such cases, as already mentioned EV-T =
AS-T (i.e. EV-T is WITHIN or included in AS-T). In such cases they are considered as non-
distinct regarding their relative order to UT-T. Whenever Asp has no morphological content
the event is portrayed in its entirety as including both its initial and its final bounds
(perfective viewpoint aspect, in Smiths (1991) classification)
Time adverbs, just like tenses and aspects, are taken to be phrases headed by a two-
place spatio-temporal predicate representing the temporal structure in the syntax and
establishing a relation of inclusion (WITHIN)), precedence (BEFORE) and subsequence
(AFTER).
The proposal put forth by Demirdache&Uribe-Etxebarria, (2004) holds for all types of
time adverbials locational or durational adverbs expressed syntactically as bare NPs
(Christmas, yesterday) , PPs (after/at/ before last week/Christmas), temporal clauses (CPs)
(while I was reading the book/when he came/since/after she left).
Recall that these adverbs have been taken to be able to restrict the reference of AS-T
or that of EV-T. Here is an example of the way time adverbs can be integrated within the
model proposed by Demirdache&Uribe-Etxebarria, (2004):

(14) (i) Susan left at/after/before midnight.


TP

Ut-T T

T AspP
after

Ass-Ti Asp

Ass-Ti PP Asp VP

P DP
at/after/before midnight Ev-Ti VP

The example above illustrates the grammar of Past Tense simple. Past Tense orders the UT-T
after the AS-T. The AS-T is co-indexed (i.e. temporally coincides) with EV-T since Asp has
no morphological content. Co-indexation entails that the event described is portrayed in its
entirety as including both its initial and final bounds. The UT-T, is thus ordered after the
AST-T/ EV-T , yielding the past (and perfective) interpretation.
The PP in (14), as already argued , serves to restrict the reference of the event
described by the sentence Susan left -. Syntactically, it functions as a restrictive modifier of
a time-denoting expression the AS-T or EV-T. In our particular case (i.e example 14) AS-T
is co-temporal with EV-T, hence we get a non-distinct interpretation. The temporal
representation above describes a past event, since the UT-T in (14b) is located after the AS-T
itself co-temporal with EV-T (perfective aspect). The preposition has as external argument
the AS-T and as internal argument the adverbial NP midnight. So, what the preposition does
is to restrict the reference of the time span denoted by AS-T (past) to the time designated by
the internal argument of the preposition, i.e. midnight. Since the AS-T is co-temporal with
EV-T the PP indirectly provide a location time for the EV-T of the situation described by
(14a).
Consider next the past perfect sentence illustrated in 15(a) below, which is assigned
the temporal structures in (15b,c):
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15) a) Susan had left London at noon


a) At noon, Susan had left London

b) TP

UT-T T

T AspP
after

AS-T Asp

AS-T PP Asp VP
after

P DP
at EV-T VP

c) TP

UT-T T

T AspP
after

AS-T Asp

Asp VP
after

EV-T VP

EV-T PP

at DP

The past perfect sentence in (15a) (without the time adverbial) presents Susans
departure as having culminated before a reference time, the AS-T, which is itself ordered by
Tense prior to UT-T. In this case the AS-T and the EV-T are disjoint in reference. It can be
naturally predicted that the addition of a temporal adverbial will yield two interpretations for
(15a) , but not for (15a), depending on whether the adverbial modifies the Event Time or the
Assertion Time, as illustrated in (15b,c).
In (15b) the time adverb modifies the AS-T. Susans departure is presented as having
occurred prior to AS-T, which is set at 7 p.m. (i.e. Susans leaving occurs prior to 7 p.m.) In
(15c) the time adverb is predicated of the EV-T, the preposition AT restricting the time of the
event to the interval designated by 7 p.m. (i.e. Susans leaving occurred at 7 p.m.)
It is a well-known fact that time adverbs may occur at the end or at the beginning of
the sentence.
It is generally assumed that whenever the time adverb occurs in sentence initial
position the time adverb is generally taken to specify AS-T. Hence such a sentence will have
the temporal representation in (15b) above, where the time adverb modifies AS-T.
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2.1 Indefinite Present Tense Sentences. It is generally assumed that the Simple Present
Tense is, par excellence, a deictic tense. Situations reported in the Present enjoy both
psychological being at the present moment (Leech, 1971) and actual being at now.
The interpretive constraint (to be accounted for below) that affects present tense
sentences, is that present tense sentences may not include the endpoints of situations.
Sentences in the Simple Present refer to open situations except for marked uses.
As a consequence, in the Present tense and the perfective viewpoint stative sentences
have their normal (open) interpretation (recall that the perfective does not span the endpoints
of States) while non-stative verb constellations have a derived habitual/generic
interpretation. As such, from an aspectual point of view all non-stative predicates in the
simple present tense recategorize as stative (Smith, 1991). This generalization accounts for
two of the uses of the indefinite present tense, i.e. the generic and the habitual use.
Linguists and grammarians have distinguished among several uses of the
indefinite/simple present tense (Leech, 1971, Binnick 1991, etc). These include:

the generic value;


the habitual value;
the instantaneous/reportive value ;
the past time (historical) value;
the future value or futurate.

This wide distribution of the Simple Present is not to be regarded as indicative of the
polysemy of this temporal form; the Simple Present has a core meaning irrespective of
context, i.e. the Simple Present places the UT-T within the AS-T/EV-T.
The past and future values ascribed to the Simple Present should be regarded as a
composite of tense information, lexical aspect and the contribution of adverbs.

2.1.1 The Simple Present Tense and Perfectivity


In the previous chapter we argued that, generally, sentences in the simple tense form
have a closed, perfective interpretation. The simple present tense, nevertheless, is an
exception to this generalization, in the sense that the simple present tense is incompatible with
perfective (closed) readings. This constraint is valid for all Germanic and Romance languages
but the consequences are different.
A consequence of the above-mentioned constraint for English is that the simple
present tense of durative events (activities and accomplishments) cannot be used to refer
to one particular instance/ occurrence of the situation denoted by the predicate and have the
continuous /imperfective interpretation, i.e. in English the simple present tense cannot be used
to describe a non-stative, dynamic event unfolding at UT-T, unlike in other Germanic
languages and Romance languages. Compare the sentences below:

(16) a) Mary smokes.


b) Maria fumeaza./Maria raucht.
c) Mary eats an apple.
d) Maria mananca un mar./Maria isst ein Apfel.
e) Mary loves John.
f) Maria il iubeste pe Ion./Hannah liebt Johann.

Of all the examples in (16) it is only the last two (i.e. 16 e,f) where there are no
interpretive differences between English and Romanian/German. The sentences in (16 e, f)
mean that a certain state holds of the subject at the Utterance Time.
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The examples in (16a-d) include predicates belonging to the class of accomplishments


and activities and, as can be noticed, the English sentences cannot have the imperfective
/continuous reading, that is they cannot mean that Mary is presently involved in an event of
smoking or eating an apple, respectively.
The Romanian/German sentences allow these readings, i.e. they may describe one
particular occurrence of an ongoing, continuous event. In order to get the ongoing reading in
English, the present progressive must be used with such predicates.
The neutral interpretation one would assign to the English sentences in (16 a,c) above
would be habituality5. Actually, this reading is also available for the other Germanic and
Romance languages. Habitual sentences are defined as characterizing sentences that
describe a generalization over patterns of events.
Interestingly, English is not different from the other languages as far as the other
possible interpretations of the sentences in (16) above are concerned. The sentences admit the
so-called reportive/instantaneouse reading, where an event is described as perfective but its
time is not directly related to the utterance time. Under the instantaneous reading, the interval
of time normally associated with the event is telescoped to a point. The sentences are assumed
to have a dramatic interpretation having nothing to do with real time, i.e. the event is not
directly anchored to the utterance time. Such sentences are grammatical as commentary on a
picture, movie or book or when uttered by a radio commentator. Consider the following
examples borrowed from Georgi&Pianesi (1997:153) and Palmer (1978):

(17) (i) In Gone with the wind Scarlet writes a letter.


(ii) Napier takes the ball and runs down the wing. He passes the ball to
Attwater. Attwater beats two men, he shoots. Its a goal!

More will be said about the availability of this interpretation of the simple present
tense in due time.
As far as present tense achievement/semelfactive predicates are concerned, the
continuous /imperfective reading is unavailable in all Germanic and Romance languages:

(18) (i) Susan finds a book.


(ii) Maria gaseste o carte.
(iii) Hans findet ein Buch.

Achievements/semelfactives have the lexical property that they are single stage
situations, that is they lack a processual stage. Therefore, achievements/semelfactives always
denote closed events. This property holds cross-linguistically. In none of the languages above
can the sentences be interpreted as ongoing at Utterance Time.
To summarize, the problems related to the present tense sentences that are to be
accounted for are as follows:

(a) In English, unlike in other Germanic languages and Romance languages,


present tense sentences with an accomplishment or activity predicate can
never describe one particular ongoing/ continuous event;
(b) The imperfective reading with present tense achievement/semelfactive
predicates is unavailable in all Germanic and Romance languages;

5
Recall that the difference between statives and non-statives in the Present tense has been used as a test for
stativity. If a constellation has only a habitual action reading with simple (i.e. perfective) aspect and Present
Tense, it is non-stative.
12

(c) The impossibility of the simple present tense with the perfective
interpretation as a default.

2.1.2. In the chapter on Aspect we argued, following current research, that non-stative
predicates (i.e. dynamic) in the simple/indefinite present are neutrally interpreted as
habitual/generic.
The assumption underlying the conclusion above is that a sentence with the perfective
viewpoint presents a sentence with the endpoint (i.e. temporal) properties of its situation
type schema. Moreover, non-stative predicates obey the following truth-condition postulate
(Taylor, 1977):

(19) If V is an activity verb or an accomplishment/achievement verb, then V(x) is only


true at an interval larger than one moment.

Dowty (1979:167), commenting on Taylors (1977) postulate, observes that if the


Utterance Time is conceptualized as a moment then the postulate above predicts
that it is impossible to have a deictic present tense with durative, eventive predicates.
According to this analysis the impossibility of an ongoing/continuous reading of a
sentence such as Susan sleeps is due to the intrinsic temporal properties of dynamic
predicates and to the fact that the utterance time is a point.
To account for the cross-linguistic differences exemplified in (16) above, (in particular
the problem concerning the impossibility of English present tense non-stative predicates to
have a continuous one-occurrence interpretation) we will adopt a suggestion put forth by
Georgi&Pianisi (1997) already hinted at in the previous chapter.
According to Giorgi&Pianesi (1997) the constraint on the simultaneous/continuous
reading of non-stative verbs is aspectual in nature and can be stated in the form of what they
call the Punctuality Constraint. Actually, they offer a principled account of the assumptions
given above. The important assumptions Giorgi and Pianesi make are :

(i) the temporal interpretation of an utterance involves the anchoring of the


event denoted by the predicate to the Utterance time, i.e. to the time of the
event which consists of the utterance itself;
(ii) the speech event, as an anchoring event, is conceptualized as punctual;
(iii) all eventive predicates in English are lexically characterized as perfective;

In what follows we shall enlarge upon the last two assumptions put forth by
Giorgi&Pianesi.
(i) Georgi&Pianisi (1997) propose that, in English, all eventive (i.e. non-stative)
predicates are associated with the feature (+perf). This is necessary in English , but not in
other languages, due to the morphological properties of the English verbs.6 The [+perf]
feature on the verb stems of English non-stative predicates means that such predicates always

6
Giorgi & Pianesi argue that the aspectual feature [+perf] is a Lexicon feature that would compensate for the
lack of explicit inflectional verbal morphology . The argument goes that a word like eat can be categorially
ambiguous: it is a naked form and can express any of several verbal values, such as the infinitive (without to),
the first and second person singular and the first, second and third person plural, as well as, an object (N) or
action (V). Hence, the only way to discern nouns from verbs is to identify the characteristic feature that would
define the lexical category. In the case of verbs this feature is aspectual.. Romance languages, on the other hand,
need not associate the verb with an aspectual feature because of the rich verbal inflectional morphology
characterizing this group of languages. The lexical entry of verbs in Romance languages will always have a
much richer feature bundle that would include inflectional features such as person and number.
13

denote closed situations. As already argued, closed/perfective events have all the temporal
properties of the situation type, the endpoint properties included.
Additional evidence in favour of the assumption that verb stems in English always
denote closed events comes from the Accusative +Infinite/Participle construction in English.
Consider the following examples:

(20) (i) Susan saw Mary write the essay.


(ii) Susan saw Mary writing the essay.
(iii) Susan saw Mary run.
(iv) Susan saw Mary running.
(v) Susan saw Mary leave.
(vi) Susan saw Mary leaving.
(vii) *Susan saw Mary know the answer.
(viii) *Susan saw Mary knowing the answer.

In English, perception verbs can take two types of complements : either the
Acc+bare/naked infinitive (i.e. infinitives without to) or Acc+ Present Participle
constructions.
In the first six sentences above, (where the complement is an accomplishment,
activity and achievement predicate, respectively) the bare infinitive form allows only a
perfective/closed reading.
In (20i,ii) the complement is an accomplishment predicate.(20i) entails that Susan
witnessed the entire act of writing, i.e. the sentence in (20i) means that Susan saw an event e,
which is an event of writing, the agent is Mary, and the theme is an essay, and e has reached
the telos. The complement event expressed as a bare/naked infinitive is interpreted as
closed/bounded/perfective.
In the example in (20ii), on the other hand, the verb is in the ing form ; it refers to a
non-closed/non-bounded/imperfective event. Consequently, it is not possible to infer that the
essay was eventually written. Activities and achievements may also occur in such
constructions with the same interpretation, as the examples in (20iii-vi) show.
State predications, on the other hand are excluded in such constructions as the
examples in (20vii,viii) indicate.
(ii) The second assumption put forth by Giorgi& Pianesi is that anchoring
events are punctual.
The difference between a closed/perfective event and a punctual event is that, while
conceptually, a closed event denotes an entity that can be decomposed into a processual
part (stages) and a boundary, i.e. e has temporal structure, a punctual event cannot be
decomposed into other elementary events, hence they are not conceptualized as having
temporal structure.
Punctuality amounts to neglecting temporal structure. The UT-T, as already
mentioned, temporally anchors the time of the situation, hence it can be viewed as an
anchoring event and consequently as a punctual event. We give below the interpretive
principle necessary to understand the Punctuality Constraint:

(21) The anchoring event (Utterance Time or some other reference time in the
matrix clause) is punctual
(22) Punctuality Constraint
A closed event cannot be simultaneous with a punctual event
14

The Interpretive Principle (21) and the Punctuality Constraint (22) very nicely
accommodate the habitual/generic reading of non-stative predicates in the simple present
tense.
The impossibility of a particular continuous/simultaneous reading for simple present
tense eventive sentences follows as a consequence of (a) the Interpretive Principle (21) which
requires the speech event to always be punctual and (b) the Punctuality Constraint (22) which
expresses the general impossibility of punctual events to be simultaneous with closed (+perf)
events.
To put it differently, like any anchoring event, UT-T is punctual; the [+perf] simple
Present tense form cannot be simultaneous with UT-T, since the event denoted by the verb
has internal temporal properties which are incompatible with the punctuality of the anchoring
event; as a consequence the progressive form must be used whenever we want the sentence to
denote a particular ongoing/continuous event, i.e. in English, deictic present is legitimate
with state predicates alone; with dynamic, non-stative eventualities the progressive form is
necessary.
The acceptability of habituals/generics (generalizations over events/properties) is due
to the fact that, in these sentences, the conflict between the punctuality of the Utterance time
(viewed as a speech event) and the closure of the event denoted by the predicate does not
arise, habituals being understood as asserting the occurrence of a series of events of the same
kind which include the Utterance Time. According to Giorgi and Pianesi a habitual sentence
only requires that UT-T be a temporal part of the interval where the habit holds.
As far as inherent statives are concerned they are not conceptualized as closed (i.e.
as processual or bounded), (recall the truth-condition and the temporal schema associated
with States) hence they can be simultaneous with the punctual anchoring event, describing
one particular occurrence of the situation denoted by the predicate.
In Romance languages, and some Germanic languages as well, the event expressed by
the present is not viewed as closed/perfective and, hence, can be simultaneous with punctual
anchoring events, with an imperfective reading, naturally.
The temporal aspectual interpretation of present tense sentences like, for instance,
Mary smokes/ Mary is clever is provided below:

(23) Mary smokes./ Mary is clever.

(i) UT-T now


AS-T present (tense morpheme)
EV-T co-temporal with AS-T
(ii) UT-T within AS-T/EV-T

UT-T
[ []].>
EV-T / AS-T

2.1.3.Values of the Simple Present Tense.


A.The generic/habitual value
Our next step is to try and give a logical account of the uses/values of the simple
present tense identified by grammarians and linguists in the course of time.
All grammars of English acknowledge that the basic uses/values of the simple present
tense are the habitual value and the generic value. The question that arises is whether we need
to distinguish between the two, since in both cases the sentences in the present tense are
dubbed by linguists as categorical sentences, or characterizing sentences, consisting in the
15

ascription of a property to a subject . In both cases no reference is made to a particular


occurrence of a situation or a unique, definite moment of time. The sentences below
exemplify the two uses:

(24) a) (i) Cats are widespread


(ii) The cat is widespread
(iii) *A cat is widespread
(iv) Milk is good for the bones

b) (i) Tigers eat meat


(ii) The tiger eats meat
(iii) A tiger eats meat

c) (i) A lion has a bushy tail


(ii) Lions have a bushy tail
(iii) The lion has a bushy tail

(25) (i) My brother/Michael drinks wine with his dinner


(ii) The milkman calls every Monday/on Mondays

We have argued so far that non-stative predicates in the simple present tense in
English will (always) result in a habitual reading of the simple present tense (cf. examples in
(25). The assumption is presumptuous, to say the least, since the examples in (24 b i-iii) do
not have a habitual reading but rather a generic reading, although the predicates qualify
aspectually as non-stative predicates. So what is the difference, if there is any, between
generic and habitual sentences? Moreover, the examples in (24a) and (24c) are basic stative
predicates and they are also characterized as generic. These are the questions that we would
like to answer in the next subchapter.
2.3.1. We are already familiar with the distinction between stage-level and individual-level
predicates due to Carlson (1977). He shows that the distinction between the two types of
predicates has ramifications in the grammar of English. Lately, it has been shown that this
distinction appears widely in language constituting covert grammatical categories in some
languages (e.g. Chinese) (Smith 1991).
Individual level predicates denote relatively stable/permanent properties. Stage-level
predicates speak of events and occurrences that have a distinctly temporal tenor (i.e. they
describe situations that are restricted in time and space). In general, verbs that may take the
progressive form refer to stage-level interpretations of their subject nominals, describing
transitory/non-permanent properties or situations.
The predicates so differentiated are selective as far as the type of referents to which
they apply is concerned. Individual-level predicates select object-level and kind-level
individuals (i.e. individuals). Stage level predicates apply to stages of individuals.
From an aspectual point of view, as we can see, generic sentences (see 24a-c) are
based on either basic eventive verbs or basic lexical states describing relatively stable
properties of their subject nominals ; the habitual sentences (25) are mostly based on
eventive predicates. They are described as characterizing sentences. Nevertheless, a few
more subtle distinctions are to be taken into consideration.
Generally speaking, habitual sentences , also known as derived statives, are based on
predicates that are basically characterized as stage-level predicates, in particular eventive
16

predicates, ; they express dispositions, indicating a potential for an individual (object-level)


to have stage properties, since they denote generalizations over events of the same type over a
period of time. In most sentences there is a frequency adverb (e.g. every day, sometimes,
usually, never, on Mondays, etc) that would support the habitual reading, or, sometimes,
frequency may be expressed by a plural or mass noun in object position, as in (25) or (26)
below:

(26) (i) The milkman calls every Monday/on Mondays


(ii) I buy my dresses at Harrods
(iii) We eat very little bread.
(iv)My wife always comes to watch me when I play for England.
(v)My sister smokes.

As Dowty (1979) observes: Even when we predicate them of an individual at a


particular time, it is really not a property that individuals current stage has at that moment
that makes them true, but our total experience with previous stages of that individual. We
can truthfully assert that John is in the habit of smoking if we have identified a suitable
number of past occasions on which Johns stage-smoking was true. Such a broad and
pragmatically vague interval presumably also includes a number of future instances of Johns
stage property of smoking (Dowty 1979:279).
Habitual sentences are semantically stative, they apply to an object level individual,
who participates in the pattern of events. The predicates underlying habitual sentences are
dynamic predicates at the basic level of classification but their temporal schemata are stative:
they consist of an undifferentiated period rather than successive stages.
On the other hand, as Smith (1991:42) remarks, habitual sentences do not have all the
syntactic characteristics of basic-level states. Thus, habitual sentences are good with agent-
oriented adverbials, embedding under verbs like persuade, appearance in pseudo-cleft do
sentences and imperatives. The examples illustrate some of these features:

(27) (i) What Mary does is play tennis every Friday.


(ii) I persuaded Mary to play tennis every Friday.

Generic sentences are commonly viewed as analytical sentences, i.e. sentences that
are true by virtue of the meaning of the terms. That means (roughly) that generic sentences
state that a particular property or relation expressed by the predicate holds true of the entity
denoted by the subject noun phrase. The subject noun phrase denotes kind-level (24a) or
object-level individuals (24b)
It is already a well-known fact that traditional grammars labeled generic sentences as
universal/eternal truths, timeless truths or omnipresent sentences. What is actually meant
by these labels is the fact that they are a-temporal, i.e. from the point of view of their time
specification they do not specify a particular moment or interval of time.
For a long time, an important aspect of generic sentences has been related to the use
of the generic present. The contribution of the Simple Present in generic sentences amounts
to specifying that the state is valid/holds now, which means that the UT-T is placed within
the AS-T/EV-T.
In certain contexts (see examples in 24a), there seems to be a very strong interrelation
between the generic interpretation of the noun phrases and the generic reading of the verb
phrase (ultimately the clause/the sentence), interrelation that will be apparent in the
presentation that follows.
17

Linguists (e.g. Krifka, et al. 1995:2) claim that generic sentences are true of some
particular entities, namely kinds. Hence, genericity can be identified with reference to kind
and the NPs used are kind-referring NPs or sometimes called generic NPs7. The sentences in
(23a) above are instances of this type of genericity.
Kind referring NPs are NPs that may co-occur with kind-level predicates such as: die
out, be widespread, be extinct, be in short supply, be common, be indigenous to/in short
supply/everywhere, come in all sizes, etc. These NPs refer rigidly to a kind-level individual
and the predicate attributes a property to it that cannot be distributed to the members of the
kind, i.e. they make singular statements about a particular kind.8 Such statements have been
called particular/proper kind predications (PKP) (Ter Meulen, 1995: 345, Link, 1995:358))
or definite (or specific) generics (D-generics) (Krifka 1987). They are characterized as being
descriptive generalizations. One important characteristic of this type of generic statements is
that the predicate (VP) may be progressive, attributing a gradual change in a property to a
kind (e.g. Elephants are dying out (Ter Meulen 1995:346)).
Kind referring expressions are bare plurals, definite singular NPs and mass nouns, but
as the example in (24a iii) above indicates, not indefinite NPs, i.e. indefinite NPs are not
considered kind-referring expressions (i.e. they cannot function as names for kinds).
Nevertheless, all traditional grammars mention indefinite NPs as one of the
expressions that may occur in generic sentences as the examples in (24b,c), repeated under
(28) for convenience, show:

(28) (i) Lions have a bushy tail


(ii) The lion has a bushy tail
(iii) A lion has a bushy tail
(iv) Tigers eat meat
(v) The tiger eats meat
(vi) A tiger eats meat

It is not difficult to notice that the predicates qualify as basic stage level predicates re-
categorized as individual level predicates. In point of eventuality type, the predicates in the
examples in (28i-iii) are basic state predicates, while those in (28iv-vi) are dynamic
predicates, basically.
The examples in (28) report a kind of general property of individuals that constitute
members (object-level individuals) of the kind, and represents the second type of genericity,
namely characterizing sentences or simply generic sentences, as they express generalizations.
Such statements are known in the literature as the characteristic kind of predication (CKP)
(Ter Meulen 1995) or i-generics (i.e. indefinite/non-specific) (Krifka 1987).
Other common terms for characterizing sentences are gnomic, dispositional
general or habitual. Kind-denoting (generic) NPs may also occur in characterizing
sentences (see 28) and the sentences describe a general/essential or default property which
holds for the specimens (i.e. object level individuals) of the kind. Often this is expressed
explicitly by an adverbial such as: usually, always, generally, etc.

7
We are already familiar with the distinction made by Carlson (1977) between individuals (that may be objects or kinds) and stages of
individuals (spatio-temporal slices of individuals). Kind-level individuals have certain peculiarities as compared to more normal individuals,
i.e. kinds can be here and there ( they are continuous in space, according to Zemach (1975), they are non-sortals), whereas normal
individuals (object-level individuals) are generally confined to one location at a given time ( they are bound in space, according to Zemach
(1975), they are sortals. For a complete characterization see also Ileana Baciu, Functional Categories in English, 2004.
8
In the sentences in (23a) we have the intuition that the truth or falsity of the statements has nothing whatsoever to do with predicating
widespread or everywhere, for instance, to any particular cats at all. That is to say, intuitively, we could not paraphrase (23a (i)) as Puffy is
widespread, Duffy is widespread,.therefore cats are widespread. With the examples in (23 b,c), on the other hand, where the predicate
have a bushy tail/eat meat occurs, we have the intuition that the truth or falsity of the statement somehow involves the predication of having
a bushy tail/eating meat to particular lions. Again, in intuitive terms we might think that: Puffy has a bushy tail/eats meat,, Duffy has a
bushy tail/eats meat, etctherefore lions have a bushy tail/eat meat.
18

An important property of characterizing sentences is that they may be true even when
there are members of the kind which fail to have the property expressed by the predicate.
Characterizing generic sentences are stative sentences (they may be related to inherently
stative predicates or derived stative predicates (i.e. inherently dynamic/stage level predicates
coerced into statives). Habitual sentences will be taken to be included within the class of
characterizing generic sentences.
Both habitual/generic sentences, (see examples in (29)) which are related to
dynamic verbal predicates (drink, smoke, read, laugh, etc) and the so-called lexical
characterizing sentences which are related to inherently state predicates (have a bushy tail,
know, cost, weigh, love, fear, possess, have, own, etc) generalize over patterns of
events/properties ; the difference between the two is that while the former have an episodic
counterpart, the latter lack an episodic reading and while the former generalize over events,
the latter generalize over properties.
Characterizing sentences were assumed not to express accidental properties
(e.g.Dahl 1975 among others); they state properties that are essential, necessary, inherent or
analytic (Nunberg and Pan 1975). On the other hand, unlike d-generics, they are not
descriptive generalizations but normative ones. (Dahl 1975).
Characterizing sentences put no limitation on what types of NPs may occur in them.
We can find proper names, definite NPs, indefinite NPs, quantified NPs, bare plural NPs.
Given the variety of NPs in characterizing sentences, the suggestion is that this type
of genericity should be analyzed as a sui generis type of sentence. (Krifka, Pelletier, Carlson,
Link, Chierchia 1995:6)

(29) (i) My brother/Michael drinks wine with his dinner


(ii) Italians drink wine with their dinner
(iii) Every Italian drinks wine with his dinner
(iv) An Italian drinks wine with his dinner

As already mentioned, there are certain elements that may enforce a characterizing,
generic reading such as adverbs like generally, usually, typically, often, sometimes
that lead to law-like characterizing sentences.
The above discussion has attempted to stress the fact that the locus of genericity can
be found both at the level of the NP and at the level of the clause.
With bare plural NPs and definite NPs related to kind-level predicates, the locus of
genericity is at the level of the respective NPs, since they are kind-referring expressions, as
well as, in the predicate, as the examples in (23 a) show; kind-referring expressions refer to a
specific type of individual, namely kinds, hence, generic bare plural NPs and definite NPs
will be interprepreted as having a specific reading.
With indefinite NPs, proper names, quantified NPs the locus of genericity is not in the
NP but rather in the sentence itself, i.e. these NPs cannot be considered kind-referring or
generic in and of themselves. They get a generic interpretation only when occurring in
characterizing (generic/habitual) sentences. This type of genericity is independent of verbal
predicates, i.e. the predicates may be both states and non-states and the contribution of the
Simple Present is essential.
The term generic sentence will be taken to refer to both types of generic phenomena,
although as we have seen there are differences between the two types..
The contexts that favor a characterizing generic reading are as follows: definitions,
proverbs, geographical statements, law-like, prescriptive statements, habituals:

(30) (i) An apple a day keeps the doctor away.


19

(ii) He who laughs last, laughs best.


(iii) A new broom sweeps clean.
(iv) Smooth waters run deep.
(v) Hydrogen is the lightest element
(vi) Oil floats on water.
(vii) Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius
(viii) In chess, bishops move diagonally.
(ix) London stands on the Thames.
(x) The Severn flows into the Atlantic.
(xi) A symphony has four movements
(xii) An Italian loves opera music.
(xiii) My dog chases cars.
(xiv) Mist and cloud usually render it impossible to see the sun rise from the
sea.

B.The Instantaneous/Reportive Simple Present Tense, is another value/use of the Simple


Present Tense. The general assumption is that this value is a marked use of the perfective
viewpoint in Present sentences (Smith 1991:241).
This use of the Simple Present Tense contrasts with the habitual/generic use in that it
describes a particular occurrence of an event. Under the instantaneous reading there is a
telescoping of the interval of time normally associated with the event to a point; what this
actually amounts to is that the situation denoted by the predicate is interpreted as
simultaneous with UT-T. Such sentences include perception and mental Achievements,
performatives, and, according to some grammarians, reportives of the dramatic, sportscasters
type (Smith 1991).
The instantaneous present is found in asseverations that use what are known as
performative verbs, namely verbs that themselves form part of the activity they report, i.e. the
event announced and the act of announcement are one. It would be more correct to speak of
performative sentences, since these verbs behave performatively only under some restrictive
conditions that will be apparent in the sentences below:

(31) (i) I hereby christen this ship Queen Mary.


(ii) I promise to help you
(iii) I resign.
(iv) I pronounce you man and wife.
(v) I declare the meeting open/adjourned/closed
(vi) We accept your offer.
(vii) I deny the charge.

To utter these sentences is to perform the acts reported by the predicate. Syntactically,
it is characteristic of performative statements to occur in the first person singular/plural and
to permit the insertion of hereby in front of the verb. The temporal characteristic of
performative sentences is straightforward: the utterance time and the event time are
simultaneous, this being part of the conditions on the use of such statements. Another
condition for the felicitous use of these sentences is that the particular persons and
circumstances in a given case must be appropriate for the invocation of the particular
procedure involved (Austin 1961:34).
Sentences including perception predicates are also used in the Simple Present. In such
cases these predicates are interpreted, aspectually, as achievements. Such sentences constitute
reports of instantaneous events, reflecting the special immediacy of perception. Reports of
20

mental Achievements are also of the same type. Consider the examples below, borrowed from
C. Smith (1991:153):

(32) (i) I see the moon.


(ii) I feel the current of the river
(iii) Oh, I see!
(iv) I understand.
(v) Yes, now I remember!

Running commentaries and demonstrations, such as the eyewitness broadcasts of


sportscasters, radio commentators, or reports of conjurors and demonstrators, informal
commentaries with preposed locatives are other instances of the instantaneous use of the
Simple Present:

(33) (i) Napier takes the ball and runs down the wing. He passes the ball to
Attwater. Attwater beats two men, he shoots. Its a goal!
(ii) he gets it in to Hewlett and hes fouled immediately by Malnati and
the rebound goes to Joe May.
(iii) Look, I take this card from the pack and place it under the handkerchief
so.
(iv) I place a bell jar over the candle, and after a few moments the water
gradually rises.
(v) There goes the bus/ Up she goes/Down she falls.

In these cases, the co-extensiveness between the time of utterance and the time of the
situation is subjective rather than objective: the events are presented as simultaneous with the
utterance time even if strictly speaking they are not. The commentaries are restricted to a
limited range of contexts where the speaker is specifically assigned the role of commentator.
The dramatic use of Simple Present sentences (also labelled as the timeless use or
imaginary use; grammarians often include this use under the past time value of the Simple
Present) refers to specific completed or terminated events. Such sentences are also
grammatical with an Accomplishment or Activity predicate and have a dramatic flavor. These
dramatic, reportive sentences telescope time. We understand them punctually, as though the
events take only an instant, regardless of their normal duration. The event denoted by the
predicate is described as perfective, but its time is not (directly) related to the speech event.9
This a-temporal status of such sentences require the dramatic interpretation.
Smith (1976:573)) argues that the reason that a dramatic interpretation is plausible
is that dramatic readings, by definition, have nothing to do with real time. The dramatic
framework gives one license to telescope duration so that completion can take place in a
single point in time.
As Smith (1991) and Huddleston & Pullum (2002) remark, such statements are found
in certain definable contexts such as a commentary (synopses) on a picture, book, movie,TV
programmes (in sentences introduced by in DP where DP refers to a book, a movie), as well
as in the stage directions of play scripts, focus on present existence of works created in the
past, captions in newspapers and to illustrations in books, chronicles of history, recipes.

9
In the previous subchapters we have extensively argued that the perfective interpretation is excluded for
present tense sentences
21

Below are some examples (borrowed from different sources: Smith 1991:154,
Stefanescu 1988:253, Giorgi and Pianesi, 1998:153, Huddleston & Pullum 2002: 130) that
instantiate the contexts of use just mentioned:

(34)
(i) Seth and Minnie come forward as far as the lilac clumpShe nudges
Minnie with his elbow.. (Eugene ONeill, Mourning Becomes Electra)
(ii)In Gone with the wind Scarlet writes a letter.
(iii) In the Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky draws his characters from the
sources deep in the Russian soil.
(iv) Like Rubens, Watteau is able to convey an impression of warm, living
flesh by the merest whiff of colour.
(v) Aboriginal protesters occupy part of the old Parliament House in Camberra
yesterday .(photographic caption)
(vi) Roman soldiers nail Jesus onto the Cross (description of a painting)
(vi) 1434 Cosimo de Medici begins his familys control of Florence
1435 Congress Arras: Burgundians withdraw support from England, in
favour of France.

When discussing an artist and his surviving work, we can talk about it from the
perspective of their present and potentially permanent existence rather than that of their past
creation. By contrast, when we are concerned with the act of creation itself, then the past tense
is required. Likewise, photographs, newspaper captions, drawings can give a permanence to
what would otherwise be a transient historical occurrence.
A very important remark is in order here. As many linguists and grammarians have
noticed before, sentences without a frequency adverb may receive a specific/existential or
generic interpretation depending on context and world knowledge.
There are some elements of the linguistic context that may help us distinguish between
the two readings: habituality/genericity may be indicated by a bare plural object/subject,
while an instantaneous reading can be rendered by means of an indefinite or definite
object/subject or by an instantaneous perception verb like Look. Compare the sentences
below:

(35) a) Swallows fly higher than doves (generic)


a) Look, the swallows fly higher than the doves.

a) Carters dog chases cars. (habitual)


b) Theres a red car whizzing down the road and Carters dog chases it.

a) He scores goals.
b) He scores a goal.

C. Simple Present referring to Past (Historical present)


The Present Tense can also be used in reference to the past. What is past is the time of
the described situation; the Simple Present performs its usual function, namely it places the
UT-T within the AS-T, while EV-T precedes AS-T/UT-T.
According to a wide number of grammarians (Huddleston and Pullum, 2002, Leech,
1976, Jespersen, 1933 etc), the historical present is best treated as a story-tellers licence,
whereby past happenings are portrayed or imagined as if they were going on at the present
22

time. The Present Tense is used for past time situations in informal conversational narration
or in fiction.
Very often the present tense is accompanied, with apparent incongruity, by an
adverbial indicating past time or it may alternate with a Past Tense form. Consider the
examples below, borrowed from Leech (1976) and Huddleston & Pullum, (2002):

(36) (i) At that moment in comes a messenger from the Head Office, telling me the
boss wants to see me in an hurry.
(ii) There was I playing so well even I couldnt believe it and along comes this
kid and keeps me off the table for three frames.

This use of the simple present tense can be viewed as a metaphorical use, a device
conventionally used (in a wide number of languages, actually) to make the narrative appear
more vivid by assimilating it to the here and now of the speech event.
It is customary for novelists and story-writers to use the Past Tense to describe
imaginary/fictional events. Some writers10 deviate from normal practice and use the Present
in imitation of the popular historical present of spoken narrative. In such cases, transposition
into the fictional present is a device of dramatic heightening; it puts the reader in the place of
someone actually witnessing the events as they are described. Consider the following excerpt
from Bleak House by Dickens:

(37) Mr Tulkinghorn glances over his spectacles and begins again lower down. My
Lady carelessly and scornfully abstracts her attention. Sir Leicester in a great chair
looks at the fire and appears to have a stately liking for the legal repetitions and
prolixities as ranging among national bulwarks. It happens that the fire is hot where
my Lady sits and that the handscreen is more beautiful than useful, being priceless but
small.

There are cases when the use of the present tense alternates with the simple past tense.
Poutsma (1926) remarks that shifting from the past to present is often practiced in
picturing a series of incidents and circumstances which is to serve as a background for the
representation of subsequent events. An example would be the following excerpt from
Thackerays The Virginians:

(38) His lordship had no sooner disappeared behind the trees of the forest, but Lady
Randolph begins to her confidante the circumstances of her early life. The first
was she had made a private marriage..

Declerck (1991:69) notes that, in narratives, the shift of temporal perspective may not
only be from the past to the present but also from the post-present (i.e. future) to the present,
as in the example below:

(39) I can well imagine what will happen. I can see it happen before me: John sets
out his plans, Mary disagrees, they start shouting at each other and in no time
there is a terrible row. Ive seen it happen often enough to know that it is going to
end like this.

10
Examples of writers employing the present tense in fiction writing would be Camus, Dickens, Thackerey ,
George Elliot, Joyce Cary, Thomas Mann, to mention just a few.
23

Some grammarians (e.g. Huddleston&Pullum 2002:131) include here another context in


which the present tense extends into past time territory, namely news headlines, spoken or
written, as in the examples in (37) below. The texts beneath the headlines use past tenses but
in headlines the Simple Present is shorter and more vivid. It is considered that this might also
be regarded as a metaphorical extension of the reportive use of the present tense:

(40) (i) UN aid reaches the stricken Bosnian town of Srebrenica


(ii) Trade Unions seek assurances

A different kind of historical present is found with verbs of communication as in the


examples below (borrowed from Leech, 1976:7, and Huddleston &Pullum, 2002:131):

(41) (i)The ten oclock news says that its going to be cold.
(ii)I hear we are getting some new neighbours.
(iii)Your correspondent A.D. writes in the issue of February 1st that.
(iv)I gather from Angela that youre short of money again.

According to Huddleston & Pullum (2002) the use of the Present Tense to report past time
occurrences serves to background the communication occurrences themselves and to
foreground their content, expressed in the subordinate clause. The main clause is assumed to
provide the evidence for believing or entertaining this content. The primary purpose is
therefore to impart this content or to seek confirmation of it. The verbs most commonly used
are: say, tell, inform, hear, gather, understand i.e. verbs referring to the productive or
receptive end of the process of communication Given that the main clause is backgrounded, it
does not contain adjuncts or temporal specification.
D.Present Tense with Future value ( the Futurate) . The Simple Present may be used to
describe future situations . The fact that the Simple Present still means present is rendered
clear by the possibility of having different time specifications within he same clause, as the
examples below (42) indicate (H&P 2002:133):

(42) The match now starts next Monday, not Tuesday, as I said in my letter.

The two adjuncts specify different time intervals: now specifies UT-T/AS-T while
next Monday specifies the time of the future situation, i.e. EV-T.
The presence of the present tense morpheme has immediate consequences on the
interpretation of the future situation assigning it a high degree of certainty, i.e. it attributes to
the future the same degree of certainty that we normally accord to present or past events
(Leech 1971: 60). This entails that the futurate construction is subject to severe constraints
among which we mention the following:

(i) the presence of future time adverbials,


(ii) the aspectual type of the situation (state predicates are excluded in such
sentences ) and, last but not least
(iii) the future situation is determinable from the state of the world now, that is to
say that the clause must involve something that can be assumed to be known
already in the present.
24

In the example above the present tense morpheme and the adverb now give the time of
the arrangement or schedule. It is generally assumed that with the Simple Present the
arrangement is felt to be an impersonal or collective one, made, for example, by a committee,
a court of law or some un-named authority.
The most widely used predicates belong to the class of non-durative event verbs in
particular verbs of directed motion such as go, leave, come, meet, aspectual verbs such as
begin, start, end, etc.
According to grammarians, the most common uses involve :

(i) statements about the calendar or cyclic events,


(ii) scheduled events (regarded as unalterable) and
(iii) subordinate clauses introduced by conditional and adverbial conjunctions.

Consider the examples below borrowed from different sources (Leech 1971,
Huddlestone and Pullum, 2002):

(43) (i) Tomorrow is Sunday./Next Christmas falls on a Thursday/The next


high tide is around 4 this afternoon/When is the next full moon?
(ii) The next Kevin Costner film opens at the Eldorado on Saturday./When do the
lectures end this year?/She is president until next May/Her case comes before the
magistrate next week./The Chancellor makes his budget speech tomorrow
afternoon/We start for Istanbul tonight.
(iii) When the spring comes , the swallows will return./Jeeves will announce the guests
as they arrive./If you dont do better next time you are fired/Either he plays according
to the rules or he doesnt play at all/Ill tell you if it hurts.

The set of examples in (43i) reflect the use of the Simple Present for recurrent events
whose time of occurrence can be scientifically calculated, hence it can be included under what
is currently known. By contrast, the simple present is not used for future weather since such
events are not conceived of as being within the domain of what is known (Huddlestone and
Pullum, 2002:132). Weather forecasts are rendered by means of going to or shall/will
In (43ii) we have examples that describe situations that have already been arranged,
scheduled. The element of current schedule or arrangement is seen in the contrast in (44)
below (Huddlestone and Pullum, 2002:132):

(44) (i) Australia meets Sweden in the Davis Cup final in December
(ii) ???Australia beats Sweden in the Davis Cup final in December

The sentence in (44i) is quite natural in a context where Australia and Sweden have already
qualified for the final. The use of the Present in (44ii) is unnatural, since the sentence conveys
that the result itself has already been arranged. It is to be noted that subjective certainty is not
enough; knowing the skill, experience and past performances of the team, one might feel
certain about the result of the match but this does not sanction the Simple Present.
The use of the Simple Present in (43iii) is not just a requirement of the syntactic
pattern, but has its base in a contrast of meaning. In the dependent clauses mentioned, the
happening referred to is not a prediction, but a fact that is given. A conditional sentence, for
instance, has the structure If X is a fact, then I predict Y. (Leech 1971:60). Hence, the use
of the Simple Present with Future value is appropriate to indicate that the consequence of the
condition being fulfilled it is inevitable or already decided, as in (43iii).
25

To sum up, the key to the Simple Present with Future value is that it represents
FUTURE AS FACT, that it attributes to the future the same degree of certainty that we
normally accord to present or past events.( Leech 1971:60).

2.2. Simple Past Tense Sentences


The Simple Past Tense (or Preterite, as it is sometimes called), formally represented
by the morpheme ed , is primarily used to express that a situation is located at a past
interval of time, i.e. a time which precedes the Time of Utterance (i.e. UT-T AFTER AS-
T/EV-T). Aspectually, the simple past tense sentence is interpreted as perfective (i.e. AS-
T=EV-T)
Dynamic events in the simple past are not as severely constrained as events in the
Simple Present. In the Simple Past the situations described may refer to one particular
occurrence of that situation an existential reading, or to a series of events of the same type
a habitual reading . Compare the examples below ( Huddlestone and Pullum, 2002) :

(45) (i) I do The Times crossword. Present: habitual reading


(ii) I did The Times crossword. Past: existential or habitual reading

The interpretation in (45i) as a dynamic/existential situation is ruled out, but such an


interpretation is natural for (45ii) which can refer to a doing of the crossword as readily as to
habitual doing of the crossword.
With the Past Tense, therefore, greater importance attaches to adjuncts and context in
selecting between the two readings. The addition of a locating/deictic adverb like yesterday
induces a dynamic/existential interpretation, while the addition of a frequency adverbial like
regularly or whenever I have the time yields a habitual interpretation.
Sentences including a state predication in the Simple Past Tense (perfective
aspectually) are flexible in interpretation (depending on context): such sentences may convey
an open interpretation or a closed interpretation. What this means is that the time of the
event/situation need not wholly coincide with AS-T. Consider the example below:

(46) I lived in London.

If we add an expression like in those days the interpretation would be that I no


longer live in London, but if we expand it to I already lived here in London at that time we
get an interpretation where I still live in London. This also confirms the importance of
adverbs and context in selecting the intended reading.
Traditional grammars have identified different values or uses of the Simple Past tense,
which are given below.
A. The Deictic/existential value
As already mentioned, the Simple Past Tense , is primarily used to express that a
situation, viewed as closed, is located at a past interval of time, i.e. a time which precedes the
Time of Utterance. The temporal/aspectual representation is UT-T after AS-T/EV-T.
More often than not this past time interval is explicitly stated by locating or frame
time adverbials (deictic, referential and anaphoric) like: yesterday, last week, two
minutes/days/months ago, at 5 oclock, at noon, once, when, , which are deictically
interpreted. (i.e. relative to the moment of utterance now). Hence, at the time of utterance, the
content of the event or state located on the past time axis is recollected. Together with the
tense of the predication, these adverbs contribute to the specification of the AS-T/EV-T.
In this case the Past Tense is used as an absolute tense, and the value or use is known
as the deictic/existential value/use. From an aspectual point of view, the events are viewed as
26

perfective (i.e. with the endpoint properties of the situation types). In these contexts the Past
Tense is interpreted as a specific tense with existential value.
Curme (1931:357) remarked that if this [tense form] is employed, the time of the
act must be stated accurately or indicated clearly by the context, so that the idea of
indefiniteness or generality is entirely excluded.
Leech (1976:9) remarks that There are two elements of meaning involved in the
commonest use of the Past Tense. One basic element of meaning is: the happening takes
place before the present moment. This means that the present moment is excluded.[.].
Another element of meaning is: the speaker has a definite time in mind. This specific time in
the past is characteristically named by an adverbial expression accompanying the Past Tense
verb.
As already mentioned time adverbs, locating or otherwise, come in different forms:
PP (at five, in September/1986, on Easter Monday, after/before breakfast), NP/DP ( once, this
Monday/week/month, tomorrow, yesterday, last week), CP (after/before John arrived, when
she left). Consider the examples below:

(47) (i) Haydn was born in 1732.


(ii) I thought once he would marry.
(iii) I misplaced my glasses a moment ago and cant find them.
(iv) The glacier moved only about 50 meters during the last century

The aspectual-temporal representation of deictic Past Tense sentences is given in (48)


below. The representation shows that the past tense morpheme orders the UT-.T after AS-T.
Since Aspect has no morphological content, EV-T temporally coincides with AS-T (i.e. EV-
T=AS-T) which means that the entire situation is viewed in its entirety from its initial to its
final boundary; as a consequence, the ET-T precedes UT-T. The adverbial restricts the
reference of the past time event, in our particular case AS-T/EV-T since AS-T and EV-T are
co-temporal:

(48) (a) Haydn was born in 1732


EV-T/AS-T UT-T
(i) UT-T after AS-T
(ii) AST = EV-T
[[]][]
in 1732
UT-T after AS-T/EV-T

(b) I met Susan yesterday/ before Christmas

EV-T/AS-T UT-T
(iii) AS-T = EV-T
..[[]][]..>
(iv) UT-T after AS-T/EV-T yesterday

(v) TP` AS-T=EV-T BEFORE CHRISTMAS


AS-T/EV-T UT-T
UT-T T
[.][][]..>
T AspP CHRISTMAS
27

after

AS-Ti Asp

AS-Ti PP Asp VP

P DP
in 1732 EV-Ti VP
before X-mas
yesterday

The syntactic temporal-aspectul representation of the sentences shows that the


situation occurred within an interval located in the past, since the UT-T is ordered after the
AS-T- itself co-temporal with EV-T (expressed by co-indexation).
The PP further restricts the reference of the AS-T (=EV-T) by locating the time span
within the time designated by the expression 1732/beforeChristmas/yesterday. The role of the
preposition is to order the two time denoting arguments, i.e AS-T/EV-T and the time adverb
(Christmas, 1932, yesterday).
In the case of the preposition IN (or at, on) the ordering relation is one of central
coincidence. The event designated by the VP occurred within the time span indicated by the
time adverb .
Prepositions like BEFORE/AFTER also restrict the reference of AS-T. In this case the
relation established between AS-T and the time designated by the time adverb is a relation of
non-central coincidence as illustrated above.
Notice that bare NP adverbs like yesterday, June 10, last week, this
Monday/year/week, are locating adverbs as well, but they are not introduced by an overt
preposition. They are integrated in the model by assuming that they are concealed PPs headed
by a silent preposition () expressing central coincidence, i.e. the event described is
contained within the time designated by the time adverb .
In sum, the PP ultimately serves to provide the location time for the event described
by Haydn be born/ I meet Susan. Notice that this analysis explains why in a Simple Past
Tense sentence, the event is portrayed in its entirety as including its initial and final bounds
(perfective aspect). The described event is viewed in its entirety, because the AS-T coincides
with the EV-T, from its initial to its final boundary.
Simple Past Tense predication types also occur with duration adverbials, such as: for
two weeks, for a moment, in two hours, from two to four, six weeks, until 2001, from 1924..
These adverbs do not as such locate the situation but rather specify the duration/the temporal
size or the boundaries of the AS-T/EV-T. In (49) below the adverb in three weeks specifies
the duration of the event described by the VP Howard read the book. The preposition IN
specifies the duration of the event described by the VP Howard read the book by establishing
a relation of central coincidence between the AS-T/EV-T and the time span denoted by three
weeks. The UT-T is ordered by the Past Tense morpheme after AS-T/EV-T:

(49) (i) Howard read the book in three weeks


EV-T/AS-T UT-T

(ii) [][]..>
3 weeks
28

Time adverbial specification may be missing in a Past Tense sentence in those cases
in which the adverbial can be inferred from the larger linguistic context:

(50) Susan: This time last year I was in London.


Howard: How curious! I was there too.

Howardss answer is correct without a Past Tense adverbial because the missing
adverb can be equated with the adverb mentioned in the preceding sentence (i.e., this time last
year).
Another case in which a Simple Past Tense sentence can occur without a temporal
adverb includes sentences like the following:

(51) Joan has received a proposal of marriage. It took us completely by


surprise.
I have seen him already. He came to borrow a hammer.
Ive seen him today. I met him in the park.
I have tasted lobster once, but I didnt like it.
I have been making inquiries. It was not difficult. The whole community is in
an uproar.

In such contexts, the Present Perfect is used to introduce an event that took place
sometime before the moment of speech; once an anterior frame of reference is established it is
natural to resume reference to the already introduced event by the Simple Past Tense, which is
thus uniquely identified. (Leech 1971, Stefanescu 1988, etc)
The examples above are similar to the ones below in the sense that it is context again -
extra-linguistic this time - that allows for the use of the Past Tense.
Questions about particulars of a situation e.g. when, where how, why it occurred or
who was involved in the situation, or sentences that provide further details concerning a
previously mentioned situation require the use of the Past Tense. Fenn (1987: 168) calls this
occurrence focus.

(52) I cant remember where I bought that vase.


Just tell me how you did it.
Hes not with us any more. You mean he resigned? No, he was thrown
down an elevator shaft in Goodge Street. (Fenn 1987:175)
How did you break your arm?
When did your father leave for England?

In some cases the situation described by the sentence is uniquely identifiable for the
simple reason that it is unique. For a full interpretation of such sentences the hearer is
supposed to be familiar with the referents of the relevant NPs:

(53) (i) Byron died in Greece.


(ii) Christopher Columbus discovered the New World.
(iii) Hindenburg directed German strategy during World War I.

Finally, the Simple Past Tense can be used without a definite specification when a
comparison is drawn between present and past conditions (paraphrasable by used to):
29

(54) (i) England is not what it was (what it used to be)


(ii) Even dogs are not what they were (what they used to be)
(iii) Life is not so pleasant as it was (as it used to be)
(iv) He is not so active as he was. (used to be)

In all these contexts the Past Tense is characterized as being indefinite or rather non-specific
and its value is existential.

B. Narrative value.
Beside its deictic/existential usage, the Simple Past Tense is used non-deictically and
without a temporal adverb in the narrative mode. The situations narrated happened before the
moment of speech but this moment is not given and has to be identified as part of the
information associated with the way narratives function. Here are three examples of which the
first constitute the opening paragraphs of J. Joyces Eveline and W. Goldings Lord of the
Flies:

(55) She sat at the window watching the evening invade the avenue. Her head was
leaning against the window curtains, and in her nostrils was the color of dusty cretonne.
She was tired.

(56) The boy with fair hair lowered himself down the last few feet of the rock and
began to pick his way toward the lagoon.

(57) One morning the three sisters were together in the drawing room. Mary was
sewing, Lucy was playing on the piano and Jane was doing nothing; then suddenly the door
opened and John burst into the room, exclaiming. (Jespersen 1969:264)

Notice the way the progressive is used in these examples: the progressive forms of the
predicate form a temporal frame around an action denoted by the non-progressive form. In a
connected narrative, therefore, the progressive often occurs in a description of the general
situation, which serves as setting or background to what is expressed by means of the simple
tenses.
Linguists and grammarians have also identified other uses of the simple past tense:
the habitual use;
the past perfect use;
the present time use also known as attitudinal past (i.e. past reference in
combination with politeness/diffidence)

C. Habitual Past
Whenever Past Tense combines with frequency adverbials, the reading of that
sentence is habitual. The examples below illustrate full habitual sentences of several basic-
level situation types (Smith 1991:87):

(58) (i) Sam rode his bicycle on Fridays.


(ii) Will wrote a report every week.
(iii) Jim was often unemployed.
(iv) He always arrived on time.
(v) He never knocked on the door.
30

However the habitual interpretation often arises without a frequency adverbial,


especially if context and world knowledge makes it reasonable (Smith 1991:87). Consider the
examples below:

(59) (i) Susan rode a bicycle last summer.


(ii) Marcia fed the cat that year.
(iii) Lynn moved last year.

None of the situations described above would generally take an entire year, yet the
sentences would probably receive different interpretations. While riding a bicycle and feeding
the cat are ordinary and likely to be taken as habitual, moving is the sort of event that doesnt
take place often and cannot be thought of as taking up one year. Hence the sentence in (59iii)
would receive a specific/deictic interpretation.
In a habitual sentence such as the one in (60) the adverb at noon is part of the
frequency adverbial phrase at noon every day (which specifies the repeated EV-T of the
predication) while the adverbial during his childhood specifies the past interval during which
the recurring event took place (and indicates, in conjunction with the Past Tense, the AS-
T/EV-T of the predication):

(60) John got up at noon every day during his childhood

As is the case with the present tense habituals, the determiner of the frequency
adverbial in the past tense habituals must be indefinite:

(61) (i) They went to the movies three times a week


(ii) *They went to the movies three times the week

The habitual reading of a sentence may also be conveyed by the plural form of the
direct object, as indicated in (62):

(62) (i) Fido chased cars (habitual reading)


(ii) Fido chased a car / Fido chased the car (non-habitual reading)

The progressive form may also occur in sentences interpreted as habitual / iterative
due to the presence of a frequency adverb. Consider the following examples borrowed from
Jespersen (1969:265):

(63) (i) Every morning, when he was having his breakfast his wife asked
him for money.
(ii) Every morning, when he was having his breakfast his dog was
staring at him.
(iii) He looked at her repeatedly when she was not looking.
(iv) Whenever I looked up he was looking.

In all these cases the progressive serves as background/time frame for the situation denoted by
the simple tense form.

D) The Simple Past Tense with Past Perfect Value

Consider the sentences below (Stefanescu, 1988)


31

(64) (i) He enjoyed and admired the sonnets of Shakespeare


(ii) He knocked and entered /
(iii) He shaved and listened to the radio

In (64i) we have a description of two state situations; states are characterized as being
unbounded and durative, hence the sentence is understood to describe two simultaneous
states. On the other hand, the sentence in (64ii) describes two eventualities (a semelfactive
and an achievement both characterized as non-durative) that can be performed only
sequentially (as a rule, one first knocks and then enters). Now, in this case, the eventuality
that is interpreted as taking place before another eventuality in the past has a past perfect
value we have to do with a shifted reading of the Simple Past Tense in the case of events.
The example in (64iii) is ambiguous between a sequential reading and a simultaneous
reading. This is due to the Aktionsart type of the predicates: activities. The two readings can
be identified by means of inserting disambiguating elements such as an adverbial or a
conjunction:

(65) (i) He shaved while he listened/was listening to the radio.


(simultaneous reading)
(ii) He shaved and then he listened to the radio. (sequential reading)

Temporal relations between two consecutive events can be explicitly marked either
by: (i) an adverbial or conjunction or by (ii) the anteriority indicating auxiliary have or (iii)
both. Consider the following examples:

(66) (i) Home Secretary J.R. Clynes, a Scot, greeted the little princess
BEFORE Nurse Beevans took her back to her mothers bedside.
(ii) It occurred to me AFTER I ground the coffee that what I really
wanted was ice tea.
(iii) He dropped the letter BEFORE he went away.
(iv) I tucked the newspapers under my arm. THEN I fished my keys out
of the recesses of my pocket and leaned forward.
(v) John had left when I arrived.
(vi) The police arrived after the bomb had exploded.

In the sentences in (66) above the temporal adjunct clauses modify the AST-T of the
main clause. That is, the spatiotemporal predicates BEFORE/AFTER establish an ordering
relation between the AST-T (itself co-temporal with the EV-T) of the main clause and the
AST-T (itself co-temporal with EV-T) of the adjunct clause. The schema below illustrates the
ordering relation between the two events in example (66iii) above relative to each other and
relative to the UT-T:

AS-T1/ UT-T
EV-T1 AS-T2 / EV-T 2
(67) [][][].>

The schema indicates that the past event described by the matrix (his dropping the letter) is
ordered before the past event described by the subordinate clause (his going away). The
Assertion Times of the two events are each co-indexed with the respective Event Times, the
32

events described being viewed in their entirety as including both the initial and final boundary
(perfective ). Generally, after- and before-clauses semantically require closed main clauses.
Relative to UT-T, the matrix event is past, given the tense marker ed which orders
the UT-T AFTER AS-T1. AS-T1 of the matrix clause is also assumed to be the external
argument of the spatiotemporal predicate BEFORE, ordering it before AS-T2 of the adjunct
clause. The syntactic representation below illustrates the temporal schema:

(68) TP

UT-T T

T AspP
after

AS-Ti Asp

AS-Ti PP Asp VP

P ZeitP
BEFORE EV-Ti VP
drop the letter

The above representation confirms the observations of a large number of grammarians and
linguists11 according to whom all temporal conjunctions (after, before, until, since) can be
paraphrased by means of a prepositional phrase with the word time (at which) . Roughly the
paraphrase for the adjunct clause in (66iii) is before the time at which he went away.
The approach put forth by Demirdache&Uribe-Etxebarria (2004) adopts this point of view,
incorporating temporal adjunct clauses within their model assuming that they are PPs. The
head of the PP (a spatiotemporal predicate) takes as internal argument a temporal DP/Zeit
Phrase, modified by a restrictive relative clause roughly [PP before/after [ZeitP the time [CP i
[CP he went away ti]]]]. The CP acts as a relative clause restricting the reference of the time
span. (expressed as the implicit ZeitP)
A notable exception to the above observation is when-clauses. In old English, when
was used as a question word or indefinite adverb and only later developed its use as a
conjunction (Mitchell 1987:402). What is meant is that when, unlike after or before do not
have the overt syntax of PP. (Compare: Sue left before/when Howard arrived vs Sue left
before noon/ *when noon). It is to be noted, nevertheless that when clauses, as well, express a
temporal relation in the domain established by the matrix clause. Consider the examples
below (Declerck 1991:99):

(69) (i) It happened when the police were there

11
These observations are supported by diachronic evidence. In old English, after, before were not used as
conjunctions. Instead a prepositional phrase of the form after then that was used. (see Visser 1970:868)Apart
from the diachronic evidence, the prepositional origin of temporal conjunctions appears from the fact that, like
prepositional phrases, temporal clauses can be postmodifiers: e.g. (i) He felt very nervous during the days before
the examination; (ii) He felt very nervous during the days before the examination took place.
33

In the example above, when is equivalent to at a time when, so that (69) is a good
paraphrase of (69) (Declerck 1991:99)::

(69) (i) It happened [PPat [ZeitPthe time [CPwheni [TPthe police were there
ti]]]]

This paraphrases makes clear that the when clause locates the situation it describes at
the implicit time, that is simultaneous with the situation described by the matrix clause.
Demirdache&Uribe-Etxebarria (2004) integrate when-clauses into the model by
assuming that these time adjuncts are concealed PPs that is phrases that are headed by a
silent () preposition indicating central coincidence (within relation).
It has long been argued that the interpretation of when-clauses depends on viewpoint,
situation type and pragmatic factors (cf. Dowty 1979, Smith, 1984,1991, to mention just a
few). What we mean is that when-clauses are flexible, allowing several interpretations. When
seems not to impose any particular relation on situations. (unlike after which always requires
that the main clause have a closed interpretation). The situations presented may be taken as
simultaneous, overlapping or successive, depending on viewpoint and situation types.
Consider the examples below:

(60) (i) When the bell rang Mary was swimming.


(ii) When the bell rang Mary swam.
(iii) When he was a student he wrote poetry .
(iv) When he got the letter he burned it.
(v) *When he read the letter he burned it.
(vi) When he had read the letter he burned it.

(60i) has the reading that Marys swimming was already in progress at the time of the event
of bell ringing, and does not have another interpretation. The two situations are taken as
overlapping for a short interval. In contrast, (60ii) has the reading that the swimming began at
the time of the other event; the situations presented are taken as (somewhat) successive
(actually this is known as sloppy simultaneity), since the perfective clause is taken as
inceptive: given our world knowledge, the durative activity of swimming is conceptualized as
lasting longer than the event of bell ringing. (60iii) allows for a simultaneous interpretation
since both situations qualify as (homogeneous) states. As far as (60 iv) is concerned the
reading we obtain is that the two situations follow one another, the situation described in the
when-clause precedes the situation described by the main clause. This interpretation is valid
since getting a letter is viewed as falling under the ontological type achievement. The
example in (60v) does not allow for the same kind of interpretation, though, given world
knowledge this is the interpretation we favour. This is due again, to the type of situation in the
when-clause: reading a letter is a durative event (accomplishment). To render the sentence
semantically clear we would have to use a marker of anteriority, in this particular case the
auxiliary have (60vi).
E. The Simple Past Tense Referring to Present Time (Attitudinal Past)

The Past tense with no adverbial specification may be used in preference to the
Present in everyday conversation, being considered somewhat more polite. The
politeness/diffidence feature is also found with the past progressive. All the examples below
are interpretable as a more polite, more diffident version of the present tense versions of the
sentences:
34

(61) (i) A: Did you want to see me?


B: Yes, I hoped you would give me a hand with the painting.
(ii) I wanted to ask your advice.
(iii) I wondered whether you could help me out.
(iv) I thought I might come and see you later this evening.
(v) My daughter was hoping to speak to the Manager.

Leech (1971:11) makes the following comments on the exchange in (61i): The subject of
this exchange would probably be the present wishes of speaker B, despite the use of the past
tense. The Present and the Past are, in fact, broadly interchangeable in this context; but there
is quite an important difference in tone. The effect of the past tense is to make the request
indirect, and therefore more polite.The present tense (I hope) in this situation would
seem rather brusque and demanding it would make the request difficult to refuse without
impoliteness. The past tense, on the other hand, avoids the confrontation of wills. Politeness
also extends to the original question Did you want to see me? The logically expected tense
(Do you want me?) might have peremptory overtones, and would seem to say Oh, its you, is
it? You always want something!.
Along the same lines, Huddlestone & Pullum (2002) state that: The added politeness
associated with the preterite comes from avoiding explicit reference to the immediate present:
I distance myself slightly and thus avoid the risk of appearing too direct, possibly brusque.
According to Huddlestone & Pullum (2002:38) this conventional use of the preterite
is quite consistent with its basic past time meaning. In the absence of any contextual
indication that reference is made to some definite time in the non-immediate past, the time
referred to will be interpreted, in such sentences, as immediate past. As can be noticed, all the
situations described in the sentences are state situations, not eventive/dynamic situations and
the use of the past tense does not entail that the state no longer holds. Since there is nothing to
suggest that the state has ended, the interpretation will be that the state also obtains at
utterance time, so that all the sentences convey the present tense versions of the sentences.
The prototypical case (for either aspect) is a declarative with first person subject, but
3rd person subjects can be used when speaking on behalf of somebody else, as in (60v) above.
The same usage carries over into interrogatives, with a switch to 2nd person subject, as in
(60i).

3. The Perfect in English

3.0. The aim of this subchapter is to introduce and discuss important matters concerning
the characteristics of perfect sentences in English. Perfect constructions have a characteristic
set of temporal location and aspectual values, and appear in many languages. Traditionally,
the term referred to a tense of ancient Greek12. Nowadays it is used for constructions that have
a certain temporal and aspectual meaning, whether or not they involve tense. (Smith
1991:146).

12
In point of terminology there is a clear difference between the perfect and perfective. The former refers to a
construction with particular temporal and aspectual characteristics, while the latter refers to a closed grammatical
viewpoint. Both come from the Latin word perfectus the past participle of perficere (to carry, end, finish,
accomplish). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term perfect was first applied to the Latin tense
which denoted a completed action or event viewed in relation to the present and then with qualifications to any
tense expressing completed action; the first such use cited in OED is 1530. (Smith 1991:164). In English the
aspectual relations identified as PERFECTIVE and PERFECT are encoded as follows: PERFECTIVE is
encoded by the simple form,and the event is portrayed in its entirety, as including its endpoints, while the
perfect encodes the PERFECT which describes an event as completed prior to a reference time.
35

Comrie (1981a apud R.Declerck 1991:319) discards the present perfect from his
treatment of the tenses because, in his opinion , the present perfect does not differ from the
past tense in terms of time location; both tenses locate a situation as prior to he time of
utterance. The difference is claimed to be one of aspect only.: the present perfect implies
current relevance, the past tense does not. This position is roughly the same as that defended
by tradititional grammarians like Jespersen (1924:269) and Poutsma (1926:209) or, in recent
times, McCoard (1978:19).
In English the perfect is signalled by the auxiliary have, which obligatorily selects
the past participle form of the main verb. Perfect sentences appear with Present, Past and
Future reference time and with both a perfective and progressive viewpoints. One of the roles
of have is to carry the tense morpheme (present, past). The examples below illustrate
Present, Past and Future Perfects:

(62) (i) Now John has arrived.


(ii) Last Saturday John had (already) arrived.
(iii) Next Saturday John will have already arrived.

In all these cases the adverbials in conjunction with the tense morphemes (Present,
Past, Future) specify AS-T and the sentences describe a situation, namely [John arrive] as
occurring at a time before the specified Reference time (i.e. AS-T) This is the second role of
the aspectual auxiliary HAVE. So, one of the hallmarks of the Perfect is that it presents the
prior situation as related to a reference time.
In (62i) the adverb in combination with the present tense morpheme -s specify the
AS-T : AS-T overlaps the time of utterance (i.e. UT-T WITHIN AS-T ) and the event as
such is located within the interval prior to AS-T (i.e AS-T AFTER EV-T), yet also part of a
general period of the present which extends backward, not being limited to UT-T; hence the
situation is viewed as completed and within an interval that extends back from the moment of
speech the extended now interval (McCoard 1984).
The reference times of the next two examples (62ii, iii) are similarly extended in
some way to include the time of Johns arrival. Both sentences have unspecified Past and
Future reference times (i.e. UT-T precedes or follows AS-T); they also convey that the event
precedes the reference time ( i.e. AS-T AFTER EV-T ).
To conclude, the situation described in a perfect sentence is viewed as completed in
relation to a reference time ( our AS-T) which itself can be located in the present, past or
future.
As already mentioned, the contribution of the perfect to the meaning of the
sentence is that it makes available an AS-T distinct from the EV-T. The situation described by
the VP occurs prior to AS-T (due to the auxiliary have) while the tense morpheme , shows
that AS-T is concomitant/before /after the time of Utterance i.e.UT within/after/before AS-T ,
AS-T AFTER EV-T. In this case the time sphere is present/past/future; in all the cases the
claim is made about a time span that does not include the event at stake i.e the aspect
component says that AS-T is in the posttime of EV-T (i.e. AS-T AFTER EV-T) .
Since the perfect encodes the temporal relations between AS-T and EV-T placing the
former after the latter, we assume with Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (2004) that the
perfect can be analyzed as a marker of aspect represented as the spatio-temporal predicate
AFTER. The aspectual meaning of the perfect is thus closely related to its temporal meaning.
This interpretation perfectly accomodates the presence of perfect constructions in contexts
where the inflectional past tense cannot occur:

(63) (i) Sheila may have left last week


36

(ii) Susans having left early surprised everyone

Perfect sentences have a stative value They present a state of affairs (a situation) that
results from and is due to the prior situation, as illustrated by the previous examples and the
present perfect examples below. It is assumed (Giorgi &Pianesi 1998:97) that this is the
contribution of the perfect morphology.

(64) (i) Anabelle has gone to Paris.


(ii) They have built a cabin in the mountains.
(iii) Helen has danced with Tom (twice).
(iv) The ball has rolled down the hill.
(v) Susan has been sick.

In all these sentences the focus is on the (consequent ) state that obtains in the present,
a state which is due to the occurrence of the situation described by the VP.
To accommodate this state of fact Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria (2002)
decompose/split the VP, taking advantage of the fact that VPs can be recursive, as in (65):

(65) VP1
Ev-T1 VP1 Process <e>
V0 VP2
Ev-T2 VP2 Resultant State <e>

Each VP in (65) stands for a phase in the internal temporal structure of the event
described by the VP. VP1 represents the processual subpart of the event while VP2 stands for
the resultant state (or consequent state) after the culmination/termination of the process.
The third characteristic of Present Perfect sentences in English is that they ascribe to
their subjects a property that results from their participation in the situation (Smith 1991:148).
Lets consider the examples in 64(i,iii) above. The sentences assert that their subjects have
participated in the events described. We understand not only that an event of going to Paris
has taken place or that an event of dancing has occurred, the sentences attribute to their
respective subjects the property (experience) of having gone to London and the property
(experience) of having danced, that is to say in order for the subjects to receive the participant
property , to experience the events described they must be sentient beings (roughly, they
must be alive at reference time). It is assumed that this pragmatic felicity requirement on the
use of the perfect accounts for the oddity of a sentence like the following:

(66) Einstein has lived in Princeton

The sentence is grammatical but pragmatically infelicitous when uttered after the
death of Einstein (Jespersen 1931:60). This failure is accounted for in terms of the participant
property. The felicity requirement is that the person referred to by the subject NP must be able
to bear the property ascribed to them by a perfect sentence. The notion of Current Relevance
is sometimes invoked to explain the infelicity of such sentences (Jespersen 1931, McCoard
1978).
According to Giorgi and Pianesi (1998:95): only perfect tenses, which separate the
reference time from the event time, permit assertions about the involvement of the subject to
be separated from those of the event itself.. With the simple tenses R (i.e AS-T) coincides
with (or contains ) the time of the event, so that the participation of the subject in the event is
viewed together with the event itself.
37

To conclude this short introduction, we will assume with C. Smith (1991:146) that
Perfect constructions generally convey the following related meanings:
(a) the situation described precedes Reference time (i.e. As-T after EV-T) (i.e. perfect
tenses make available a reference time distinct from the event time) ;
(b) the construction has a resultant stative value; in Giorgi and Pianesis (1998) terms,
the perfect tenses provide individual level predicates.
(c) a special property is ascribed to the subject, which holds at a given reference time
by virtue of the participation in the situation.
There are some differences across languages (e.g. French, Romanian, German vs
English) but these are the primary identifying characteristics.

3.1.Present Perfect sentences


3.1.1. This subchapter looks into the main problems identified with respect to the Present
Perfect, such as:

(i) the difference between the present perfect and the past tense.
(ii) the various readings of the Present Perfect;
(iii)the ambiguity phenomena arising with present perfect sentences.
(iv) the relationship of the present perfect with time adverbs and the Present Perfect Puzzle

3.1.2 A commonplace manner of analysing the present perfect has been to place it in
opposition to the Simple Past tense. The three main points around which the distinction
between the 2 tenses revolves are the following:
(i) they both express temporal anteriority but in different ways: Past Tense
expresses temporal precedence between UT-T and AS-T while the Perfect
expresses temporal precedence between EV-T and AS-T
(ii) compatibility with adverbial phrases.;the present perfect is incompatible
with specific past time adverbs (dubbed as the present perfect puzzle)
(ii) Perfect sentences are stative (irrespective of the underlying eventuality type)
while Past tense sentences inherit the aspectual properties of the underlying
eventuality

The main characteristic shared with the Past Tense is that they both express a relation
of anteriority of an eventuality to a reference time (i.e. in terms of the theory put forth by
Demirdache & Uribe-Etxebarria (2004) the perfect (have) just like the past tense (ed) are
temporal predicates with the meaning AFTER ). The question that grammarians had to solve
was whether the type of anteriority induced by the Past tense is indeed different from that
expressed by the Present Perfect . Consider the examples below:

(67) (i) Miriam ate an apple.


(ii) Miriam has eaten an apple .

Both sentences describe a situation located in the Past and are true under the same
circumstances. The essential insight about these constructions is due to Reichenbach 1947, as
already mentioned.
Of the three temporal entities we have employed in our analysis of the tenses, namely
UT-T, AS-T, EV-T, the relevant one in the understanding of the differences between the two
tenses under consideration is AS-T.
38

Following current research, we have argued that AS-T acts as a perspective time, that
is, it acts as a time from which the event is considered, or in Kleins (1992) terms, a time
about which a particular claim is made. The difference between the sentences in (66) above
is a matter of temporal point of view or perspective.
As we have seen in our discussion of the Present Tense and Past Tense, Tense relates
UT-T and AS-T, while Aspect relates AS-T and EV-T. With simple tense forms AS-T
coincides with (or contains) EV-T, since Aspect has no morphological content.
With the Past tense the EV-T and AS-T are co-temporal, which means that the event
occurs at/within the stated AS-T; the relation of anteriority (expressed by the past tense
morpheme ed) exists therefore between Assertion time/Event Time and Utterance time: i.e.
UT-T after AS-T/EV-T since AS-T= EV-T. The time-sphere is Past: the claim is made
about a past time span that includes the entire event.
The contribution of the perfect to the meaning of the sentence is that it makes
available an AS-T distinct from the EV-T. In the case of the Present Perfect the situation
described by the VP occurs prior to AS-T (due to the auxiliary have) while the present tense
morpheme s, shows that AS-T is concomitant with the time of Utterance, i.e. UT-T within
AS-T , AS-T after EV-T. In this case the time sphere is present.; the claim is made about a
present time span that does not include the event at stake. Here are the two
representations:

PAST TENSE
AS-T/EV-T UT-T

(a) TP` (b) -----[----------]-----------[------]----

UT-T T

T AspP
AFTER

AS-Ti Asp

Asp VP

EV-Ti VP

PRESENT PERFECT
UT-T
EV-T
(a) TP` (b) ---[----------------]----[-------]--------
AS-T

UT-T T

T AspP
WITHIN

AS-T Asp
39

Asp VP
AFTER

EV-T VP

In the case of the Past Tense the AS-T is past and the event occurs at AS-T which is
prior to the time of Utterance. So, in Past sentences the point of view is squarely in the past.
In Georgi &Pianesis account, when AS-T and EV-T (R and E in their system) coincide, the
participation of the subject in the event is viewed together with the event as such, since they
suggest that (at least part of) the claim made about AS-T refers to assertions about the
subject at AS-T13 . What this means is that the assertion about the event as such necessarily
includes assertions about the involvement of the subject.
In contrast, the Perfect auxiliary have locates the situation as a whole (EV-T) at a
time prior to AS-T, which, in its turn, is viewed as including the utterance time (due to the
present tense morpheme.).
The (Present) Perfect makes available a tense component and an aspect component,
i.e it separates the AS-T from the EV-T. The tense component says that AS-T includes UT-T
while the aspect component says that AS-T is in the post-time of EV-T (i.e. AS-T after EV-T)
.
Hence, the analysis nicely accounts for the strong feeling connected with the present
perfect: it makes a claim about a time span (AS-T) that includes UT-T and it relates this time
span explicitly to some event in the past.14 . According to this view, the meaning of (67i) is
that there is a past event of eating an apple and as far as the event is concerned its agent is
Miriam. On the other hand (67ii) means that there is a past event of eating an apple and as far
as the present situation is concerned its agent is Miriam.
Since all accounts of the present perfect stress the present time relevance of the
present perfect, or the stative nature of the predication as well as the participant property that
it assigns to the subject, we will assume, as already stated, that present perfect predicates
(VPs) have a structure that resembles that of transitive accomplishment verbs (e, e) ,i.e. e
(event 1) stands for the process, while e (event 2) stands for the result of that event (Hale and
Keyser, 1993).

(68) VP1
Ev-T1 VP1 Process <e>
V0 VP2
Ev-T2 VP2 Resultant State <e>

Each VP in (68) stands for a phase in the internal temporal structure of the event
described by the VP. VP1 represents the processual subpart of the event while VP2 stands for
the resultant state (or consequent state) after the culmination/termination of the process.
Each of the sub-events in (68) has an external temporal argument: the external
argument of VP1, Ev-T1, denotes the period of time during which the process unfolds in time,

13
Actually they say that : .the claim made about R is that the relevant -relation holds (or is said to hold) of
the subject at R.
14
This applies analogously to the future perfect and past perfect, except that the relevance is not current or
present; but it is ongoing. (Klein 1992:53)
40

from its beginning up to its culmination/termination. The external argument of VP2, Ev-T2,
designates the resultant state after the culmination/termination of the process.
This (VP decomposition) analysis of the present perfect proposed by Demirdache and
Uribe-Etxebarria (2002) will nicely account for the values attached to the present perfect.
3.2 Values of the Present Perfect
3.2.1Aspect does not say how LONG AS-T is after EV-T; EV-T may immediately precede
AS-T, but it may also be in the distant past. Nor does the perfect say anything about the
FREQUENCY of the situation described . The perfect doesnt set any boundary on the
DURATION of EV-T, either; Klein (1992:539) argues that the duration of EV-T is ignored
due to the fact that the perfect is not b-definite (i.e. boundary definite) with respect to EV-T.
For a present perfect sentence to be true, all that is required is that SOME time span, one at
which the situation was true, precedes the time when the utterance is made.
The fact that distance and frequency of EV-T are left open gives rise to the different
readings of the perfect (existential, resultative , continuative, etc). These readings are not due
to an inherent ambiguity of the perfect, but stem from contextual information and the
particular type of situation. Consider the following examples:

(69) (i) Tabitha has lived in Hamburg ever since she married.
(ii) Tabitha has lived in Hamburg .
(iii) Jane has broken her leg /They have gone away.
(iv) She has recently/just been to Paris/ Malcolm Jones has just been
assassinated!

In both(69i) and (69ii) , in point of situation type, the predicate [Tabitha live in
Hamburg] qualifies as state.
For (69i) the natural reading is an open, continuative reading, the situation continues
from the time specified (ever since she married) into the time of utterance (and in the absence
of contrary indications will presumably continue into the future). This value of the present
perfect is known as the continuative or inclusive value.
In (69ii) the absence of the duration adjunct forces the closed, non-continuative
reading, Tabithas living in Hamburg is said to have taken place at some indefinite time in the
past. This value of the perfect is known as the experiential value. The focus is not on the
occurrence at some particular time in the past, but on the relevance of the situation within the
time-span up to now . The connection with NOW is the subject which must have the
participant property as a present attribute. The sentence implicates that the subject is alive
and can be interpreted as the carrier of the enduring property (experience) of having
participated in the event.
The sentences in (69iii) are the clearest cases of the resultative perfect, where the
situation inherently involves a specific change of state (the predicates are telic): the
occurrence of these situations result in a state that still obtains at now.
The example in (69iv) is assumed to be a case of the Perfect of Recent Past, or with
other grammarians, the Hot News Present Perfect,(McCawley 1976), the Indefinite Past
(Leech 1971 ).
According to, among others, Anagnostopoulou, Iatridou &Izvorski (1998:17) the
Experiential Perfect and the Perfect of Recent Past may be considered to fall under the cover
term Existential Perfect, or it can be included in the domain of Resultative perfect. These
identified major uses can be thought of as different ways in which a past situation may have
current relevance. As already mentioned the different uses of the Present Perfect depend on
the situation types denoted by the VP as well as context.
41

3.2.2.We turn now to the description of the various meanings of the present perfect:

(i) the Experiential Present Perfect ((first identified by Zandvoort, 1965), renamed in
current studies as the Existential Value;
(ii) the Perfect of Recent Past (also known as the Hot News Present Perfect);
(iii ) the Continuative Present Perfect;
(iv) the Resultative Present Perfect;

A. Experiential Perfect (Existential Value)

As already mentioned several times so far, the values or meanings of the present perfect
crucially depend on the aspectual properties of the underlying eventuality and the context (cf.
Comrie, 1976, Smith, 1991, Kamp and Reyle, 1993, Julien, 2001, Demirdache and Uribe-
Etxebarria, 2002, 2004 among many others).
The Perfect of experience expresses what has happened once or more than once
within the speakers or writers experience (Zandvoort, 1967). This meaning is often
reinforced adverbially by ever, never, or before (now) (Leech 1971:32); the number of events
can also be mentioned adverbially: Ive been to America three times. As can be noticed,
state predicates are recategorized as events in the context of frequency adverbs (e.g. I have
hated liars three times in my life)
The Experiential value of the Perfect may occur with any Aktionsart:

(70) (i) Sam has broken my computer (twice) (Accomplishment)


(ii) All my family have had measles/Have you been to America? (State)
(iii) She has danced with John five times (Activity)
(iv) Ive discovered how to mend the fuse. (Achievement)
(v) Have you visited the Gaugain exhibition?
(vi) I have sat for hours on the river bank on a fine summers day, waiting for a
fish to bite. (Zaandvoort 1967:62)
(vii) Mens hairs have grown grey in a single night.
(viii) Mr Philips has sung in this choir.
(ix) Men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for
love. (Stefanescu, 1988)
(x) Its the first/third time youve asked me this question today.

As can be easily noticed, in the present perfect sentences in (70) the eventualities
are presented as bounded, since some of them can be repeated, i.e they show the existence
of one or several eventualities (states, processes or events) that are presented as completed
prior to the moment of speech (Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria, 2002). The focus, however,
is not on their occurrence at some particular time in the past but on the existence of the
situation within the time span. This is the reason why this value is also knwn as the Indefinite
Past value of the Present Perfect (Leech 1971). The connection with now is the potential
occurrence or recurrence of the situation at any time within the time span up to now and this
potentiality is made possible by the status of the subject (the participation property).
What is interesting about the experiential perfect is that, under restrictive
conditions, it allows for the presence of a past time adjunct (Comrie 1985; Georgi&Pianesi
1998; Klein 1992; Huddlestone and Pullum 2002:144):

(71) (i) Weve already discussed it yesterday. vs We discussed it yesterday.


(ii) He has often got up at five oclock. vs He got up at five oclock.
42

Notice that the presence of the adverbs already and often cancel the effect of the past
time adverbs, i.e. there is no reference to any specific occasion, as there is in the simple
preterite.
B. The Perfect of Recent Past
Most grammarians agree that the Perfect of Recent Past is used to report an eventuality
that just happened. According to Leech (1971) this use of the Present Perfect is a subcategory
of the Present Perfect of Experience, which he calls Indefinite Past.
Some other linguist and grammarians consider this value as a subcategory of the
Resultative Perfect but for the component of recency. (Fenn 1987). Huddlestone &Pullum
2002:145) suggest that it is arguable that the existential and resultative categories are broad
enough to cover all non-continuative uses..... We go along with the suggestion that this use
can be included in the Present Perfect of Experience group.
In this reading of the Perfect just like in the Present Perfect of Experience category the
underlying eventuality can be of any Aktionsart.
The most widely used adverbs with this value of the perfect are recently and just, used
deictically, as well as already and yet.
These adverbs do not refer to definite times in the past but indicate an indefinite time
within a short interval stretching back from UT-T. This use of the present perfect is quite
frequent with news announcements as in the radio bulletin examples in (72ii,iii) (wherefrom
the name Hot News Present Perfect McCawley (1971))

(72) (i) She has recently/just been to Paris/It has just struck twelve.
(ii) Malcolm Jones has just been assassinated! (Leech 1971)
(iii) It has been a bad start to the year, with two fatal road accidents
overnight (H&P 2002:145)
(iv) Has the dustman called yet?
(v) He has just graduated from college.

An interesting fact about this use of the present perfect is the one mentioned by Leech
(1971:46, as well as Mittwoch 1988) according to whom, under certain circumstances, the
perfect progressive may describe recently finished eventualities the effects of which are
still apparent. Consider the examples below:

(73) (i) Why are you crying? Ive been chopping onion.
(ii) Youve been fighting again (I can tell from your black eye)
(iii) Ive just been listening to a program on Vietnam.
(iv) Ive just been cooking.
(v) He has been eating your porridge; its all gone. (Mittwoch 1988)
(vi) I have been writing a difficult letter; thank goodness its finished.
(Mittwoch 1988)

C. Resultative Perfect

The Present Perfect can also be used with reference to a past event the result of which is
still valid at the present time (at now). The Perfect of result is possible only with telic
predicates since they denote a transition from one state to another and only for as long as the
effect /result of the underlying eventuality holds. The connection with the present is that the
resultant state still holds at now. The resultant state begins at the time of occurrence of the
43

underlying eventuality and continues through into the present. Huddlestone and Pullum
(2002) call this use the Perfect of Continuing Result. Consider the following examples:

(74) (i) The taxi has arrived.


(ii) I have lost my glasses.
(iii) He has been given a camera.
(iv) Theyve gone away.
(v) Oh! My God! Sam has broken my computer.
(vi) Ive recovered from my illness.
(vii) He has gone to America.
(viii) Ive bought a new car.
(ix) Twenty years have passed since we first met. (Zandvoort 1967:62)
(x) He has collected much evidence against her. (Jespersen 1969:266)

It is generally assumed that the resultative reading does not need any support from
adverbials. Sometimes it is indistinguishable (or at least difficult to distinguish) from the
Perfect of Recent Past.

D. Continuative or Inclusive Perfect

The Continuative Perfect conveys the meaning that the situation described holds
throughout some interval stretching from a certain point in the past up to the present moment
(Zanvoort 1967,Leech 1971,McCoard 1978, Dowty !979, ,etc). Jespersen (1931) calls this use
of the Present Perfect the inclusive present perfect which speaks of a state that is continued
from the past into the present time.
It is currently assumed that the Continuative Perfect is not one of the core meanings of the
Perfect since many languages do not have it. (Jespersen 1933, Comrie 1976).
Different linguists and grammarians have identified different constraints that are
operative on this use of the perfect.
It is generally assumed that the Continuative reading of the Perfect can be formed
from stative predicates, that is the underlying eventuality must be stative. The continuative
reading is manifest with atelic situation types (or rather unbounded), i.e. homogeneous
eventualities.
A second condition for the instantiation of this use has been assumed to be the
presence of certain adverbials. Consider the following examples borrowed from different
sources (Zandvoort1967, Jespersen 1933, Leech1971, Huddlestone & Pullum 2002,
Stefanescu 1988, a.o.):

(75) (i) He hath beene dead foure days. (Jespersen 1969:241)


(ii) Weve known each other for years.
(iii) How long has he been unconscious? (Zandvoort,,1967:59)
(iv) Weve lived here all our lives. vs Weve lived here (Leech,1971:31)
(v) Have you known the Faulkners for long?

Leech (1971:32) mentions that the adverbial need not be required in the following
exchange:

(76) A: Why havent you been writing to me?


44

B: Ive been too angry/Ive been ill.

Huddlestone and Pullum (2002) state that the continuative perfect in the non-
progressive form only allows atelic situations, i.e. ones without a terminal point. What this
actually amounts to is to say that basically it is only states that may occur with this value in
the simple tense forms. All the other situation types require the use of the progressive.
This suggestion is supported by Anagnostopoulou, Iatridou&Izvorski (1998;22), who
assume that actually what counts for a proper use of the Continuative Perfect is
unboundedness, (open reading)15 i.e. the Continuative Perfect will not be possible with the
Perfect of telics and activities alike, unless they are used in the progressive or they have an
iterated (generic/habitual, hence stative) interpretation. Compare:

(77) (i) *He has written another poem/found his keys ever since he came
home.
(ii) *He has danced ever since this morning.
(iii) Hes been writing this poem ever since he came home
(iv) Hes been dancing ever since this morning
(v) He has written about religion all his life
(vi) Mr Phillips has sung in this choir for fifty years.
(vii) Ive always walked to work.
(viii) Ive enjoyed my meals all the better since you started going out
(ix) The news has been broadcast at ten oclock for as long as I can
remember.
(x) He has worked here ever since he was a child.
(xi) Shes been rehearsing for five hours now.
(xii) She has been working here longer than the others.

The assumption is not unreasonable, since we argued that all situation types with the
exception of states are interpreted in the perfective viewpoint as containing boundedness (i.e.
endpoints). States are ambiguous between an open (unbounded) and a closed (bounded)
reading.
This ambiguity of the states is visible with the Present Perfect as well. Compare the
following sentences:

(78) (i) We have lived in London.


(ii) We have lived in London ever since 1997/all our lives

The first example without the adverbial does not favour the continuative reading but
rather a closed, bounded reading, namely the Perfect of experience (Leech, 1971, Fenn 1987,
Huddlestone and Pullum 2002, etc). The presence of the adverbial in the second sentence
makes possible the Continuative reading of the Perfect. Actually, the same ambiguity may
arise with activity predicates. Consider the following examples:

(79) (i) Mary has rehearsed since noon


(a) Now she is resting
(b) She is still rehearsing

(ii) Mary has been rehearsing since noon


15
Huddlestone and Pullum (2002:142) consider the continuative reading of the Perfect to be imperfective
aspectually
45

The second sentence is not ambiguous at all: the only available reading of the sentence is the
Continuative reading.

To sum up, the most important characteristics of the Continuative Perfect outlined in
the literature are the following:

the Continuative Perfect presents a state as holding from a moment in the


past up to and including the moment of speech.
the Continuative Perfect requires unbounded ( homogeneous) eventualities;
the Continuative reading of the Perfect necessarily requires adverbial
modification

The role of adverbial modification

According to Anagnostopoulou, Iatridou and Izvorsky (1998) the Continuative reading


of the Present Perfect asserts that the underlying eventuality holds throughout the interval
specified by the adverb and at its endpoints. This means that the UT-T is included by
assertion. According to them, this use of the perfect is possible only when the perfect is
modified by adverbs that denote time spans .
The adverbials assumed to trigger the Continuative reading fall into two groups,
namely, some with which the Continuative reading is possible and some with which the
Continuative reading is obligatory:

(80) (i) Continuative reading possible: since, for five days, so far, up
to now
(ii) Continuative reading obligatory: at least since, ever since, for five
days now

It has long been acknowledged (Dowty 1979, Vlach 1993) that there are at least two
levels of adverbials, namely, perfect level and eventuality level adverbials. One diagnostic for
whether an adverb is perfect level is whether perfect morphology is obligatory; since is a case
in point:

(81) (i) I have been away since yesterday


(ii) *I am/ was away since yesterday

For-adverbials,on the other hand, seem to be optional with perfect morphology;


actually such adverbials are ambiguous between a perfect-level and eventuality level reading.
The adverbs mentioned above relate to intervals; in this capacity they can be
interpreted as durative or inclusive (Dowty 1979; Mittwoch 1988).
If a Perfect-level adverb is durative the situation denoted by the predicate must hold of
every subinterval of the time span, i.e. the time span must be filled up with a homogeneous
predicate. In such cases we obtain a Continuative reading of the perfect.
If the perfect level adverbial is inclusive the perfect sentence asserts that a particular
eventuality/situation is properly included in the perfect time span. The eventuality is
interpreted as closed , i.e. the situation is located at some time within the time span indicated,
and the Perfect of Experience is obtained. Huddlestone &Pullum (2002: 709) define this use
of the adjunct as temporal location.
46

Since-adverbials are largely restricted to the perfect in BrE being used to mark the
starting point (the left boundary (LB) of the perfect time span denoted by the perfect.16 These
adverbials are ambiguous between the inclusive and durative reading as the examples below
(borrowed from H&P 2002:709) indicate:

(82) (i) Ive moved house since you left (inclusive reading)- Experience
(ii) Ive been here since four oclock (durative reading)- Continuative
(iii) Ive been ill again since then .(ambiguous)
(iv) Sam has been in Boston since Tuesday. (ambiguous)
(v) Since Tuesday, Sam has been in Boston

The ambiguity of the last two sentence can be resolved if the adverbial is preposed as in (82v)
above.

It is to be noticed that telic predicates (accomplishments and achievements) in the


context of since only allow the inclusive reading of this adverbial, hence what is known as
the experience reading of the perfect.
Durational reading since allows ever which forces the Continuative reading (e.g.
Ive been lonely ever since you left) and it provides answers to how long questions (e.g. A:
How long have you been here? B: Since four oclock) (H&P 2002:709).
The adverbial at least also forces the Continuative reading .
As already mentioned, the Continuative reading obeys two constraints: (i) the
presence of durative adverbs and (ii) the existence of homogeneous predicates: i.e. basic
states, generics and dynamic predicates in the progressive aspect. Compare:

(83) (i) Peggy has been in Asia ever since January. (Continuative, state)
(ii) ???Peggy has rehearsed ever since noon. (process predicate)
(iii) Peggy has been rehearsing ever since noon. (Continuative)
(iv) I have worked here ever since 1998. (habitual, continuative)
(v) ???I have read this book ever since 1998.
(vi) Ive been reading this book ever since 1998.

Whenever since-adverbs occur with events (accomplishments and achievements), the stress
lies on the result ensuing from the termination of the event:

(84) (i) He has written two books since 1992


(ii) He has reached the top since 6 oclock

For-adverbials have been characterized as being both perfect level and eventuality level
adverbials ; for-phrases do not obligatorily require the perfect.
As a perfect level adverbial the for-phrase indicates the length of the reference
interval.
As an eventualitylevel adverbial, the for-phrase indicates the length of the situation.
Consider the examples below, where in (82i) the for-adverbial indicates the length of
the situation, we have an eventuality level reading; in the second example the sentence is
ambiguous between an eventuality-level and a perfect level reading, which is suspended

16
Since can, however, occur with other tenses : (i) This is the first cup since Tuesday; (ii) Bill Clinton will be the
youngest president since Kennedy. AmE allows preterits more widely: Since you went home we redecorated our
bedroom (H&P:697)
47

once the adverb is in sentence initial position (we only have the perfect-level reading, i.e. the
adverb indicates the length of the reference interval):

(85) (i) I was a teacher for 20 years.


(ii) Ive been been a teacher for thirty years. / For 20years, I have been
a teacher
(iii) *Mary wrote the letters for half an hour. vs. She wrote letters for
half an hour
(iv) *He spotted a hawk for half an hour. vs. I spotted a hawk every week
for a month.

For-adverbials are durational which means that the predicate they modify must be
homogeneous/have the subinterval property (Dowty 1979). Hence telic predicates and
punctual verbs are excluded. The examples in 82(iii, iv) are valid since the bare plural letters
and the frequency adverb every week turn the predicates into a process of the multiple
event type.
Given that for-adverbials can be eventuality-level and perfect level adverbials, the
perfect sentences may be ambiguous between two readings, the perfect of experience and the
continuative perfect, whenever we deal with sentence- final for- adverbials. Whenever the for-
adverbial is in sentence -initial position the only available reading is the continuative perfect.
In such cases the for-adverb is interpreted as a perfect- level adverb. Compare the following:

(86) (i) I have lived in Thessaloniki for ten years (E-reading/C-reading)


(a)E- reading: since I was born till now there was a time span of ten
years that I lived in T.
(b) C-reading : Within the time span of 10 years I lived in T.

(ii) For ten years, I have lived in Thessaloniki. (only C-reading )

For-adverbs may occur in perfect sentences in the context of a perfect-level adverbial like
since-adverbs. In such cases the for-adverbs is interpreted as eventuality level:

(87) (i) Since 1970, I have been sick for five days.

Process predicates in the perfect in the context of for-adverbs also exhibit an ambiguity
between E-reading and C-reading . The ambiguity disappears once we use the progressive
form of the perfect:

(88) (i) Tom has pushed the cart for two hours .(E-reading/C-reading)
(ii) Tom has been pushing the cart for two hours.

The perfect level /eventuality level ambiguity of for-phrases is suspended once the
adverb now is added, irrespective of the final position of the for-phrase:

(89) (i) Mary has been sick for two weeks now.

Always. Always is interpreted as being either perfect-level or eventuality-level. Individual-


level predicates can combine with always only in the perfect:

(90) (i) Emma has always been tall.


48

(ii) I have always known he was a rascal.

In such contexts the adverb is characterized as perfect-level and cannot co-occur with
other perfect-level adverbs:

(91) (i) * Since 1990, Emma has always been tall.

Whenever always co-occurs with stage-level states or dynamic predicates it may


occur in non-perfect sentences or in perfect sentences with perfect adverbials in which case it
has an eventuality level reading:

(92) (i) I always give/gave him a dime when he asks/asked for money.
(ii) He has always smoked in the morning as far as I know.
(iii) Since 1990, she has always been sick when I visited her.

4. The syntax of Perfect sentences

(93) (i)) He has visited the museum twice


(ii) Mary has lived in Cairo for three years (now)
(iii) Oh! Sam has broken my computer
(iv) Malcolm Jones has just been assassinated!

The sentences above are examples of the four identified values of the present perfect:
(i) the perfect of experience (93i) also known in the literature as the existential value
shows the existence of one or several eventualities (states, processes or events) that are
presented as completed prior to the moment of speech (Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria,
2002).
(ii) the continuative perfect (93ii); the present perfect in (93ii) indicates that Mary still
lives in Cairo at the moment of speech. The adverb of duration shows that the state in
question began three years before the moment of speech and this state still continues at the
moment of utterance.
(iii) the perfect of result (93iii) ; the resultative reading obtains with a VP that describes
an accomplishment or an achievement; the result state which derives from the event
described by the sentence (Sam break my computer) is presented as persistent at the moment
of utterance.
(iv) the perfect of recent past (or hot news present perfect) in (93iv) will, in our opinion be
identified with the existential value of the present perfect; the reasons are twofold: (i) this
value accepts all Aktionarts; (ii) there are some differences between BrE and AmE with
respect to the choice between the Present Perfect and the Past Tense Simple cases where
AmE may prefer a Simple preterite and BrE prefers or requires a Present Perfect. The cases
concern situations in the recent past; AmE would prefer : I just saw them /He already left
yesterday, whereas BrE prefers : Ive just seen them/Hes already left.
Following current suggestions (Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria ,2002) we
collapse the continuative present perfect , and the resultative present perfect but collapse the
present perfect of recent result into the experiential value of the present perfect, as their
semantics is very similar (see below).
In what follows, we present the syntax and semantics of the existential and resultative
/ continuative values of the present perfect following the analysis proposed by Demirdache
and Uribe-Etxebarria (2002, 2004). The two readings of the perfect will be uniformly derived
49

from the proposal that the perfect is a spatio-temporal predicate with the meaning
AFTER/BEFORE.
Since all accounts of the present perfect stress the present time relevance of the
present perfect, or the stative nature of the predication as well as the participant property that
it assigns to the subject, we will assume, as already stated, that present perfect predicates
(VPs) have a structure that resembles that of transitive accomplishment verbs (e, e) ,i.e. e
(event 1) stands for the process, while e (event 2) stands for the result of that event (Hale and
Keyser, 1993).

(94) VP1
Ev-T1 VP1 Process <e>
V0 VP2
Ev-T2 VP2 Resultant State <e>

Each VP in (94) stands for a phase in the internal temporal structure of the event
described by the VP. VP1 represents the processual subpart of the event while VP2 stands for
the resultant state (or consequent state) after the culmination/termination of the process.
Each of the sub-events in (94) has an external temporal argument: the external
argument of VP1, Ev-T1, denotes the period of time during which the process unfolds in time,
from its beginning up to its culmination/termination. The external argument of VP2, Ev-T2,
designates the resultant state after the culmination/termination of the process.

Existential Value
Consider now the grammar of the existential present perfect as illustrated in sentence(93i):
UT-T

(95) []..[][].>
EV-T1 EV-T2 AS-T

The English present perfect (have V-en) is a predicate with the meaning AFTER. Under
this analysis the Perfect ASPECT acts like a Past TENSE: both are predicates with the
meaning AFTER. In the existential reading the situation is viewed is closed, perfective,
bounded. The relevance at the present time is given by the subject property which is based on
participation in the prior situation. The existential value of the present perfect is induced by
the fact that AS-T just designates a time interval after Ev-T1 but this interval does not
coincide with the interval that characterizes the resultant state of the process. Thus, the
eventuality is presented as completed with respect to the interval designated by As-T, which
is concomitant with Ut-T.

The resultative / continuative value of the present perfect

We follow Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria (2002) and hypothesize that the present perfect
induces a resultative or continuative reading when it focuses on the result state of a process:
UT-T/AS-T

(96) [][]..>
EV-T1 EV-T2
50

In this case the perfect focuses one of the internal phases of the temporal structure of
the situation denoted by the VP ; it orders As-T after Ev-T1. In this way, the perfect focuses
Ev-T2, that is, the interval that designates the resultant state of the event after the culmination
of its processual subpart, as shown in (90). In its turn, the present orders Ut-T WITHIN As-T;
in this way, As-T makes visible the resultant state of the process, as illustrated in the schema
in (96).
It follows that the result state is presented as still persisting at UT-T, as continuing
from a past interval up to the moment of speech.
The derivation of the continuative reading of the present perfect, illustrated in (93ii)
(Mary has lived in Cairo for three years (now)), is very similar to the one provided for the
resultative reading, with a small difference though. The VP in (93ii) will also be decomposed
into two subintervals of time VP1 and VP2, as shown in (94). Following Kamp and Reyle
(1993) we hypothesize that in the case of a state eventuality such as live in Cairo the
resultant state begins just after the onset/the starting point of the process itself (and not after
its culmination, as there is none); the presence of the duration adverb for three years is
obligatory and it measures the whole reference interval.
In sum, the English present perfect has two properties: its VP structure can be
complex and it orders its external argument As-T after its internal argument Ev-T1. The
peculiarity of the present perfect is that its As-T can pick up any time interval after Ev-T1 as
already shown and repeated below for convenience:

Existential Value
UT-T

(97) []..[][].>
EV-T1 EV-T2 AS-T

Resultative/Continuative Value

UT-T

(98) [][].>
EV-T1 AS-T
EV-T2

In (97), the present perfect just designates a time interval after Ev-T1 but this interval does
not coincide with the interval that characterizes the resultant state of the process: in this case
the present perfect acquires an existential value. Thus, the eventuality is presented as
completed with respect to the interval designated by As-T, which is concomitant with Ut-T.
In contrast, in (98) the present perfect focuses an internal phase of the VP complex
structure: it picks up an interval after Ev-T1, which designates the resultant state of the
process (Ev-T2). The reading induced by the present perfect is resultative/continuative
because the moment of utterance is concomitant with the focalized state.
The (VP decomposition) analysis of the present perfect proposed by Demirdache and
Uribe-Etxebarria (2002) also accounts for the semantics of the English present perfect
progressive in a neat way. A sentence such as Mary has been opening the door means that
Mary was in the process of opening the door it does not mean that Mary was in the resultant
state after the culmination of the process. This means that the progressive orders its external
51

argument (As-T1) within its internal argument (Ev-T1); in this way, the progressive focuses a
subinterval that designates the processual component of the VP, i.e., Ev-T1, and not the
subinterval that defines the resultant state of the process (Ev-T2). AS-T2 expressed by the
perfect coincides with the UT-T either within the interval characterizing the event (99) or
after the endpoint of the situation (100). In the first case we may say that we have the
continuative reading of dynamic predicates while in the second we may identify the recent
result reading of the progressive.

AS-T1 (-ing) AS-T2 (have)


(99) [[][/]]..
EV-T1 EV-T2 UT-T

AS-T1 AS-T2
(100) [()]()..
EV_T UT-T

Other Temporal Uses of the Present Perfect


(i) In adverbial clauses of time the present perfect is used with a future value to express
the idea of completion. Consider the sentence below:

(63) You can go when you have finished your work

The conjunctions commonly used to introduce the adverbial clauses of time are: when, as
soon as, before, after, until, once, by the time (that), the moment (that).
In some contexts, the use of the present perfect is in free variation with the present
tense. This variation depends on the situation type :

(95) I shall leave as soon as the meeting ends / has ended

In other contexts, the choice between the two tenses is not free:
(a) when the events in the main clause and the subordinate clause temporally coincide, the
use of the present tense in the subordinate clause is favored, as in (96a) below; when the event
in the subordinate clause occurs before the one in the main clause, the use of the present
perfect in the subordinate clause gives well formed sentences, as in (96b) below:

(96) a) Come over and see us when our guests leave.


b) Come over and see us when our guests have left.

(b) when a causal relation between the event in the main clause and that of the subordinate
clause is established, the use of the present perfect is favored in the subordinate adverbial
clause of time. In the second sentence it is the situation type that requires the use of the
perfect (durative accomplishment).

(97) Youll feel a lot better after/when you have taken this medicine.
We can go out as soon as we have had dinner / *We can go out as soon as we have
dinner.

(ii) Like the Simple Present the Present Perfect can be used with a narrative fictional value
(Leech 1971:38).Consider the example below borrowed from Leech (1971:38):
52

(98) John and Joy Jennings, who have been fighting a gang led by Red Reagan, have
followed the sinister goatherd Khari to a mountain hide-out, where they stumble upon a coded
message from Reds lieutenant Hercule Judd.....

The example above is a case of serial story instalment, on the radio, TV, or popular magazine.
It is used to give a retrospective account of previous episodes which are in the past from the
point of view of the stage of the story now reached.

C. Temporal Adverbs with the Present Perfect and the Past Tense The Present Perfect
Puzzle

In the literature on the perfect forms of predicates (cf. among others Leech (1971),
Comrie (1985), McCoard (1978) Klein (1992), H&P (2002), etc) it is shown that locating,
punctual adverbials such as on Thursday, yesterday, in 1976, before the wedding, are
considered ungrammatical when occurring with the present perfect in all analyses and by all
speakers. This phenomenon is known as the Present Perfect Puzzle (Klein 1992).
Adverbs like recently, just or today are considered to be compatible with the present
perfect, while deictic adverbs like today, this morning, this March, this year have an
intermediate status.
It is important to notice that the phenomenon under consideration is not found with
other perfect forms (Giorgi& Pianesi (1998: 85):

(98) past perfect: Sam had finished his paper yesterday (Heny:1982)
modals: Bill may have been in Berlin before the war (Comrie 1976)
infinitives: The security officer believes Bill to have been in Berlin before the
war (Comrie 1976)
gerunds: Having been in Berlin before the war, Bill is surprised at the many
changes (Comrie 1976)

A major contribution of McCoards study (1978) is the detailed analysis of the way in
which temporal adverbs relate to the present perfect and/or past tense. Adverbs bring in their
temporal meaning and they bear on tense selection and even on tense interpretation. McCoard
identifies three classes of adverbs: those that occur with the simple past tense but not with the
perfect, those that occur with either the simple past or with the perfect and those that occur
with the perfect but not with the simple past.

Occur with the simple past Occur with either simple Occur with perfect but not
not with perfect past or with perfect with simple past

long ago long since at present

five years ago in the past up till now


once (= formerly) once (= one time) so far
the other day today as yet
those days in my life during these five years
last night for three years herewith
in 1900 recently lately
at 3:00 just now since the war
after/before the war often before now
53

no longer yet
always
ever
never
already
before
this morning

The adverbs in the first column refer to points or stretches of time that precede the
moment of speech, either by their semantics or by context (e.g., at 3:00).
The adverbs in the third column coincide with or are oriented to the moment of
speech. In context, these adverbs can be thought of as beginning before the moment of speech
and extending beyond it. They only occur with the present perfect and exclude the past tense.
For the adverbs in column two, it is the context and in particular the tense used, which
decide which time-sphere (past or present) is actually being referred to. They are known as
neutral time-span adverbs (Fenn, 1987).
As far as the adverbs in column two are concerned, the following comments are in
order. The comments here leave out for-phrases, since-phrases and always which we have
already discussed.
Ever and never are used when the life experience of the subject is predicated about.
Both suggest the meaning within a period of time. When they occur with the present perfect
it is the present perfect that relates their time-span to the moment of speech (e.g., A saner and
more practical man Ive never met). The period is viewed as open including the time of
utterance. On the other hand, their within a period of time meaning also makes them
compatible with the past tense (e.g., I never saw the St. Patricks Day Parade while I was in
New York). The period is viewed as closed excluding the time of utterance.
Adverbs such as often, sometimes, which refer to frequency can, depending on the
context, occur with either the present perfect or with the past tense (e.g., I have always
suspected your honesty / He always made a lot of fuss about nothing when they were
married).
Lately and recently are commonly regarded as synonyms but they show different
compatibility as to their occurrence with the past tense and the present perfect. Lately is a
perfect level adverbial, i.e. it accepts only the present perfect (e.g., I have spent/*I spent a
great deal of money lately) while recently goes with both the past tense and the present
perfect (e.g., I have been ill recently / I was ill recently).
Adverbs such as today, this week, this year can occur with both the present perfect and
the past tense (e.g., I have seen John this morning / I saw John this morning). Both sentences
convey the meaning that the act occurred within the time span this morning. The difference
lies in whether the event is viewed simply as a factor of experience obtaining at the moment
of speech [with the present perfect] (i.e., the morning time-span is not over) or whether it is
viewed within the context of the time at which it occurred [with the past tense] (i.e., the
morning time-span is over) (Fenn, 1987).
The difference in uses between adverbs such as just and just now is the following. Just
can take either the present perfect or the past tense (e.g., I have just seen your sister / I just
saw your sister) while just now, which is interpreted as a moment/second/minute ago, can
only occur with the past tense (e.g., I saw your sister just now).
Finally, there are adverbs that combine with either the present perfect or the past tense
but with a clear difference in meaning. Now is mainly associated with present tenses: Now my
ambition is/has been fulfilled. With past tense, it is a narrative substitute for then (= at this
point in the story): Now my ambition was fulfilled. Once, with the meaning on a certain
54

occasion, at one time occurs with the past tense, despite its indefinite meaning: He was once
an honest man. With the present perfect, it is a numerical adverb contrasting with twice, three
times, etc: I have visited the Highlands only once (Leech, 1971).
Already, still, yet and before occur with the present perfect in the sense as early as
now, as late as now: I have seen him already / I (still) havent seen him (yet). With the past
tense they must have a meaning involving a past point of orientation: I was already (= as
early as then) very hungry (Leech, 1971).
We now turn to the phenomenon known as the present perfect puzzle. Why is it that in
English (unlike other languages, Germanic or Romance) punctual adverbs cannot co-occur
with the present perfect.?
An interesting fact about the English present perfect is that this ban against punctual
adverbs is not absolute. In fact, as has often been noted in the literature (Comrie 1985), Heny
(1982), Lewis 1975, Klein (1992)) the ban disappears if the temporal adverbs occur in the
context of a frequency adverb such as often, never, always. Consider the examples below
borrowed from Giorgi and Pianesi (1998:111):

(99) (i) John has never/ always/ often left at four


vs.
(ii) *John has left at four

Consider also the example below (Klein 1992):

(100) Why is Chris in jail? He has worked on Sunday and working on Sunday is strictly
forbidden in this country.

The sentence He has worked on Sunday is fine because the expression on Sunday does not
relate to a specific time in the past ( as the context makes clear). It seems, therefore, that in
English there is a ban against specific temporal adverbs, as Giorgi and Pianesi (1998) suggest

On the basis of such evidence, Klein (1992) suggests that the facts relating to the present
perfect puzzle can be explained by a pragmatic principle called the P-Definiteness Constraint.
Kleins system is similar to the one we have adopted, being based on three temporal entities.

(101) P-Definiteness Constraint:: In an utterance the expression of AS-T and the expression
of EV-T cannot both be independently P-definite.

According to Klein (1992) temporal expressions can refer either to precise/specific


temporal positions on the time axis or not.
The first kind of expressions are called P(osition)-definite and the second kind
P(osition)-indefinite.
According to him, the English present tense is P-definite in that it constrains every
temporal entity to include the time of utterance. The simple past tense, on the other hand, is
non p-definite, since it only requires that the time of the event should precede the utterance
time.
The difference between the Present Tense and the Simple Past in English is analogous
to that of the deictic adverbs here and there: if we ignore boundaries , there is only one
here in a given utterance situation but there can be many theres Here is thus p-definite and
there is not. . The same is true of the tense forms is and was: if we ignore duration there
are many wases but only one is (Klein 1992:537).
55

A similar distinction holds with respect to the boundaries of temporal entities. Some
expressions do not specify the boundaries of the entities they denote. He calls these
B(oundary)-indefinite expressions. Other expressions fix such boundaries , and are thus called
B(oundary)-definite. Both the Present tense and the Past tense are characterized as being B-
indefinite.
According to Klein, the P-definiteness constraint rules out (70ii). As-T is P-definite
because of the present tense morpheme on the auxiliary and so is the EV-T of the eventuality
<John leave at four> because of the adverbial . The adverbial can only fix the EV-T because
in a present perfect sentence the AS-T includes UT-T.
The same pragmatic principle accounts for the well-formedness of (100), Klein
assuming that adverbs like at Christmas, in spring, on Sunday and even at ten, do not
necessarily relate to or fix a specific time span. In other words, such expressions need not be
p-definite and under the non- p-definite reading (usually made clear in the context) they are
compatible with the present perfect.
To summarize, the P-definiteness Constraint allows either As-T or EV-T to be
expressed by a p-definite expression, but not both.
A very important comment is in order here. We have argued that adverbial phrases
may specify either AS-T or EV-T. Lets have a look at cases where no time-interval is
lexically specified. Consider the examples below (borrowed from Klein 1992:546) :

(102) (i) Chris has been in Pontefract.


(ii) Chris was in Pontefract.
(iii) Chris will be in Pontefract.

In (102i) the expression of AS-T on the auxiliary (i.e. present) is p-definite whereas the
expression of EV-T is not; the event (Chris be in Pontefract) occurred before AS-T, given the
perfect auxiliary, hence in the past. (i.e. in the indefinite past according to Mc-Coard 1978,
Leech 1971).
In the simple past variant in (102ii), neither the As-T nor the EV-T is specifically
given i.e. neither is p-definite. Therefore such an utterance is felt like hanging in the air
unless we get the information from context, or some explicit adverbial. The same is true for
(102iii); again, either context or some definite adverbial must provide the necessary
specification.

Past Perfect Sentences (de completat)


The Past Perfect parallels the functions of the Present Perfect as the following examples
borrowed from Leech (1976:42) show:

(i) The house had been empty for ages (Continuative- state predicate)
(ii) Had they been to America before? (Experience)
(iii) Mr Phipps had preached in that church for 50 years (Continuative-habitual)
(iv) The goalkeeper had injured his leg, and couldnt play (resultative)

Consider the following sentence in the past perfect where the event of Marys leaving
the school is viewed as completed before a past reference time, expressed by the adverbial
clause:

(103) (i) When I arrived there, Mary had left school


56

As was the case with the present perfect, the past perfect is analyzed as a spatio-temporal
predicate with the meaning AFTER. (104) illustrates the phrase structure of the past perfect
sentence in (103) (Demirdache and Uribe-Etxebarria, 2002, 2004):

(104) TP
Ut-T T
0
T AspP
after As-T Asp
0
Asp VP
after Ev-T VP

Proceeding from bottom to top, the perfect aspect orders the As-T after the Ev-T. It thus picks
out a time after the interval defined by the Ev-T. The past tense on the auxiliary is also a
spatio-temporal predicate with the meaning of AFTER. It orders the Ut-T after the As-T. The
overall temporal / aspectual representation of the past perfect is illustrated below and in the
accompanying schema:
EV-T AS-T UT-T

(i) As-T after Ev-T [ ][.][]..>


(ii) Ut-T after As-T

Since the Ut-T follows the As-T, which itself follows the Ev-T, the event of Marys leaving
the school is viewed as completed before a past reference time (As-T).
Notice that since As-T and Ev-T denote two disjoint intervals, if we add a temporal
adverb such as at 5 to the sentence in (103), as in (105), the sentence will have two distinct
readings depending on whether the time adverb modifies the Ev-T or the As-T:
(105) Mary had left school at 5

First, the time adverb at 5 in (105) can modify the Ev-T: we understand that Marys leaving
the school occurred at 5 oclock. This reading of the sentence is illustrated by the schema
below and it yields the so called event time reading of the sentence:

EV-T AS-T UT-T

[ ][.][]..>
5 PM

Second, the time adverb in (105) can modify the As-T: in this case we understand that Marys
leaving the school occurred prior to the As-T, which itself coincides with the time denoted by
5 p.m. This reading of the sentence is illustrated by the schema below and it yields the so
called reference time reading of the sentence:

EV-T AS-T UT-T

[ ][.][]..>
5 PM
57

In complex sentences, the matrix sentence establishes the past As-T of the subordinate past
perfect clause, as in the example below:

(106) a) They told us yesterday that Tom had arrived 3 days earlier.
b) *Tom had arrived 3 days earlier

Notice first that sentence (106b) is ungrammatical as an independent sentence because it


contains an adverbial and a tense marker that together cannot establish the As-T. Sentence
(106a) is well formed because the adverb yesterday in the main clause also establishes the As-
T of the embedded clause: we understand that Toms arrival occurred 3 days prior to
yesterday. The adverb in the embedded clause specifies a time other than As-T, namely Ev-
T2. Thus, while the adverb in the main clause specifies As-T for both clauses, the adverb in
the embedded clause specifies only its Ev-T (and its As-T is shared with that of the matrix
clause).

The past perfect can be used in main clauses (as in 105) and in subordinate clauses. As we
have seen, it may occur in complement clauses to describe an event that occurred previous to
a past reference time as well as in subordinate adverbial clauses introduced by the
conjunctions: when, after, before, till, as soon as. Consider some examples:

I realised that we had met before./ I thought I had sent the cheque a week before/I
wondered who had left the door open.

(107) He would not allow anyone to leave the inn till he had drunk himself asleep / As two
and a half years had elapsed since he had made any money, Spencer returned to London
/ When his mind had been weaker his heart led him to speak out / Within the minutes
after he had received the assurance that the thing was impossible, he was conducted into
the outer office. / He went out before

As stated by different linguists and grammarians, under certain conditions the perfect
may be omitted with little or no effect on the temporal interpretation
In subordinate adverbial clauses of time introduced by an explicit conjunction, such as as
soon as, before and after the perfect may be omitted with little or no effect; the past perfect
can be substituted by the simple past tense, if the predicate denotes a non-durative eventuality
:

(72) After/When he came back from India, he was made a member of Parliament / As soon
as he discovered them, he ran away / I ate my lunch after my wife came back. She left
after/as soon as/before he spoke to her. After he finished his exams he went to Paris for
a month./As soon as I put the phone down it rang again./She left the country as soon as
she completed her thesis.

However, there are cases when the past perfect is not substitutable by the past tense, as a
marker of anteriority of the event in the subordinate clause is necessary for the correct
interpretation of the whole sentence. It is the durative feature of the situation type that
requires the use of the perfect (durative accomplishment/activity):

(73) When he had read the letter, he burned it / * When he read the letter, he burned it / After
he had listened to the radio, he turned it off / * After he listened to the radio, he turned it
off. /She left the country as soon as she had written her thesis.
58

The durative feature of the situation is indeed relevant in using the past perfect in subordinate
clauses of time. Compare the following sentences:

(i) She left the country as soon as she had completed/completed her thesis.
(ii) She left the country as soon as she had written/*wrote her thesis.
(iii) She left the country before she had written her thesis
(iv) She left the country before she wrote her thesis

There is a distinct difference in interpretation between (iii) and (iv): (iii) suggests that she had
started writing when she left while (iv) indicates that the leaving preceded the whole of the
thesis writing. (H&P 2002:147)
As already mentioned, when-clauses are flexible, allowing several interpretations.
When seems not to impose any particular relation on situations (unlike after which always
requires that the main clause have a closed interpretation). The situations presented may be
taken as simultaneous, overlapping or successive, depending on viewpoint and situation types.
Given these characteristics of when, the contrast between perfect and non-perfect takes on
more significance. Compare the following:

(i) When I had written the letters I did some gardening.


(ii) When I wrote to her she came at once.
(iii) When I had opened the windows I sat down and had a cup of tea.
(iv) When I opened the window the cat jumped out.

As we can notice, following Swan (1995:421), the past perfect in (i,iii) marks the first
action as separate, independent of the second, completed before the second started. In contrast
the simple past (ii, iv) can suggest that the first event leads into the other, or that there is a
cause-effect link between them.

Means of expressing Future Time


It is a well-acknowledged fact that one cannot be as certain of future situations as one
is of events past and present, and for this reason (Leech 1971) there are a number of ways of
expressing future time in English, the most important of which are:

Simple Present : The parcel arrives tomorrow


Present progressive: The parcel is arriving tomorrow
Be going to + Infinitive: The parcel is going to arrive tomorrow
Will/shall + Infinitive: The parcel will arrive tomorrow
Will/shall + Progressive Infinitive: The parcel will be arriving tomorrow

All these linguistic means that express future time belong to either the modal system
(will, shall) or to the aspectual paradigm (the progressive). As known, modal verbs such as
will and shall express predictions about what might happen in the future. All epistemic senses
of modal verbs (i.e., possibility/probability) involve future time: they represent predictions of
present attitudes with respect to a future time sphere (e.g., it may/shall/will take place
tomorrow).
In what follows we describe the above-mentioned five means of expressing futurity in
English for us to be able to grasp some differences and nuances of usage that distinguish
among them.
59

2.4.1. Present Tense with Future value ( the Futurate) . The Simple Present may be used to
describe future situations . The fact that the Simple Present still means present is rendered
clear by the possibility of having different time specifications within he same clause, as the
examples below (39) indicate:

(39) The match now starts next Monday, not Tuesday, as I said in my letter

(Huddlestone&Pullum:133)

The two adjuncts specify different time intervals: now (as well as the present tense
morpheme) specifies UT-T/AS-T while next Monday specifies the time of the future
situation, i.e. EV-T. (UT-T/AS-T BEFORE EV-T)
The presence of the present tense morpheme has immediate consequences on the
interpretation of the future situation assigning it a high degree of certainty, i.e. it attributes to
the future the same degree of certainty that we normally accord to present or past events
(Leech: 60). This entails that the futurate construction is subject to severe constraints among
which is:
the presence of future time adverbials,
the aspectual type of the situation (state predicates are excluded in such
sentences ) and, last but not least
the future situation is determinable from the state of the world now, that is to
say that the clause must involve something that can be assumed to be known
already in the present.
In the example above the present tense morpheme and the adverb now give the time of
the arrangement or schedule. It is generally assumed that with the Simple Present the
arrangement is felt to be an impersonal or collective one, made, for example, by a committee,
a court of law or some un-named authority.
The most widely used predicates belong to the class of non-durative event verbs in
particular verbs of directed motion such as go, leave, come, meet, aspectual verbs such as
begin, start, end, etc.
According to grammarians, the most common uses involve:
(i)statements about the calendar or cyclic events,
(ii) scheduled events (regarded as unalterable) and
(iii) subordinate clauses introduced by conditional and adverbial conjunctions.
Consider the examples below borrowed from different sources (Leech 1971, Huddlestone
and Pullum, 2002):

(40) (i) Tomorrow is Sunday./Next Christmas falls on a Thursday/The next


high tide is around 4 this afternoon/When is the next full moon?

(ii) The next Kevin Costner film opens at the Eldorado on Saturday./When do the lectures
end this year?/She is president until next May./Her case comes before the
magistrate next week./The Chancellor makes his budget speech tomorrow
afternoon/We start for Istanbul tonight.
(iii)When the spring comes , the swallows will return./Jeeves will announce the guests as
they arrive./If you dont do better next time you are fired/Either he plays
according to the rules or he doesnt play at all/Ill tell you if it hurts.

The set of examples in (43i) reflect the use of the Simple Present for recurrent events
whose time of occurrence can be scientifically calculated, hence it can be included under what
60

is currently known. By contrast, the simple present is not used for future weather since such
events are not conceived of as being within the domain of what is known (Huddlestone and
Pullum, 2002:132). Weather forecasts are rendered by means of going to or shall/will
In (43ii) we have examples that describe situations that have already been arranged,
scheduled.The element of current schedule or arrangement is seen in the contrast in (44)
below (Huddlestone and Pullum, 2002:132):

(41) (i) Australia meets Sweden in the Davis Cup final in December
(ii) ???Australia beats Sweden in the Davis Cup final in December

The sentence in (44i) is quite natural in a context where Australia and Sweden have already
qualified for the final. The use of the Present in (44ii) is unnatural, since the sentence conveys
that the result itself has already been arranged. It is to be noted that subjective certainty is not
enough; knowing the skill, experience and past performances of the team, one might feel
certain about the result of the match but this does not sanction the Simple Present.
The use of the Simple Present in (43iii) is not just a requirement of the syntactic
pattern, but has its base in a contrast of meaning. In the dependent clauses mentioned, the
happening referred to is not a prediction, but a fact that is given. A conditional sentence, for
instance, has the structure If X is a fact, then I predict Y. (Leech 1971:60). Hence, the use
of the Simple Present with Future value is appropriate to indicate that the consequence of the
condition being fulfilled it is inevitable or already decided, as in (43iii).
To sum up, the key to the Simple Present with Future value is that it represents
FUTURE AS FACT, that it attributes to the future the same degree of certainty that we
normally accord to present or past events.( Leech 1971:60).

2.4.2. The Present Progressive (Progressive Futurate)


Consider the following examples borrowed from Leech:

(45) Im starting work tomorrow/ Shes getting married this spring/Next they are playing the
Schubert Octet /

In each of the sentences there is the implication of an arrangement already made.


Important to mention is the fact that the progressive viewpoint of the predicate does
not have its usual value (Smith 1991:247), in the sense that the sentences above do not present
an open situation. As in the case of the Simple Present, the Present Progressive with future
time value is used to predict a future situation by virtue of a present plan, programme or
arrangement. According to Smith, the plan, arrangement are to be taken as preliminary stages
of the future event (just like in the case of the Simple Present);hence the reference time (i.e.
As-T) of the Progressive Futurate is the present and the future time adverbial specifies the
EV-T of the sentence. The general assumption is that the factor of plan or arrangement
restricts the Progressive Futurate to dynamic doing verbs cases where human agency is
involved, hence the anomaly of examples like (46 b,c) below:

(46) a) John is rising at 5 tomorrow


b) *The sun is rising at 5 tomorrow/*It is raining tomorrow
c) *Who is being captain of the team next Saturday?

In (46c) the progressive occurs with an individual level state of being and having (be, contain,
consist, cost, have etc) that generally do not occur in the progressive.
61

Present progressive sentences with future time adverbs tend to be used for the
relatively near future rather than distant future whereas there is no such difference in the case
of the Simple Futurate. The Progressive Futurate may also convey a sense of imminence that
is absent from the use of the simple present tense with future time adverbs:

(47) The Smiths are leaving tomorrow / My aunt is coming to stay with us this Christmas.

Huddlestone and Pullum (2002) contrast the use of the simple present tense form with
the present progressive form with future time adverbs along similar terms. Consider first the
sentences (21 in H&P):

(48) (a) I phone her tonight (b) Im phoning her tonight


(c) She has her operation tomorrow d) Shes having her operation tomorrow
(e) It expires tomorrow/in five years (f) Its expiring tomorrow/?in five years

The difference between progressive and non-progressive is fairly clear in pairs like (48a,b).
The non-progressive (48a) suggests a schedule or plan: perhaps I regularly call her on Sunday
or perhaps the call is part of a larger plan or arrangement- its hardly possible if Id simply
said casually, Ill phone you tonight. The progressive could be used in these schedule/plan
scenarios, but it is not limited to them: it could be that I have formed the intention to call her
(without consulting her or anyone else about the matter) and am waiting till I think shell be
in. In (c ) and (d) there is little difference between the two forms; operations normally involve
formal scheduling, the only possible difference is that the progressive tends to be used for the
relatively near future

2.4.3. Be Going To
Consider the following example:

(49) (i) Im going to call him


(ii) Its going to rain.

Be going to is a frozen form that cannot be analyzed into two separate verb forms: it is
listed as such in the lexicon. Jespersen (1931) remarks that the structure be going to derives
from the progressive form of the verb to go: going loses its meaning as a verb of movement
and becomes an empty grammatical word. The same process occurred in French with the
form je vais faire. In contemporary English, be going to is mainly used in colloquial speech.
The basic meaning of be going to is that of future fulfillment of the present (Leech,
1971). Leech (1971) identifies two extensions of this general meaning of to be going to:
the first one is the future fulfillment of present intention that is chiefly found with
human subjects who consciously exercise their will and with doing or agentive verbs.
Thus a sentence like *I wonder whether she is going to know you is odd because one
cannot will oneself into knowing somebody.

(50) What are you going to do today? I am going to stay at home and write letters
Theyre going to get married in a registry office/
62

On this reading a sentence such as I am going to punish you is felt as stronger than I
intend to punish you; it implies the speakers confidence in his power to put the threat into
effect.
The intention communicated by to be going to is usually ascribable to the subject of
the sentence. In passive sentences, to be going to refers to the intention of the implied agent:
This wall is going to be painted green (i.e. we or somebody else intend to paint the wall
green) (Leech 1976:55)
the second extension of the general sense of be going to can be stated as future
fulfillment of present cause (Leech, 1971). This sense is common with both animate
and inanimate subjects and agentive and non-agentive verbs, covering thus a wider
range of contexts than the intentional meaning of to be going to (Leech 1976):

(51) She is going to have another baby (i.e., she is already pregnant) / I think Im going to
faint (i.e., I already feel ill) / Theres going to be a storm in a minute (i.e., I can see the
black clouds gathering)/Watch out! The pile of boxes is going to fall

In all the sentences above the feeling is that the events/causes leading to the future event
are under way.
Notice that be going to can also be used when speaking about periods remote from UT-
T, that is to say in neither of the two uses is imminence a necessary semantic accompaniment
of be going to:

(52) (i) Im going to be a policeman when I grow up (present intention)


(ii) If Winterbottoms calculations are correct, this planet is going to burn itself out
200,000,000 years from now (present cause)

Generally, Be going to is inappropriate in main clauses of IF- subclauses Compare:

(53) If you accept that job, youll never regret it vs.


*If you accept that job, you are never going to regret it

The difference is accounted for by the fact that be going focuses on the present
circumstances (AS-T =present), while in the case of will it focuses on future rather than
present contingencies (AS-T =future).
If the circumstances are present rather than future be going to is suitable in the main
clause of if-clauses (see ex.52ii and 54i,ii). On the other hand, many corpus studies
mention that, unlike shall/will, be going to is well-represented in if-clauses:

(54) If we carry on like this we are going to find ourselves in difficulty.


If youre going to lose your temper, I am not going to/ wont play.
And if hes going to walk to Tenby they could be starting when he is in Tenby.
If we are going to get there on time we must leave immediately (H&P: 201)

2.4.4. Will and Shall


Most traditional grammars have interpreted the modal auxiliaries will and shall as
means of expressing future time. In fact, the contribution of these modal verbs in sentences
such as (55) below is modal: the examples in (55i) the interpretation is that of making
predictions, i.e. something involving the speakers judgement, while those in (55ii) express
volitional futurity:
63

(55) (i) Allan will be in Bucharest now / Mary will be in Sibiu tomorrow / Tomorrows
weather will be cold and cloudy / You will feel better after you take this medicine
(ii) If he should decide to instruct us further in the matter, well let you know.
The only relative I know of, Doctor, is a daughter in America. Ill cable her,
naturally.

The mixture of (modal and temporal) values of these modal verbs is due to the
diachronic development of English: at the beginning will/shall had only modal values and in
time they also developed a future reading when they occur with future time adverbs.
Leech (1971) makes the following comments with respect to their usage: frequently a
sentence with will/shall is incomplete without an adverbial of definite time: *It will rain /
*The room will be cleaned. These sentences are relatively unacceptable on their own,
presumably because of their factual emptiness: we all feel certain that it will rain at some
time in the future, so there is no point in saying it will rain unless an actual time can be
forecast.
Although the will/shall construction is generally assumed to provide English with the
nearest approximation to a colourless, neutral future, one should not describe it as a future
tense on a par with the Present and Past Tenses. According to Leech, we cannot be as certain
of future happenings as we are of events past and present, and for this reason, even the most
confident prognostication must indicate something of the speakers attitude and so be tinged
with modality. Will and shall are no exceptions (Leech 1976:52). Several contemporary
large-size grammars, such as The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language
(2002),assume that while there are numerous ways of indicating future time, there is no
grammatical category that can properly be analysed as a future tense (H&P:209)
The will/shall future is favoured in contexts in which it is appropriate to make predictions:

(i) forecast (weather, harvest, etc): Tomorrows weather will be cold and cloudy. Next
year we shall have a good harvest. Itll be winter soon. Youll come of age next year. The
next budget will be a severe one.

(ii) cause-effect relationship: You will feel better after this medicine/Perhaps Ill change
my mind after Ive spoken to my wife/

(iii)prophetic statements: In twenty years time the average employee will work a twenty-
five hour week.

(iv) main clause of conditional sentences: (i) If you pull the lever,the roof will slide back.
If you work hard, you will succeed.

(v)Instantaneous intention: The kettle is boiling. Ill make some tea./ The only relative I
know of, Doctor, is a daughter in America. Ill cable her, naturally./The telephone is
ringing.All right, Ill answer it.

Differences between shall/will future and going to future


A very interesting and intuitively clear suggestion, put forth by R.A Close (1970:230),
is that the major difference between shall/will and be going to as markers of futurity lies in the
distinction between future-oriented and present-oriented expressions of futurity.
64

According to Close, expressions that predict an event or state are future-oriented,


whereas present oriented expressions are those that may contain present indications of what
the future may bring (Close 1970:230).
Accordingly, be going to is described as present-oriented since the essential point of
this construction is a focus on some present factor (e.g. intention, preparation, obvious signs)
which is felt to be leading to a future event. Will/shall are described as future-oriented, since
they are preferred when emphasis on present signs, intention, etc. is absent or irrelevant.
Leech (1971:54) considers the meaning of the going to construction to be future fulfillment
of the present. Hudlestone and Pullum (2002:211) also lay emphasis on the fact that be
going to has greater focus on the matrix time which depends on the matrix tense: present with
is going to and past with was going to. The AS-T of be going to is ,hence, Present, the
adverb, if any, specifying EV-T. In the case of shall/will AS-T is Future and EV-T is co-
temporal with it.
The above-stated difference accounts for the following:
(i) the inappropriateness of going to in future conditional sentences except when the
condition is a present one rather than a future one (Leech 1971) (see examples
above)
(ii) imminence is not a necessary semantic accompaniment of going to constructions (see
examples above)
(iii)going to expressions in the past do not entail that the situation described by the verb
was actualised, while the would version (restricted to narrative past) entails
actualization:

(56) (i) He was going to marry his tutor at the end of the year
(ii) He would marry his tutor at the end of the year
(iii) He was going to/*would challenge me to a duel but on mature consideration he
changed his mind
(iv) I was going to/*would fail the exam, but the examiner turned out to be short-sighted.

The was going to version in (56i) implicates non-actualisation of the situation, which is
accounted for by the current focus mentioned above: was going to focuses on the
intention/arrangement obtaining in the past rather than on the future event as such. Would, on
the other hand, is semantically strong and the would version entails actualisation of the event
of marrying.
In case the sentence has a past time sphere, all the future time expressions are modified
to indicate a future + past situation (future in the past):

(58) He was leaving town the day after we arrived / He was going to be a policeman later in
his life.

Palmer (1979:130) remarks that for future in the past, be going to is regularly used,
while in literary style would is likely to occur (Leech, 1971):

(59) I was going to say that it looked a bit like a pheasant in flight / and the North just
wasnt going to have it at any price / Twenty years later, Dick Whittington would be the
richest man in London

2.4.5. Will/Shall + Progressive Infinitive


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Traditional grammars list the structure will/shall be V-ing among the means of
expressing future time events. Huddlestone and Pullum (2002:171) take the same point of
view as far as the will+progressive is concerned. As in the case of the Futurate, the
progressive form of the verb is not interpreted in terms of imperfective aspectuality but
rather in terms of future time reference. Consider the examples below:

Consider the following examples:

(60) (i) This time next week I shall be sailing across the Atlantic (aspectual meaning)
(ii) Dont call me at 9 Ill be eating my supper. (aspectual meaning)
(iii)When we get there, theyll probably still be having lunch (aspectual meaning)
(iv) Will you be going to the shops this afternoon? (future time reading)
(v) Will you go to the shops? (request)
(vi) When the meeting ends well be flying to Bonn (ambiguous)

In the sentences in (60i,ii,iii) the verb is in the progressive form and the modal shall
contributes its (modal) predictive sense. Therefore, the sentence predicts that this time next
week/9 oclock/when we get here the activity denoted by the predicate is in progress. In all
these sentences we can identify the aspectual meaning of the progressive. In (iv) the
interpretation of the sentence is different. The difference in interpretation can best be seen by
comparing (60iv) to (60v) the non-progressive counterpart of (60iv). According to
grammarians, the salient interpretation of the non-progressive (60v) is as a request to the
subject of the sentence to go to the shops. The role of the progressive in (60iv) is to avoid
such an interpretation; the progressive indicates that the matter has already been settled rather
than being subject to decision now (H&P 2002:172).
The difference between the two meanings of the progressive progressive aspectuality
and future time reference- is conspicuous in the ambiguity of (60vi). On the progressive
aspectuality (imperfective) reading we will already be flying to Bonn when the meeting ends
i.e. AS-T within EV-T; UT-T before AS-T; on the already decided future interpretation the
when adjunct says when we will leave: UT-T before AS-T/EV-T,just as in the non-
progressive well fly , which, however, suggests, more or less, instantaneous decision.
In what follows we quote Leechs (1971:68) comments on the different usages of
will/shall vs will/shall and the progressive, comments which confirm the statements above.
With human subjects and activity verbs the modals will/shall+ short infinitive
frequently combine prediction with overtones of volition. Consider first the following set of
sentences:

(57) a) Ill drive into London next week (Ive made my mind)
b) Ill be driving into London next week (as a matter of fact)
c) Will you put on another play soon (Please!)
d) Will you be putting on another play soon? (Is this going to happen?)

In principle, it is possible to use (57a) in the neutral predictive sense of I shall die one day,
but in practice, it is difficult to avoid suggesting at the same time that one wants and intends to
drive to London. The possibility of volitional coloring is avoided in sentence (57b), which is
understood simply as a statement that such and such is going to happen. Sentence (57b)
could easily precede the offer Can I give you a lift?, for it would forestall any awkward
feeling of indebtedness on the listeners part: I shall be making the journey anyway, so dont
feel you would be causing me any trouble.
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The same thing applies to the second pair. As a question, sentence (57c) implicates
the intentions of the listener, and therefore comes to sound almost like a cajoling imperative;
but sentence (57d) simply asks whether a future production will come to pass. Along with
Leech (1971) we will call this form of future as future as a matter of course

In case the sentence has a past time sphere, all the future time expressions are
modified to indicate a future + past situation (future in the past):

(58) He was leaving town the day after we arrived / He was going to be a policeman later in
his life

To the above-mentioned expressions of futurity in English we can also add the


following: to be about to (used to express imminent future situations; it is less colloquial than
to be going to), to be ready to, to be near to, to be on the point of/on the verge of/on the brink
of:

(90) He was about to retrace his steps when he was suddenly transfixed to the spot by a
sudden appearance / His finger was upon the trigger and he was on the point of fire / He
has been on the brink of marrying her / He was just on the point of proposing to her /
The miserable foreigner looked ready to drop with fatigue / I was very nearly offering a
large reward