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Thursday September 15 2005

No doubt this email has been received by everyone in the entire world, a group of people that definitely includes the pathetic little gaggle who read this blog, but just in case I am wrong, here it is in full, because it is very interesting.  It’s from someone called TANG Shun.

I have just checked Harry Hutton to make sure he hasn’t published it already, and that he didn’t write it.  Apparently not.

It’s a piece in the Foreigners eh funny or what category, but I will just call it This and that.  It starts well, with an unidiomatic plural, and gets better and better.  Not that it’s not true, and important, and worth reading for what it says, etc.:

It is about English Grammars

Do you know some disputed English grammars? What about some basic grammars that grammar writers hide away and don’t even want to dispute?

In supporting a rule that the Present Perfect tense doesn’t stay with past time adverbials:
Ex: *They have worked here yesterday.
== It should have been in Simple Past instead.
English grammars have been avoiding to talk about the Past Family, a frequently used group of time adverbials containing the adjective ‘past’: in the past, in the past year, for the past two years, over the past three months, during the past four decades, within the past five weeks, etc., because these past time adverbials can stay with Present Perfect:
Ex: They have worked there within the past few years.

No grammar books or websites will display the use of these past time adverbials, for displaying them will undermine the “golden rule” above. If they know there is any explanation at all, why don’t they ever put it in the books or websites?

A couple of decades ago, I posted letters and consulted many universities overseas how to explain the Present Perfect tense. They posted to me a free issue of ELT (English Language Teaching) Journal, which was published in October 1984 by Oxford University Press in association with The British Council. In the Journal Tregidgo had posted his rather well-known yet startling comment titled: How far have we got with the present perfect? He expresses his doubles and dissatisfactions over both conventional and contemporary methods in explaining the tense. At the end of the article he concludes: “Meanwhile, one thing seems to me to be pretty clear. Whatever the grammarians may say about it, the problem of the English present perfect remains very much alive and kicking!” Put it shortly, they admitted they could not explain the tense. Admitting the difficulty will alleviate the pain in the ones who pursue the answer.

Now in the Internet epoch, people still have a difficulty to explain the tense. In English forums, both students and teachers are asking for your better idea, just as I did decades ago. During a discussion on the web, I searched for Tregidgo’s article and noticed an “updated version” in the following page:
http://www.developingteachers.com/
articles_tchtraining/pp1_sarn.htm

The author thought he could explain the tense to a developing teacher, and finally found he could not. The tense had made his student ‘wailing’. The author has now turned a critic to the tense. They don’t put the comment there without reasons. Again, it helps relieve the pain in studying the tense.

With good intention, I post this message to notify those who are interested in English study: there is now a new approach to the explanation of the tense in my website. I have found out the tense-changing process:

(a) Simple Present action indicates a present action (= incompletion):
Ex: I live in Hong Kong.
(b) Present Perfect action indicates a past action (= completion):
Ex: I have lived in Japan.
BUT: If we mention a definite past time, tenses have to be changed:
(c) Present Perfect action indicates a present action (=incompletion =a):
Ex: I have lived in Hong Kong in the past three years.
(d) Simple Past action indicates a past action (=completion =b):
Ex: I lived in Japan five years ago.
http:/www.englishtense.com/newapproach/1_3.htm

It is a breakthrough in the explanation of English tense. The process at once explains the use of both Present Perfect and the Past Family. According to it, Present Perfect is actually either Simple Present or Simple Past, while old grammars have been wrongly doing the opposite, proving Present Perfect is neither Simple Present nor Simple Past! It is small wonder they could not explain the tense in the past.

I am not creating time, but old grammars have missed a concept of time. I agree “Last Week” is a past time, and “Now” is a present time. But what about the time between last week and now? It is neither Last Week nor Now, but something between them. It has no name and Present Perfect is used to indicate things finished in this time span. It explains Present Perfect. Who has found out this concept of time and tell it clearly? This is the whole point in my website.

Even with good intention, I will post very scarcely. But if you don’t want to receive notice from me anymore, please unsubscribe your email address in the following link: http://www.englishtense.com/unsubscribe/unsub.htm

Sincerely yours,

Admin
englishtense.com

Eldest brother Toby worked out in Hong Kong for a few years, and he told me that the Chinese had endless difficulties with English tenses.  Toby once had some work he wanted done, and asked a Chinese subordinate/colleague: “Are you doing it?” “No” said the Chinese guy, looking at Toby as if he was mad.  He was drinking a cup of tea with Toby.  Couldn’t Toby see that?  Bloody hell, these white people … What Toby meant, of course, was “Will you do it?” (And try to imagine what “Are you going to do it?” must sound like.  It’s a wonder their brains don’t regularly explode.)

English tenses aren’t called “tense” for nothing.

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