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Thread: shall

  1. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #61

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    My idea is that can has "could" as a past tense incarnation, and "could" as a conditional, a different word spelt the same. The same might go for shall and should, "I should think."
    I should think so too, but I think any similar use that may have existed with "shall" and "should" (certainly true for sceolde and sceal, the Old English words from which shall and should derive) has long since fallen into disuse, probably with the coming of Middle English in the 12/13th centuries.

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    #62

    Re: shall

    Yes, I agree. It's a stretch to think that "shall," now a definite future auxiliary, could itself have a real "past tense" unless you're into Douglas Adams' time travel theory of tenses.

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    #63

    Exclamation Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    Here's my answer to the student that asks me about the past of "shall".

    Although "should" is listed in the dictionary as being the past of "shall", this does not reflect common usage.

    Let's look at an example.

    Tom: I shall leave at 5:00 PM.
    Tom said he should leave at 5:00 PM.

    Using "shall" is very uncommon in ordinary and everyday language. Tom is far more likely to say "I should leave at 5:00 PM".

    Now, we can say that "will" is to "would" as "shall" is to "should". It's logical. However, "shall" is used so infrequently that this is not practical.

    Tom: I'll leave at 5:00 PM.
    Tom said he would leave at 5:00 PM.

    As the past of "will" in reported speech, "would" is the correct and logical choice.

    We cannot say the same relationship exists between "shall" and "should" because people are far more likely to simply say "I should leave at 5:00 PM." Common and everyday usage simply doesn't make it practical to think of "shall and should" in the same way we think of "will and would".

    All in all, getting too caught up in this question of "the past of shall" is not practical. This is so despite the fact that "should" is listed as the past of "shall" in the dictionary.
    i see that you are good at english. I want to improve my englísh skill, but i don't know, what should i do? Please help me? Thanks !!!!

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    #64

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    EDITED TO HELP YMNISKY & ANYONE ELSE WHOSE SCREEN CANNOT DETECT COLOR

    Thanks


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    #65

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    My idea is that can has "could" as a past tense incarnation, and "could" as a conditional, a different word spelt the same.

    I don't follow the idea that 'can' has 'could' as a conditional, if that's what you're saying, Konungursvia.

    And I don't believe that language use supports the idea that 'can' has 'could' as a past tense.

    John: I can jump over that stump.

    [John jumps over the stump.]

    John: *I could jump over the stump.*

    [*---* denotes ungrammatical]

    In order to have a grammatical response, (not necessarily the only one possible of course) we need,

    John: I was able to jump over the stump.


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    #66

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Let us come back to the main point

    Deciding whether such modal verbs in modern English have or have not tense will not change their everyday usage. Usually English native speakers use all of them correctly. When usage mistakes occur that is not because the speaker thinks about 'tenses'.
    That's true, YM. Ideas about language that aren't true have no effect on native speakers. My concern isn't for native speakers for they can't use modals in this fashion, it just isn't possible. Notice the complete absence of examples from native speakers.

    My concern is for ESLs. When told that 'could' is the past tense of 'can', ESLs produce such ungrammatical examples as,

    1. "I could catch the ball"

    to mean,

    2. I was able to catch the ball.

    Students also are confused by,

    We might go hiking tomorrow.

    I had two ESL students stay with me for a week and after a few days of hearing such things as,

    We might go to the bar for dinner; We might go canoeing this evening; We might have salmon for supper; ... ,

    they both asked me why I was using 'might' to talk about future events when 'might' is the past tense of 'may'.

    I'm concerned because ESLs [and even native speakers] are under the mistaken impression that the backshifting that occurs for reported speech is an actual past tense and therefore a past event.

    Native speakers can even say this but their internal grammars don't allow them to believe that's so. They know that when they hear,

    "He said that he was going to go to Seattle"

    that this doesn't carry a reference as to whether he has actually gone to Seattle, but it's hard to know what ESLs think given that they really believe that the verb is past tense/past time.

    That's why I'm concerned about these falsehoods being perpetuated.


    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    If you want to say they are all tenseless, that is ok, I don't see any problem. That is a systematic classification, you are modelling language to study it, that is good. But that is one possible model, not the only one. Anyone else who wants to study language classifying those modals according to tense has his rights.
    That doesn't sound like a reasonable defence for maintaining that the earth is flat, YM. Certainly, everyone has a right to argue their position. I definitely welcome that.

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    It is a fact that all the examples presented in this post have an equivalent in other languages. And in many of those languages, those example tenses do have a 'tense', even though the idea does not correspond to that exact tense.
    That really is of no consequence, save for a comparative study of languages. We've gotten in trouble with a lot of bad rules that were devised because someone thought Latin was a pretty hot language. All languages have their own rules; English is not Latin, nor Spanish nor French nor Yoruba and what happens in those languages has no effect on English. [Of course the same is true in reverse]

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Let us take exactly those examples above. Although you use 'will', these sentences do not have refer to future actions, ok. However, if you express them in other languages, they will be classified in some kind of 'future tense', with the very same meaning in English, that is, without referring to a future action. To fix the ideas you may think in Portuguese, but other similar languages will do as well. In those languages, one has much more than one simple future, but several different futures [ futuro do presente (present future), futuro do pretério (past future), etc ]. Depending on the situation, one uses a 'future tense' without properly referring to a future action. So what you are claiming to be a big grammar historical mistake runs the same way in other languages besides English.
    If there are similar mistakes in other languages, they too should be changed. How is it helpful to have inaccurate descriptions for those trying to learn anything? We wouldn't tell new swimmers to breath in when they go under water just because fish do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Whoever takes a look at the following table:
    can - could
    may - might
    will - would
    shall - should
    is tempted to look for a regularity, and is tempted to think about the present x past relation. That is something undeniable.
    I agree, it's undeniable but that only because ESLs have been errantly taught. If they had been taught the actual relationship between the modal pairs, then they would look at this chart with a much different view, one that is an accurate reflection of how they can use the modals in the language they are trying to use.


    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Let me repeat:
    I appreciate your ideas regarding the tenseless of modals. That is something very interesting, even though it is not the only way to look at it. I do not know whether there are good acknowledged linguistic texts standing up for those ideas - I believe there are plenty of them. I would like you to point out some good reference in this subject which advocate the ideas you defend here in your posts.
    =====================

    The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, Second Edition (Hardcover)
    by Marianne Celce-Murcia & Diane Larsen-Freeman

    Amazon.com: The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, Second Edition (9780838447253): Marianne Celce-Murcia, Diane Larsen-Freeman: Books

    ==============
    Practical English Usage, Third Edition: Paperback (Paperback)
    by Michael Swan

    Practical English Usage, Third Edition: Paperback: Amazon.ca: Michael Swan: Books

    ========================

    Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English by Douglas Biber, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, and Susan Conrad

    Amazon.com: longman grammar of spoken: Books

    =======================================


    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Once we agree that your idea is possible and interesting, we have another poblem to face. Namely if the teaching of such idea to ESL students, instead of the old fashioned one, will bring real benefits to them. That is something which has to be firmly grounded in serious research. Maybe it will work better with specific L1's.
    I've pointed out the problems already. Modals are the [that's pronounced 'thee'] most complicated structures that ESLs face. To have them try to face this with inaccurate information is really quite ludicrous.

    If you want to see whether my ideas on modals are possible, YM, try to create some examples using the purported past tenses as actual past tenses.

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    Finally I would like to add that I haven't studied English grammar yet (not even the 'traditional' one), mainly because of lack of time. I will do that soon, maybe in my next vacation. I am still deciding which grammar books to buy.
    You've got a major undertaking there, YM, so my advice to you is, skip the traditional sources. It will be a waste of time for you. Much has been done in the way of research over the last 20 or so years. The first two books I quoted above are excellent in that you can go right to the meat of the matter. Swan's book is especially good in that it deals with the common problems that beset ESLs.
    Last edited by albeit; 08-Sep-2009 at 18:40.

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    #67

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post

    And I don't believe that language use supports the idea that 'can' has 'could' as a past tense.
    "When I was a young man I could jump over stumps, now I am old I can only sit on them."


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    #68

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    "When I was a young man I could jump over stumps, now I am old I can only sit on them."
    A good example of 'could' being used to describe ability in the past, Bhaisahab, but it isn't an example illustrating any past tense. Certain modals do perform certain specific tasks in English.

    I would take it that you've heard of [simple past 'you heard' doesn't seem to work as well here] 'would' in the past for the future ;

    He started out as a woodcutter but ten years later he would become a lawyer.

    What would you describe

    1. "I could jump over that stump that's over there." as?

    Is the 'could' in this sentence also an example of 'could' as the past tense of 'can'?

    How would you describe my 'would', above, underlined and in red, considering that we could put a 'will' in its place and there will / there would be no change in tense, only a change in modal meaning?

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    #69

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by albeit View Post
    A good example of 'could' being used to describe ability in the past, Bhaisahab, but it isn't an example illustrating any past tense. Certain modals do perform certain specific tasks in English.

    I would take it that you've heard of [simple past 'you heard' doesn't seem to work as well here] 'would' in the past for the future ;

    He started out as a woodcutter but ten years later he would become a lawyer.

    What would you describe

    1. "I could jump over that stump that's over there." as?

    Is the 'could' in this sentence also an example of 'could' as the past tense of 'can'?

    How would you describe my 'would', above, underlined and in red, considering that we could put a 'will' in its place and there will / there would be no change in tense, only a change in modal meaning?
    What would you describe

    1. "I could jump over that stump that's over there." as? I would describe it as conditional, stating an ability to do something if you chose to do it.

    Is the 'could' in this sentence also an example of 'could' as the past tense of 'can'? No, it's in it's conditional aspect.

    How would you describe my 'would', above, underlined and in red, considering that we could put a 'will' in its place and there will / there would be no change in tense, only a change in modal meaning?

    It's expressing a request for an opinion.


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    #70

    Re: shall

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post

    What would you describe

    1. "I could jump over that stump that's over there." as? I would describe it as conditional, stating an ability to do something if you chose to do it.

    Is the 'could' in this sentence also an example of 'could' as the past tense of 'can'? No, it's in it's conditional aspect.

    How would you describe my 'would', above, underlined and in red, considering that we could put a 'will' in its place and there will / there would be no change in tense, only a change in modal meaning?

    It's expressing a request for an opinion.
    Thank you, Bhaisahab. So, it's clear that modals have specific tasks in English, that they can jump, hop and skip around from past to present to future.

    Now if we try to describe your example,

    "When I was a young man I could jump over stumps, now I am old I can only sit on them."

    as illustrative of 'could' as a past tense of 'can', why wouldn't 'could' also function as a past tense of 'can' in,

    a. I can jump over that stump.

    [jumps over the stump]

    b. *I could jump over the stump.*

    [*---* denotes ungrammatical for the specific use]

    If it was so crucial for 'could' to be the past tense of 'can', and I think you agree that that's something important to meaning in language, why would modal meaning, [in this case in sentence b, which holds a conditional sense], trump the tense sense?
    Last edited by albeit; 08-Sep-2009 at 18:44.

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