Verb accidence: Moods, Tenses and Aspects
Verbs have certain features that are not shared by other parts of speech. They have forms that indicate the time of an action (present, past or future), they can indicate the duration, completeness or incompleteness of an action. They can show whether a person or thing is doing or receiving an action and can even express in certain cases the emotional attitude of the speaker towards the action.
Eckersley observes that mood is a grammatical term used to denote the forms that a verb takes to show what work it is doing and the manner in which the action or state is thought of by the speaker.
Grammarians distinguish 3 moods in the English verb: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. But these 3 moods are not kept distinct in English in the same clear way as in many other languages.
The imperative has the same form as the base of the verb and the same is true of the present indicative (except the 3rd person singular) and of the whole of the present subjunctive. These may therefore be considered various functions of the same form.
In the preterit only one verb (to be) has a subjunctive form that is distinct from the indicative and only in the singular: were (indicative was) and this form is to a great extent being displaced by was, so that the tendency is to get rid of the present subjunctive form in all cases.
The infinitives and participles which are often reckoned among the moods, stand apart and form categories of their own, they are called the non-finite forms of the verb because they cannot form the predicate of a sentence by themselves.
Uses of the moods:
- The indicative mood: It is used in all ordinary statements and questions. From simple matter-of-fact sentences it has been extended to many sentences in which formerly the subjunctive was used, so that now it is the normal mood of English verbs.
- The subjunctive mood: In the old language the subjunctive served in clauses to express various subjective moods: uncertainty, hesitation, diffidence etc. But these meanings are no longer felt with the same force as formerly and as the subjunctive is hardly ever used colloquially, it may now be considered a literary trick
– I do not know whether this rumour be true or not
– If this rumour be true, everything is possible
– I did not know whether this rumour were true or not
– I move that Mr. Smith be expelled from this club.
In most of these examples a single indicative would be used in present-day English, or instead of the subjunctive a modal auxiliary plus infinitive is often used as for instance in the last sentence, where “be expelled” by “shall be expelled”.
The subjunctive may be used to express:
a) A wish: In this sense it may be called an optative:
– Good save the queen
– The captain demanded that the flag be lowered
b) Possibility: In this sense it may be called a potential:
– If two angles of a triangle be equal to one another….
c) Unreality: In this sense it may be called an irrealis:
– If I were you, I would go.
Of these 3, the irrealis “were” is only in common use in spoken and ordinary written English.
- The imperative mood: It is used in requests which according to circumstances may range from brusque commands to humble entreaties, the tone generally serving as a key to the exact meaning. The imperative has the same form in the 2nd person singular and plural as the base of the verb. In the 1st and 3rd person, it is preceded by the let + accusative+ base of he verb.
Time and Tense:
The words time and tense must not be confused in English.
– The word time stands for a concept which is common to all mankind and it is something independent of language. It is a universal concept divided into past, present and future time. It is universal in that the units of time are extra-linguistic. They exist independently of the grammar of any particular language.
– The word tense stands for a verb form used to express a time relation. Tenses vary from language to language. Tenses may indicate whether an action, activity or state is past, present or future. Tenses may also indicate whether an action, activity or state is, was or will be complete, or whether it is, was or will be in progress over a period of time.
We shall now consider the tenses found at present in the English verb. English verbs have only 2 simple tenses, the tenses called the simple present and the simple past, the remainder of the conjugation is made up by the infinitive, past participle and present participle compounded by various auxiliaries.
We can distinguish 32 tenses (half of them being in the passive voice) without including the non-finite forms, that is, infinitives, past participles and –ing forms.
1. Simple present: stem or stem + -s
– He teaches
2. Present continuous: present of be + -ing form
– He is teaching
3. Simple past: stem + dental suffix –ed for regular verbs and for irregular ones they must be learnt by heart, although some of them follow several paradigms.
– He taught
4. Past continuous: past of be + -ing form
– He was teaching
5. Future tense: shall/will + infinitive
– He will teach
6. Future continuous: future of be + -ing form
– He will be teaching
7. Conditional: should/would + infinitive
– He would teach
8. Conditional continuous: conditional of be + -ing form
– He would be teaching
9. Present perfect: have/has + past participle
– He has taught
10. Present perfect continuous: present perfect of be + -ing form
– He has been teaching
11. Past perfect: had + past participle
– He had taught
12. Past perfect continuous: past perfect of be + -ing form
– He had been teaching
13. Future perfect: shall/will + have + past participle
– He will have taught
14. Future perfect continuous: future perfect of be + -ing form
– He will have been teaching
15. Conditional perfect: shall/will + have + past participle
– He would have taught
16. Conditional perfect continuous: conditional perfect of be + -ing form
– He would have been teaching
These tenses have their corresponding forms in the passive, though some of them are rarely used.
17. Present passive:
– He is taught
18. Present continuous passive:
– He is being taught
19. Past passive:
– He was taught
20. Past continuous passive:
– He was being taught
21. Future passive:
– He will be taught
22. Future continuous passive: future of be + -ing form
– He will be being taught
23. Conditional passive:
– He would be taught
24. Conditional continuous passive:
– He would be being taught
25. Present perfect passive:
– He has been taught
26. Present perfect continuous passive: (rarely used)
– He has been being taught
27. Past perfect passive:
– He had been taught
28. Past perfect continuous passive: (rarely used)
– He had been being taught
29. Future perfect passive:
– He will have been taught
30. Future perfect continuous passive: (rarely used)
– He will have been being taught
31. Conditional perfect passive:
– He would have been taught
32. Conditional perfect continuous passive: (rarely used)
– He would have been being taught
The passive tenses are formed with the corresponding tense of the verb to be + the past participle.
Some grammarians include in their list 2 other forms for the p0resent and past tenses, which should be considered as emphatic forms of the verb in question, these forms are called:
1. Compound present:
– He does teach
2. Compound preterit:
– He did teach
This concept refers to the manner in which the verb action is regarded or experienced, for instance complete or in progress. The choice of aspect is a particular view of the action. English has 2 sets of aspectual contrasts:
- Progressive/ Non- Progressive: These concepts refer to aspect of action. Here we are concerned with an act at the time of its occurrence.
a) The simple tenses are used to express such an action completed in the past, present or future. They are non-progressive. They are a point in time (punctual actions).
– He bought a new car last week.
b) The continuous forms also describe the very action and so so while it is in progress. We are not interested in its beginning or end. They are progressive. It is a duration (durative).
– I was buying a car when I first met my wife.
- Perfective/ Non- perfective: These concepts refer to aspect of fact. Here we are not interested in the action but in the completed fact and its relationship to a general given time aspect. The perfect tenses express this idea (perfective)
– I´ ve bought a new car.
Here we are calling attention to the present possession of the article not the precious act of buying.
But if I add “yesterday” I must say I bought (non-perfective) because the mention of a past time automatically throws our mind back into the time when the action took place.
Not all verbs have continuous tense: stative verbs normally have no progressive
forms as against dynamic verbs which have them.
Verbs not normally used in the continuous tenses:
The continuous tenses are chiefly used for deliberate actions. Some verbs are therefore not normally used in the continuous.
These verbs are the following ones:
- Verbs of the senses (involuntary actions): feel, hear, see, smell, also notice and observe, and feel, look and taste as link verbs.
Verbs such as gaze, listen, look (at), observe, stare and watch imply deliberate use of the senses and can be used in the continuous tenses
- Verbs expressing feelings and emotions: admire, adore, appreciate, desire, detest, dislike, fear, hate, like, loathe, love, mind, respect, want, wish.
- Verbs of mental activity: agree, assume, believe, expect, forget, know, realize, recall, recognize, recollect, remember, suppose, think (have an opinion)
- Verbs of possession: belong, owe, own, possess.
- The auxiliaries except be and have in certain uses. Be can be used in the continuous forms in the passive:
– He is being carried.
- appear (seem), concern, consist, contain, hold (contain), keep (continue), matter, seem, signify, sound (seem)