The present tenses.. The Tense System..
The tense system is probably the area of the English language that causes students (and often teachers) the greatest amount of difficulty.
Linguists can create a very solid argument that only two tenses exist, i.e. the present and the past, but as teachers of EFL we have to take a slightly different approach. The course books and most reference materials that we use will state twelve tenses. Compare this to just one tense in many Asian languages and three in most Slavic languages and you can see where there is plenty of scope for confusion.
We maintain that it is more practical for an EFL teacher to consider that there are three different times in English (tense means time); the past, the present and the future. Each of these times has four aspects; Simple, continuous, perfect and perfect continuous. This gives us tenses such as present simple, past continuous, future perfect etc. Twelve in all.
It is vital that any EFL teacher has a sound knowledge of this system and is not intimidated by it.
In the course units that cover tenses and other grammar points, we will cover the following areas:
.Form. This shows affirmative (positive), negative and question examples of the tense or grammar point. The form also includes the grammatical construction and fundamental rules regarding how the tense grammar point is made. this is useful when identifying tenses or when outlining student grammar errors.
.Usage. How and under what circumstance the tense or grammar is used. bear in mind that many tenses can be used in different ways and therefore have several usages, occasionally some usages can overlap from one to another. We give example sentences for each usage, for clarification.
.Typical student errors. Some errors are predictable, so it's useful for a teacher to formulate correction strategies and examples in advance.
.Activate stage teaching ideas. Activities which will encourage communication use of the tense or grammar point during the activate stage of a lesson.
Present simple: Form.
Affirmative:(subject+base form [+s/es])
I work We work
You work You work
He/she/it works They work
Negative:(subject+aux.verb'do'+not+base form) (Note that don't and doesn't often appear as do not and does not in written text)
I don't work We don't work
You don't work You don't work
He/she/it doesn't work They don't work
Do I work? Do we work?
Do you work? Do you Work?
Does he/she/it work? Do they work?
How to form the third person singular Most verb
.add s to the base form of the verb-sits.
.Verbs ending in a consonant plus y, change y to i and add es-i.g. tries.
.Verbs ending in o,s,z,x,ch, and sh, add es-e.g. washes (+extra syllable when pronounced).
.Note in the negative form, the auxiliary verb doesn't have the s so the main verb doesn't need an s-e.g. She doesn't work. The same applies with does in questions.
Usage, with example sentences:
Habitual or routine actions
.He goes fishing every week.
Permanent situations and facts
.The sun sets in the west.
.Beckham passes to fowler who shoots and scores.
Directions and instructions
.first you go left, then you go strait on.
.Stock market falls to all time low.
.so I open the door and what do I see but a policeman in a pink uniform.
.1945: The Second World War end.
1969: The first man lands on the moon.
Sample activate stage teaching ideas
.find someone who... activates in which students have to interview one another in order to complete forms.
.Questionnaires whereby students ask each other questions about their habitual actions.
.A day in the life of... students are provided with visual prompts and must then construct the daily life of somebody.
.Guess my profession: a student chooses a profession. The other students have a limited number of questions (twenty perhaps) in which to find out what the profession is. for example, "Do you wear a uniform?"
.Information-gap activities in which two students are provided with diagrams or maps with different information. One student then gives the other directions to a particular location.
Form The present continuous (also known as the present progressive) tense is made with the present simple tense of the auxiliary verb to be and the present participle (verb plus ing-working) of the main verb.
Person Affirmative Negative Question
I I am learning I am not learning Am I learning
You You are learning you are not learning Are yoy learning
He/she/it He is learning He is not learning is he learning
We We are learning we are not learning Are we learning
They they are learning They are not learning Are they learning
Person Affirmative Negative Question
I I'm learning I'm not learning No contracted form
You You're learning You aren't learning No contracted form
He/she/it She's learning She isn't learning No contracted form
We we're learning We aren't learning No contracted form
They They're learning They aren't learning No contracted form
The main point relates to contracted form: beginners can have difficulty with these and may resort to using long forms instead; drilling and constant reminders are often necessary.
Most non-action verbs are not normally used in the continuous forms, we usually use the simple form instead. Following are some of the most common:
Like, love, hate, understand, want, believe, hear, own, owe, seem, appear, wish, mean, remember.
Non-progressive verbs can be roughly divided into the following groups:
.verbs of the senses (involuntary)
.verbs expressing feelings and emotions
.verbs of mental activity
.verbs of possession
There are exceptions and some verbs have different meanings depending on whether they are used in the simple or continuous tense, e.g. she thinks you are right. (meaning= has the opinion that); She's thinking about it. (meaning= considering)
Listed below are some of the main usages of the present continuous, with example sentences.
1. To talk about an action that is in progress at the time of speaking
.please be quite. I'm watching TV.
2. To talk about a temporary action that is not necessarily in progress at the time of speaking
.I am reading a good book at the moment.
3. To emphasize very frequent actions (often with always)
.She is always biting her nails.
4. Background events in a present story
.So I'm standing there when a policeman comes in.
5. To describe developing situations
.It's getting dark.
6. To refer to a regular action around a point of time
.He's usually working at this time.
.A good way to get students to use the present continuous is to provide them with different information in the form of graphs, charts or tables; they can then describe any changes which are occurring (e.g. rises in crime rates, unemployment, etc.)
.Narrating stories using a combination of the present simple and the present continuous; these can be based on visual prompts and/or other stimuli.
Actions in progress
.Mime is an excellent way of demonstrating actions; this could be a game whereby students have to guess what the action is.
.Pictures of actions are also good; an idea for an information-gap activity is to give students different pictures (of various actions and have them discover which is the same by asking their partner about their pictures, or spot the difference type of activities.
The present perfect relates the past to the present and although commonly used by a native speaker, presents some difficulties to the English language learner
Form: I/you/we/they have or he/she/it has, plus the past principle
(with regular verbs the past participle is verb plus ed-worked. There are however many irregular verbs such as write-written)
Affirmative Negative Question
I have written I haven't written Have I written
1st When we talk about finished actions/states that happened at an indefinite time. It refers to general experience without specific detail.
.I have eaten octopus.
2nd When we are thinking about completed past actions carried out in an unfinished time period at the time of speaking.
.It has rained a lot today. (i.e. the rain has stopped but it is still today)
.I have eaten eight cakes this afternoon.
3rd When we talk about something which began in the past and is still true now, at the time of speaking we don't know if this is likely to continue or not.
.We lived in Paris for five years.
.She has been vegetarian since 1988. (i.e. When did she become vegetarian?-1988. Is she still vegetarian now?- Yes.)
4th When we describe past actions with present results.
.Oh no! I've left my purse at home.
.Can you help me? I've lost one of my contact lenses. (lost in the past and still lost now.)
Note: The following contractions are normally used in speech (see the examples in the 4th usage above and in the examples on the following page):
Long form becomes contracted form
I have > I've
You have > You've
We have > We've
They have > They've
He has > He's
She has > She's
It has > It's
Since or for with the present perfect.
We've lived here for five years.
I haven't slept in 48 hours.
They've been at home since 8 o'clock.
She has been a doctor since September.
The rule with for or since:
We use for with periods of time. (e.g. a week, six months)
We use since with points of time. (e.g. Monday, 1984)
to really mean 'from'.
Gone or been (past participles)
He's been to Turkey.
He's gone to Turkey.
The rule with been or gone:
he's been means the trip is finished.
He's gone means he is still on his trip.
Irregular past participles
As we have already mentioned this verb tense requires the past participle. Unfortunately for English language students many of these past participles are irregular (not formed according to a set patten). With regular past participles the verb will end in 'ed', for example, worked, cooked, watched etc. Irregular verbs have no such pattern and have to be learnt from memory. Most dictionaries, course books and grammar reference materials will have complete tables of irregular verbs.
Here is a list of just some of the most common verbs that have irregular past participles.
Verb Past participle Verb Past participle
be been eat eaten
have had drink drunk
fall fallen feel felt
hit hit put put
sit sat see seen
leave left lose lost
go gone do done
read read write written
speak spoken give given
say said tell told
understand understood think thought
teach taught bring brought
come come sell sold
get got wake woken
take taken swim swum
Please remember there are many others. this is just a list of some of the most common.
Typical student errors/mistakes.
.what kind of errors or mistakes the are.
.Why they have been made.
.How would you go about correcting them.
Sample activate stage teaching ideas.
Find someone who...
.has kissed a foreigner, has been on television, has written a poem
.Students mingle, asking questions until they have found people who have done the things on their list. this can lead into a discussion involving the present perfect and past simple.
.A: Andre has been on television
.B:Really! When were you on television, Andre?
.C: I was on a quiz show last year.
What have you done today?
.Student mimes some actions and the others guess what they are using: affirmatives or questions.
e.g. You've washed your hair/Have you washed your hair?
You've changed a lightbulb/Have you changed a lightbulb?
Change the room.
.Three people leave the room while the others change is in five different ways (i.e. move the dustbin). The absent students then return and try and guess what has been done. (e.g. Have you moved the desk?)
Present Perfect Continuous.
This tense relates past activities to the present. It implies that either the activity is likely to continue in the future, or that the activity was in progress for some length of time, or both.
Affirmative Negative Question
I have been dancing. I haven't been dancing. Have I been dancing?
1st To communicate an incomplete and ongoing activity, when we want to say how long it has continued.
.I've been dieting for the last twenty years.(and am likely to continue doing so)
2nd To describe a recently finished, uninterrupted activity which has a present result.
.I am tired because I've been chopping logs all day. (i.e. the work lasted some time and was intensive)
Typical student errors/mistakes
Using verbs that don't take the continuous form. (e.g like, prefer, believe)
Comparison of present perfect with present
With the present perfect continuous, the emphasis is on the action/activity, not the result/completed action.
Note that we do not use the present perfect continuous to communicate the number of things we have done; for this we use the present perfect
I've written six letters since breakfast.
I've been writing letters since breakfast.
I've marked twenty tests since lunchtime.
I've been marking tests since lunchtime.
Sample activate stage teaching ideas
1.A student takes a piece of paper with a post activity and a result written on it.
. You've been chopping onions. You're crying.
.You've been playing football. You're dirty.
.You've been washing your dog. You're wet.
.You've been chasing a bang robber. you're sweaty.
The student tells the others the result and they have to guess the activity.
.E.g. A: I'm crying. B: have you been watching a sad film?
2. Students survey the class to find out who has been doing something the longest. They should write the surveys themselves.
I have learned a lot about The present tenses, the tense system, present simple, present continuous, present perfect, present tenses, sample activate stage teaching ideas and present perfect continuous.
I have gained knowledge in the different tenses.