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    #1

    PEU by Swan - tense simplification in subordinate clauses - main verb terminology

    Hi,

    in the entry 580.1 "reasons for tense simplification" in Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, he wrote:

    "If the main verb of a sentence makes it clear what kind of time the speaker is talking about, it is not always necessary for the same time to be indicated again in subordinate clauses".

    Did he actually mean by "main verb" the verb of the main clause in this case? I know the exact defintion of "main verb", but I'm not sure if Michael Swan is using this term in the wrong context in this case. For example:

    "I will write you when I have time."


    In the main clause "I will write you", the main verb is "write", but it does not indicate the time. The auxiliary "will" indicates the time.

    To sum it up, did Michael Swan actually mean the following:

    "If the verb of the main clause makes it clear what kind of time the speaker is talking about, it is not always necessary for the same time to be indicated again in subordinate clauses".

    Thank you in advance. I really appreciate every helpful answer.

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    #2

    Re: PEU by Swan - tense simplification in subordinate clauses - main verb terminology

    I think what he meant is the tense of the verb indicates the time. For example, if the verb is in the present tense, that means either the time is the present or the time is in the future. Your example indicates that "write" is in the present tense but the time is in the future. Other people might have better ideas.

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    #3

    Re: PEU by Swan - tense simplification in subordinate clauses - main verb terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by k7power View Post

    "If the main verb of a sentence makes it clear what kind of time the speaker is talking about, it is not always necessary for the same time to be indicated again in subordinate clauses".
    By 'main verb', Swan seems to mean the lexical verb in the main clause plus any associated auxiliary verbs.

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    #4

    Re: PEU by Swan - tense simplification in subordinate clauses - main verb terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by andrewg927 View Post
    Your example indicates that "write" is in the present tense but the time is in the future. Other people might have better ideas.
    'Write' in that sentence is not present tense. It is the bare infinitive which, in itself, does not show tense.

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    #5

    Re: PEU by Swan - tense simplification in subordinate clauses - main verb terminology

    Quote Originally Posted by k7power View Post
    Hi,

    in the entry 580.1 "reasons for tense simplification" in Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, he wrote:

    Did he actually mean by "main verb" the verb of the main clause in this case? I know the exact defintion of "main verb", but I'm not sure if Michael Swan is using this term in the wrong context in this case. For example:

    "I will write you when I have time."

    In the main clause "I will write you", the main verb is "write", but it does not indicate the time. The auxiliary "will" indicates the time.

    I suspect that Swan treats "will write" as a constituent, calling it "the main verb". On that account, "will write" is the verb in the upper, or matrix clause, i.e. the one containing the subordinate clause "when I have time".

    "Will" is a primary verb-form meaning that it is tensed, whereas "write" is a secondary form, thus untensed. "Will" is present tense, of course, but semantically it is used to make reference to future time (about 80% of its occurrences, I believe), as well as expressing volition.

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