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  1. #21
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    riverkid and Mike are arguing here because they are using different definitions of "tense". Mike is using the definition used for the purposes of teaching English to non-native speakers; riverkid is using the narrower, linguistic definition. They'll never agree until they can first agree on which definition of "tense" they're using.
    Mike is the one using a definition that is so narrow as to be highly misleading. What is it with this need to hang on to old guidelines that so poorly inform the very students that we're trying to help.

    There's nothing difficult about telling students we don't have a future tense. Little children can easily grasp that concept when they are shown the multiple forms that wew use to describe a future.

    But it's terribly inaccurate and detrimental to language acqusition to have students focus in on an overly narrow concept of the future as one that uses 'will', and the real joke, 'shall'.

    ESLs have a tendency to overuse 'will' as a default future when in many language situations it sounds decidely unnatural. 'shall', fuggedaboudit!

  2. #22
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    to hang on to old guidelines that so poorly inform the very students that we're trying to help.
    I haven't commented on the issue yet, but I feel that I have to...

    To say that there is a future tense in English, formed with "will" (let alone "shall", as riverkid correctly mentioned), creates such erroneous (and unfortunately very solid) beliefs regarding the use of modals and tenses, that it takes a lot of hard work to alter.

    Someone asked me today, why do we use the future tense in the example
    -The bell is ringing.
    -That will be the postman


    It wasn't easy for the person to understand that this isn't really referring to the future...

  3. #23
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    Of course English can express future events. I have already given many examples of how it does. We simply don't have a special tense for doing that -- we use a different system.

    riverkid and Mike are arguing here because they are using different definitions of "tense". Mike is using the definition used for the purposes of teaching English to non-native speakers; riverkid is using the narrower, linguistic definition. They'll never agree until they can first agree on which definition of "tense" they're using.
    Well said.

  4. #24
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mariner View Post
    I haven't commented on the issue yet, but I feel that I have to...

    To say that there is a future tense in English, formed with "will" (let alone "shall", as riverkid correctly mentioned), creates such erroneous (and unfortunately very solid) beliefs regarding the use of modals and tenses, that it takes a lot of hard work to alter.

    Someone asked me today, why do we use the future tense in the example
    -The bell is ringing.
    -That will be the postman

    It wasn't easy for the person to understand that this isn't really referring to the future...
    Do we have the same problem with using the past tense for hypotheticals?

    IMO, it is better to explain to students that tenses are constructions that do not necessarily conform to a particular time. They can also handle that. But I understand your point.

  5. #25
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    MikeNewYork: Do we have the same problem with using the past tense for hypotheticals?

    Yes, Mike, we most assuredly do. Don't you teach ESLs?

    IMO, it is better to explain to students that tenses are constructions that do not necessarily conform to a particular time. They can also handle that. But I understand your point.

    This is all a bit of a red herring, not that I'm saying it's your fault, Mike. The more limited meaning of tense, ie. an inflection is relatively new. ESLs have for years believed that tense and time are the same.

    But clearly, rather than hold on to inadequate descriptions of language, it's much easier to inform students from the outset that English has no specific future tense.

    As Mariner so accurately pointed out, ESLs get frozen in their thoughts with these grammar points. Clearly, when you look at the dictionary definitions for 'will', [even 'shall', though it isn't used much], we see that the modal meanings are quite expansive and to leave ESLs with the limited and mistaken impression that 'will' signals a future, it truly does form hard to break habits.

  6. #26
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    MikeNewYork: Do we have the same problem with using the past tense for hypotheticals?

    Yes, Mike, we most assuredly do. Don't you teach ESLs?

    IMO, it is better to explain to students that tenses are constructions that do not necessarily conform to a particular time. They can also handle that. But I understand your point.

    This is all a bit of a red herring, not that I'm saying it's your fault, Mike. The more limited meaning of tense, ie. an inflection is relatively new. ESLs have for years believed that tense and time are the same.

    But clearly, rather than hold on to inadequate descriptions of language, it's much easier to inform students from the outset that English has no specific future tense.

    As Mariner so accurately pointed out, ESLs get frozen in their thoughts with these grammar points. Clearly, when you look at the dictionary definitions for 'will', [even 'shall', though it isn't used much], we see that the modal meanings are quite expansive and to leave ESLs with the limited and mistaken impression that 'will' signals a future, it truly does form hard to break habits.
    That it is much better to deny the future tense is an opinion, and one I do not share.

  7. #27
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    That it is much better to deny the future tense is an opinion, and one I do not share.
    Tell me something I don't know, Mike. You hold on to these old wives tales with a ferocity that is truly legendary.

  8. #28
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Do we have the same problem with using the past tense for hypotheticals?

    IMO, it is better to explain to students that tenses are constructions that do not necessarily conform to a particular time. They can also handle that. But I understand your point.
    I understand what you mean Mike, but there's a crucial difference. As Huddleston points out, "there is no verbal category in English whose primary use is to locate in future time the situation described in the clause"

    We might use the past tense inflexion for conditionals, e.g. If he gave that, he would regret it but this is not "the primary or characteristic use of the verbal contrast between" gave and give

    Another example of will being primarly a modal, not directly (or exclusively) concerned with future tense:

    I will come tomorrow
    I may come tomorrow
    I should come tomorrow
    I must come tomorrow

    The modality (the level of probability, as Quirk and Greenbaum would say) is clearly visible
    And then you have of course
    I'm coming tomorrow

  9. #29
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    A note to all:

    There are differences in views about grammar and this forum will continue to allow both to co-exist, but will not allow things to descend into a flame war.

    While we're on the subject of good teaching, some of us might be reminded that undermining other teachers and claiming that we are right and they are wrong is not good teaching- there is a difference between good teaching and showing-off.

    We all know that there are differences on the issue of whether English has a future tense and, whichever side we are on, little here is likely to change that position. Therefore, we have to accept that these differences exist, while expressing our opinions on the issue. Any attempt to stifle the alternative views by smearing them is not conducive to a happy forum, and the primary aim of the forum is to create a civilised debate, even where we utterly reject the other person's point of view.

    We can debate and argue, but the yah-boo approach is not acceptable. I will start deleting any such posts and locking threads in future. I have no wish to do so, but the forum is a place to discuss and not a soapbox. It is not edifying for learners to see squabbles among the people who/whom they are asking for help- we can disagree and discuss in a decent manner that allows for all sides of the argument, or we can see our posts deleted, our threads closed, etc. It's fine to say there is a future tense in English, and it's fine to say there isn't. However, it is not fine to insult or denigrate people for holding opposite views. Both views are valid to those that hold them, and we as a forum accept that both views exist, even though I disagree with one side.

    I teach academic English and we look at things like hedging, but I am not seeing much of that going on here and in a few other threads. Please accept that there are differences of view and deal with them without resort to slamming each other. We all love language, which is why we're here, though we may feel very differently about it. My primary aim is to foster decent debate about language and I shall not hesitate to use the controls I have to protect the site.
    Last edited by Tdol; 29-Nov-2006 at 05:47.

  10. #30
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: is there future tense in English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mariner View Post
    I understand what you mean Mike, but there's a crucial difference. As Huddleston points out, "there is no verbal category in English whose primary use is to locate in future time the situation described in the clause"

    We might use the past tense inflexion for conditionals, e.g. If he gave that, he would regret it but this is not "the primary or characteristic use of the verbal contrast between" gave and give

    Another example of will being primarly a modal, not directly (or exclusively) concerned with future tense:

    I will come tomorrow
    I may come tomorrow
    I should come tomorrow
    I must come tomorrow

    The modality (the level of probability, as Quirk and Greenbaum would say) is clearly visible
    And then you have of course
    I'm coming tomorrow
    And I agree. But the overwhelming percentage of meanings of "will + verb" refers to things that have not yet happened (and that doesn't refer to speculation or hypothesis). This is why the future tense was originally called that. I see no change in that.

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