Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 20

    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #1

    Tenses - real life examples!

    A few days ago, I threaded the passage below. The responses received, from native speakers, may have deterred the thoughts of non-native speakers, for whom it was intended. I don't want to visit Iraq or Afghanistan - who does want to visit a war zone? Don't blame you.

    Here is the thread again for the benefit of those non-native speakers who might like to 'give it a go'.

    Many of you are learning English from grammar books, which use single sentences with no context. Without the context of what the speaker is talking about, the tense form of the verbs can vary, and still be grammatically correct.
    Here is some real live dialogue from a Columbo mystery:

    Columbo: I understand some of these people are guests of yours on the cruise. Some kind of used-car salesmen or something like that.
    Murderer (but only the viewers know at this point): You make used-car salesmen sound like a disease.
    C: No offence intended. It’s just that a murder has been committed on the boat and the captain has unofficially asked me to look into it until we reach Mexico and…well, I just didn’t want to disturb your guests more than I had to.
    M: You don't think one of them shot the girl?

    Any thoughts about his choice of tenses, the two in bold type. Remember, tense gives/needs a reference point!


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 1,571
    #2

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    Columbo: I understand some of these people are guests of yours on the cruise. Some kind of used-car salesmen or something like that.
    Murderer (but only the viewers know at this point): You make used-car salesmen sound like a disease.
    C: No offence intended. It’s just that a murder has been committed on the boat and the captain has unofficially asked me to look into it until we reach Mexico and…well, I just didn’t want to disturb your guests more than I had to.
    M: You don't think one of them shot the girl?

    Any thoughts about his choice of tenses, the two in bold type. Remember, tense gives/needs a reference point!
    Has been committed, has asked - present perfect (passive and active). They are both viewed as part of the present situation because they resulted in an investigation which is currently on. The idea of succession is not emphasised, otherwise we would have past simple.

    Didn't want, had to - past simple. Both of these actions are associated with a certain moment in the past in the speaker's mind. They are not integrated in the situation of the moment of speaking.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #3

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    Wow! For someone (moi) who emphasizes context, you have picked up a part of the context I had overlooked! :
    At this point in the story, Columbo has not interviewed any one of "some of these people are guests of yours". So it is not in the past. So why, as you correctly point out, does he say:

    Didn't want, had to - past simple. Both of these actions are associated with a certain moment in the past in the speaker's mind. They are not integrated in the situation of the moment of speaking.

    (Thanks Clark. You have clarified for me why I was so struck by this dialogue. Viewers know the cat-and mouse game Columbo plays with the murderer. I knew, watching the movie, that he hadn't interviewed anyone as yet...so why this choice of tenses?
    So - where does that leave your thinking?)
    Last edited by David L.; 03-Sep-2008 at 20:09.


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 1,571
    #4

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    This "certain moment" is the moment when Columbo came with the intention to ask the guests questions.

    By the way, this serial is one of my favourites.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #5

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    By the way, this serial is one of my favourites
    .Not particularly one of mine because I don't like 'cat and mouse' - I don't like the sense of people 'toying' with each other. I prefer to be baffled, my wits humbled by a good Agatha Christie. Ah, now my tenses betray my (wished for) reference point in time. Dame Agatha writes no more.

    And please don't think I'm toying with you as we continue your 'fine tuning'.

    This "certain moment" is the moment when Columbo came with the intention to ask the guests questions.


    WORK IN PROGRESS


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 1,571
    #6

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    By the way, this serial is one of my favourites
    .Not particularly one of mine because I don't like 'cat and mouse' - I don't like the sense of people 'toying' with each other. I prefer to be baffled, my wits humbled by a good Agatha Christie. Ah, now my tenses betray my (wished for) reference point in time. Dame Agatha writes no more.

    And please don't think I'm toying with you as we continue your 'fine tuning'.

    This "certain moment" is the moment when Columbo came with the intention to ask the guests questions.


    WORK IN PROGRESS
    I think David Suchet is the best Poirot one could imagine. A trace of grotesque in his acting gives a lot of amusement.

    I don't mind being toyed with. Actually I like Socrates' method of teaching.
    Last edited by Clark; 04-Sep-2008 at 06:35.


    • Join Date: Nov 2007
    • Posts: 5,409
    #7

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    Bear with me until I can again get my head around those Columbo tenses.
    In the meantime:

    "A trace of grotesque in his acting gives a lot of amusement."

    'grotesque' is both an adjective and a noun. As a noun, we might say:
    "The wood is carved in the form of a series of grotesques."

    a 'grotesque' is as much an entity as 'clown' and 'gargoyle'. You may more readily appreciate:
    "He acts a bit clownish at times"; but not "He acts clown at times."

    When we are using this kind of comparison, we use an article - 'a' or 'the'.
    Now, I can say, "He acts a bit of a clown at times" or "He acts the clown at times."
    and with 'grotesque', we have a collocation - 'the grotesque' :

    "A trace of the grotesque in his acting gives a lot of amusement."
    where 'the grotesque' means 'that which is grotesque.'

    QI -'quite interesting' - I read recently that the word 'grotty' was coined by one of the Beatles in an interview, when he so described a T-shirt. When quizzed, he said, "'Grotty' - you know: it's grotesque."


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 1,571
    #8

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    I see, used as a substantivised adjective, 'grotesque' requires the definite article.
    E.g. Do you believe in the supernatural?
    They got lost in the dark.
    She dreamed of the impossible.
    Last edited by Clark; 04-Sep-2008 at 20:09.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Polish
      • Home Country:
      • Poland
      • Current Location:
      • UK

    • Join Date: Mar 2007
    • Posts: 524
    #9

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    Hello,
    It's just my guess

    I just didn’t want to disturb your guests more than I had to.
    I think Colombo has just changed his mind. He is going to ask some questions he hadn't to; perhabs he is interested in murder's guests yob and wants to ask about used cars.

    Cheers.
    Last edited by Jaskin; 05-Sep-2008 at 02:18.


    • Join Date: Apr 2008
    • Posts: 1,571
    #10

    Re: Tenses - real life examples!

    A second thought. What's the alternative to past simple here - present simple? "I don't want to disturb your guests ..."? To me the sentence with past simple sounds more polite.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. banana chips the real thing/s
    By Unregistered in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 14-Aug-2008, 11:24
  2. Replies: 4
    Last Post: 10-Apr-2008, 17:55
  3. plz check my essay
    By daffodil in forum Editing & Writing Topics
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 11-Sep-2007, 10:56
  4. Sequence of tenses (#2)
    By gorikaz in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 11-Mar-2007, 04:34

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

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