Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Tense Question


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 154
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #1

    Tense Question

    Even more surprising, the study found that women weren't any cleaner. In fact, in three of the five cities they visited, researchers found that women had dirtier hands than men. In cosmopolitan London, for example, women were three times more likely than men to be harboring germs on their manicured hands.


    Does the continuous tense emphasize that the person harbor the germs all the time?
    What's different if I use present tense to harbor germs here?

  1. engee30's Avatar
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Interested in Language
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • Great Britain

    • Join Date: Apr 2006
    • Posts: 2,819
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #2

    Smile Re: Tense Question

    To me, to be more likely than somebody else to do something would rather refer to a future situation, whereas ... to be doing something refers to something that exists now.



    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,425
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #3

    Re: Tense Question

    ...women were three times more likely than men to be harboring germs on their manicured hands.


    The Past Tense 'were' is used because it relates to the "study", which is finished, complete. The study found that women were...

    To extrapolate from the findings: then, 'Women are more likely to be harbouring germs than...' (Your Present Tense form)

    Does the continuous tense emphasize that the person harbor the germs all the time?
    On the contrary, it suggests this is a temporary state, with a beginning and end.
    After a shower in the morning, both men and women may have few germs, and roughly the same germ-count. Perhaps, say, as the working day continues, women don't wash their hands as often as men because they don't want to chip their manicured nails, or spoil their nail varnish, or chaff their hands by frequent washing, or their moisturizer acts so that germs 'stick' to it. So, as the day continues, germs accumulate more on women's hands.
    But if they wash to go out that night, or at least, next time they have a shower, both sexes start off again with relatively germ-free hands. Having germs on your hands is an ongoing circumstance until the hands are washed, and the 'harbouring of germs' is brought to an end. It is an ongoing condition, but not a 'permanent' condition.


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 154
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #4

    Re: Tense Question

    Thanks all~

    But one more question,

    Is it more likely to use continous tense"be harboring germs" for human because human has the moment of " germ-free" by washing, so the human's harboring- germs-status is always temporary?

    On the contrary, objects are never washed or wash themselves. "harbor germs" is their all the time status. So, they tend to use present tense instead of continous tense.

    Wait for your help~


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,425
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #5

    Re: Tense Question

    The use of a particular tense is not to do with whether we are referring to humans or objects, but our view of the situation. It just so happens that humans have greater means for ridding themselves and their environment of germs.
    Consider this:
    I would say, "Rats carry diseases." because this is a timeless fact.
    It would be odd to use a Present Continuous form - "These rats are carrying diseases" - (since all wild rats do, probably always have, and will)...
    1. - unless, perhaps, they are to become laboratory rats and are going to be treated for fleas and any other means necessary so that they are no longer disease carriers. In that way, I see the present condition of the rats as temporary and different from other disease-free laboratory rats.
    or
    2. they are laboratory rats which have been infected with a particular disease for experimental purposes, and I might say, "These are the rats that are carrying the X12 strain of the virus, and over here, these are the rats.."
    Here, I may view this as temporary, as I anticipate that some will die, and some (inoculated against the disease) will survive the disease, and then be killed for autopsy.

    If you are still unsure about the use of this tense, try making up some sentences and posting them, together with a context.

    If you just write, "I was brushing my teeth", one cannot tell (since there is no context) whether this is a correct use of the tense or not.

    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Other
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • England
      • Current Location:
      • England

    • Join Date: Feb 2005
    • Posts: 2,585
    • Post Thanks / Like
    #6

    Re: Tense Question

    As a footnote:

    1. They were more likely to be harbouring germs.
    2. They were more likely to harbour germs.

    #1 implies that when their hands were checked, during the study, they were more likely to have germs on their hands.

    #2 implies that at any time, they were more likely to have germs on their hands.

    (The study in question was intriguing and disconcerting.)

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

Similar Threads

  1. another question about tense
    By enydia in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 11-May-2008, 09:17
  2. question of tense
    By enydia in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 10-May-2008, 05:58
  3. My own theory on the present perfect tense
    By HaraKiriBlade in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 16-Aug-2007, 23:29
  4. Specific question about Present Continuous/Simple Tense
    By learner2007 in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 05-Aug-2007, 19:43

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •