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  1. #1
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default tense and meaning

    Dear teachers,

    What is the difference in meaning between these sentences ?

    1) a) It is (high) time I / we went. (it is a little late ?)
    b) It is (high) time for us to go. (the correct time has arrived ?)

    2) a) It is (high) time they were married. (describes a state, a situation ?)
    b) It is (high) time they married. (describes an action ?)

    3) a) I was talking to Tom the other day. (= casual event ?)
    (emphasis on the conversation: we were having a conversation when something happened)

    b) I talked to Tom the other day. (= premeditated event ?)
    (the subject did take the initiative of the action or he informed Tom about what he and other people agreed upon ?)
    4) a) What were you doing in my room? (could indicate a reproach ?)
    (= you had no right to be there ?)

    b) What did you do in my room? (simple question about a past activity? )

    5) a) What were you doing before you came here? (question about a past action in progress?)

    b) What did you do before you came here? (= what was your occupation before you came here ? or Other meaning ?)

    6) a) Bill had served in the army for 10 years; then he retired and married. His children were now at school.
    (“now” here expresses a time of narration in the past ?)

    b) Bill served in the army for 10 years; then he retired and married. His children are now at school.
    (“now” here expresses a time of narration in the present ?)
    Do you have better explanations, please?

    Thank you in advance for your help.
    Hela

  2. #2
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    The idiom high time means past due, overdue, semantics: from beyond the top of the hour.

    As for the rest, sorry, but I feel lost. Interpretation is context depend.

  3. #3
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    Dear Casiopea,

    My message was too long, as usual. Let's take the sentences one by one then.

    As far as the first couple of sentences are concerned, do they have EXACTLY the same meaning, or is there a little difference ?

    1)
    a) It is (high) time I / we went.
    (it is a little late ?, i.e., we had to be out of the house at 8 o'clock sharp and now it's 10 past or even 2 minutes past ? Is this what you meant when you said "semantics: from beyond the top of the hour." ?)

    b) It is (high) time for us to go.
    (does this mean that it is NOT too late yet, it's perhaps 8 o'clock sharp now ?)

    Thank you in advance for your answers.
    Hela

  4. #4
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    That sounds great.

    a) It is high time we went/left.
    => We've spent too much time here already, so it's high time (that) we left.
    => We're fed up with what's going on here, so it's high time (that) we left.
    => We're scared about what's going on here, so it's high time (that) we left.

    high noon, for example, is when the sun is at its highest in the sky; high time, which is similar in meaning to about time, is when time is at its worst; i.e., an event is way overdue, be that event an exit as in leaving a location or something like, say, a chore:

    EX: Sam, it's high time you did your homework. You've been putting it off for a week.


    b) It is high time for us to go.
    => This means the same as a), with the exception that "us" being an object pronoun, expresses a group is undergoing the event; that is, they are not the actors or initiators of the event; someone or something is making "us" go; it's not our decision, and yet, it could be our decision, but we're using "us" to sound more polite, and less direct. "We" is direct. It expresses exactly who the actor or the decision maker is. If you use "us", it makes it sound as if you have no part in the decision, which even if you do, makes it a polite way of leave taking. So technically, "we" and "us", not "went" and "to go", should be highlighted in a) and b) respectively. As for the infinitive verb to go, a preposition heads the phrase, and the reason it lacks tense.

  5. #5
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    Hello everyone,

    when talking about past time is is true that we always have to use the simple present when we ask a question with "when" and the present perfect in a question with "how long"?

    ex: a) When DID you GO to the cinema?
    b) How long HAVE they STAYED under the bridge ?’ ‘For half an hour.’

    Can we say: ‘How long DID they STAY under the bridge ?’ ‘For half an hour.’ ??

    Many thanks,
    Hela
    Last edited by hela; 20-Dec-2004 at 15:30.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    'How long' can be used with the past when the action is finished, and the present perfect when it isn't. 'When' is normally used with the past simple, but can occasionally be used with the present perfect to show surprise or disbelief.

  7. #7
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    Thanks tdol,

    Would you please give an example of each?
    Thanks,
    Hela

  8. #8
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: tense and meaning

    Dear teachers,

    Could you please tell me the difference between the following couple of sentences?

    1) a) We watched TV all night.
    b) We were watching TV all night.

    2) a) I have been cutting onions, this is why my eyes look red.
    b) I have cut my finger when I was cutting onions. (correct sentence ?)

    3) a) It has rained all night.
    b) It has been raining all night.

    4) a) I have been writing letters all morning.
    b) I have written letters all morning.

    5) a) Look at the mess my paper is in! Who has been reading it?
    b) Look at the mess my paper is in! Who has read it?

    Thanks a lot,
    Hela

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