The Verb Form: A Summary of Finite Forms

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet A The Verb Form: A Summary of Finite Forms Simple Perfec...
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Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet A

The Verb Form: A Summary of Finite Forms

Simple

Perfect

Progressive

Perfect Progressive

Simple

Perfect

Progressive

Perfect Progressive

Present

he teaches

he has taught

he is teaching

he has been teaching

he is taught

he has been taught

he is being taught

he has been being taught

Past

he taught

he had taught

he was teaching

he had been teaching

he was taught

he had been taught

he was being taught

he had been being taught

Present

Passive

he will teach

he will have taught

he will be teaching

he will have been teaching

he will be taught

he will have been taught

he will be being taught

he will have been being taught

Past

with Modal (e.g. will)

without Modal

Active

he would teach

he would have taught

he would be teaching

he would have been teaching

he would be taught

he would have been taught

he would be being taught

he would have been being taught

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet B

The Verb Form: Five Rules

In a verb phrase with… the passive

…what's the form?

…what's the meaning?

the progressive

Refers to a situation which the speaker / writers perceives as 'going on' at a point in time. With the present tense, there's also a connotation of 'temporariness'.

the perfect

Describes the state of the subject at a point in time, with reference to how that state was brought about by an earlier situation or situations.

a modal verb

modal + bare infinitive

past tense

the first / only verb is a past form

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet C

passive

be + PP

The subject of a passive form is a patient, the 'victim' of the action being described. In contrast, the subject of an active form is an agent, the 'doer' of the action being described.

progressive

be + -ing form Refers to a situation which the speaker / writers perceives as 'going on' at a point in time. With the present tense, there's also a connotation of 'temporariness'.

perfect

have + PP

Describes the state of the subject at a point in time, with reference to how that state was brought about by an earlier situation or situations.

modal verb

modal + bare infinitive

There is a variety of modal verbs expressing a variety of meanings, some extrinsic (to do with degrees of likelihood), some intrinsic (to do with freedom to act, intention, and so on).

past tense

the first / only Expresses different types of 'distance': temporal (i.e. past verb is a past time), hypothetical, and social. form

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet D

He would have been being taught he

+ ê

teach

Choice 1. Passive or not? ê yes He is taught. ê Choice 2. Progressive or not? êyes He is being taught. ê Choice 3. Perfect or not? êyes He has been being taught. ê Choice 4. Modal or not? êyes He will have been being taught. ê Choice 5. Past or present? êpast He would have been being taught. ê STOP

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet D

PAST

He

would

have

been

being

taught.

MODAL

PERFECT

PROGRESSIVE

PASSIVE

• He taught. • He's been teaching.

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet E

Making Verb Forms: a Process View

he

+

teach

ê Choice 1. Passive or not? ê yes

êno

êno

He is taught.

He teaches.

He teaches.

ê Choice 2. Progressive or not? êyes

êno

êyes

He is being taught.

He teaches.

He is teaching.

ê Choice 3. Perfect or not? êyes

êno

êyes

He has been being taught.

He teaches.

He has been teaching.

ê Choice 4. Modal or not? êyes

êno

êno

He will have been being taught.

He teaches.

He has been teaching.

ê Choice 5. Past or present? êpast

êpast

êpresent

He would have been being taught.

He taught.

He has been teaching.

ê STOP

(continued > )

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet E

PAST

He

would

have

been

being

taught.

MODAL

PERFECT

PROGRESSIVE

PASSIVE

PAST

He

taught.

PRESENT

He

has

been

teaching.

PERFECT

PROGRESSIVE

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet F

The Verb Form: Some Sentences for Analysis 1

Sinead wants a biscuit

2

she had heard that parents like this existed all over the place

3

every minute of every day people were being murdered

4

Since 1916 much government money has been spent on these developments

5

I suspect he has been planning this for some time

6

Franco put down the glass he had been drying

Sentences taken from corpus data in Douglas Biber et al., Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Longman, 1999); Dieter Mindt, An Empirical Grammar of the English Verb System (Cornelsen, 2000).

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet G

The Verb Form: Some Sentences for Analysis – key 1

Sinead wants a biscuit • present because refers to a real, non-past situation • simple because the situation is perceived as a whole, rather than as in progress at a point. Alternatively, we could say that want is a stative verb, and so the simple form is used even where the meaning seems to be progressive.

2

she had heard that parents like this existed all over the place • past because refers to past time ('temporal distance'). • perfect because describes the subject (she) as in a state resulting from an earlier situation (the 'hearing').

3

every minute of every day people were being murdered • past because refers to past time. • progressive because the situation is perceived / presented as in progress, in this case at an indefinite series of points. • passive because the subject (people) has the notional role of patient.

4

Since 1916 much government money has been spent on these developments • present because refers to a real, non-past situation. • perfect because describes the subject (money) as in a state resulting from an earlier situation / series of situations (of 'being spent'). • passive because the subject (money) has the notional role of patient.

5

I suspect he has been planning this for some time • present because refers to a real, non-past situation. • perfect because describes the subject (he) as in a state resulting from an earlier situation / series of situations (the 'planning'). • progressive because the 'earlier situation' referred to above (the 'planning') is perceived / presented as in progress, in this case at an indefinite series of points. Compare he's planned this, where the 'planning' is presented as an undivided whole.

6

Franco put down the glass he had been drying • past because refers to past time. • perfect because describes the subject (he) as in a state resulting from an earlier situation (the 'drying'). • progressive because the 'earlier situation' referred to above (the 'drying') is perceived / presented as in progress, in this case at an indefinite point.

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet H

The Verb Phrase: Finite & Non-Finite Forms

The conveyance turning into Fleet Street, a gaggle of urchins ran in pursuit and leapt for the tail-board, at which the driver flicked backwards with his whip. Francis Barber, walking behind, accompanied his master as far as the church of St Clement Danes in the Strand; then, the bitter cold of the early hour getting to his living bones, he ducked away and sought refuge in a tavern. Arriving in Windmill Street, the cart trundled into the yard of William Hunter's School of Anatomy. The carpet was carried to the top floor and laid on a dissecting table. A fire roared in the grate and the air was filled with an aroma of herbs, that of mint being the most pervasive. In the corner of the cosy room, a dog, halfflayed, hung from a hook in the ceiling; above, the grey heavens nudged the skylight… Mr White unrolled the carpet and removed the winding sheet. Arthur Wilson made the first incision, cutting downwards from the thorax. A quantity of water spilled from the cavity of the chest and dripped on to the floor. Mr White was told to put more herbs upon the fire to disperse the stink of dissolution. Dr Herberden made the second incision, this time across the stomach. He was troubled with a cough, and once, bending over his departed patient, the force of his breath fluttered the dead man's eyelashes, at which Mr White turned pale and swayed where he stood. Mr Cruikshank, noticing his pallor, ordered him to swallow a measure of brandy… Afterwards, the fire dying and the candles lighted, Mr Hoskins of St Martin's Lane, sent to Windmill Street at the request of Sir Joshua Reynolds, mounted the stairs to undertake a death mask. When the wax had cooled and he pulled away the cast, the eyelids were dragged open; he was too engrossed in scrutinising the imprint of the face to notice the staring aspect of the original. The candles extinguished and the door locked, the dead man and the dead dog waited in darkness, gazing up to where snowflakes, star shaped, now fell upon the skylight. Beryl Bainbridge, According to Queeney (Abacus, 2002), pp.2-4.

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet I

The Verb Form: On Participle Clauses. 1

Look again at the text about Dr Johnson. Notice how some participle clauses are made with a present participle (or –ing form), and some are made with a past participle: Afterwards, the fire dying and the candles lighted, Mr Hoskins of St Martin's Lane…mounted the stairs to undertake a death mask. How do these two types of participle clause differ in meaning?

2

Look at these sentences, all with participle clauses: A B C D

The Prime Minister resigned, shocked by the scale of the defeat. Having telephoned the police, she sat down and waited. Chuckling quietly to himself, Ainley pulled the lever. His secret having been discovered, Delgado confessed everything.

Which of the participle clauses have active meaning? Which have passive meaning? Which describe a situation happening at the same time as the situation in the main clause? Which describe a situation happening earlier than the situation in the main clause? Write the parts of the sentences above in bold in this table: AT THE SAME TIME

EARLIER

ACTIVE PASSIVE

3

These two sentences appear to describe the same situation – so how do they differ? Taking a key from his waistcoat pocket, he stealthily opened the door. Having taken a key from his waistcoat pocket, he stealthily opened the door.

4

Sometimes a logical relationship is implied between a participle clause and a main clause: Being shy, he hated public speaking. Watered regularly, these plants will flourish. In which of these sentences does the participle clause denote • a condition? • a reason? (continued > )

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

5

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet I

Sentences like these are traditionally regarded as 'wrong', because they have misrelated or dangling participles: A B C D E

Walking into the room, his eyes were drawn to a table laden with food. Waiting for the bus, a brick fell on my head. Having become so rich, it's admirable that he still sends his children to a state school. Utterly intoxicated, there was nothing he could do to stop himself. Judging from those clouds, snow's on the way.

What, then, is a 'misrelated participle'? Which of these sentences do you regard as wrong? Are some more wrong than others?

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet J

Discussion: Teaching and Learning (about) Verb Forms. 1

Using a corpus of around 400 million words, Douglas Biber and his colleagues tried to establish what percentage of spoken and written finite verb forms have perfect and / or progressive aspect. These were their findings: perfect progressive perfect progressive neither (i.e. simple)

5-10%* 5-10%* 0.5% 90% *variable, depending on register.

from Douglas Biber et al., Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English (Longman, 1999), pp.461-2.

Do any of these results surprise you? What implications might they have for teachers, syllabus designers and coursebook writers? Do they suggest that we should make any changes to what or how we teach?

2

3

As you have seen in this session, the finite verb system in English allows 32 verb forms, generated by 5 rules of form and meaning. This immediately suggests two possible ways of teaching learners about verb forms: I teach each of the 32 forms, with their associated meanings, separately; or II teach learners about the 5 rules, and encourage them to combine these rules in understanding and producing more complex forms for themselves. •

What might be the benefits and drawbacks of each approach?



In your view, which approach is favoured by coursebook writers?



Which approach do you think is better? Why? Or would you use a combination of the two? Should the approach used differ according to the level of your learners? How?

In what sort of texts would you expect participle clauses to be used regularly? Why? Which groups of learners might have a particular need to learn how to understand and use participle clauses?

4

There is no research evidence that explicit knowledge of grammar aids acquisition of the grammatical system. Michael Lewis, The Lexical Approach (LTP, 1993), p.133.

Discuss.

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet K

The Verb Form: Homework Tasks & Suggestions for Reading. 1

Text analysis. For this task you will need two texts, each about 500 words long: • an excerpt from a written text: a novel, magazine or newspaper article; and • a transcript of an unscripted conversation or interview from television or radio (you will probably have to make this yourself). For each text… • underline and label all the finite verb forms; • calculate the percentage of forms which are perfect, progressive, simple, active, passive, with modal, without modal; • explain the meaning of each verb form, with reference to the tense / aspect(s) / voice / modal verb of which it is made up; • underline and label all the participle clauses; • say how the subject and time reference of each clause relates to neighbouring main clauses; • identify any clauses which seem to express logical relations like conditions or reasons. Write notes on your findings. Comment on any differences you notice between the written and spoken texts.

2

Language research. Most coursebooks at intermediate level and above present and practice the present perfect progressive / continuous. Do some research on this form, and write notes under the following headings: • structure of the form; • any features of pronunciation which you think might pose particular difficulties for learners; • the meaning of the form, in particular how it differs from that of the present perfect (simple); • whether you think it is possible to explain the meaning as a combination of the meanings of the present tense, perfect aspect and progressive aspect; • if so, how? would such an explanation be useful to learners? • if not, why not? For data and ideas, consult coursebooks, pedagogical grammars, colleagues, and your own intuitions.

(continued > )

Alex Tilbury, International House Language Awareness Course

Unit 11, The Verb Form: Sheet K

3

Coursebook analysis. Choose two coursebooks which you are familiar with, ideally at two distinct levels. For each book, write notes on the following: • which finite verb forms are presented? Write a list. • which meaning/s is/are ascribed to each form? Do you agree with the analyses set forth? • to what extent does the book draw attention to meanings which are shared by all forms with a particular tense or aspect? Conversely, to what extent does it tend simply to present forms with their corresponding meanings in isolation, without pointing out their shared characteristics? Do you think the coursebook writers have got the balance right in this area?

4

Participle clauses. Rewrite the text on sheet H without using any participle clauses. As far as possible, do not add or omit any information. Now compare your text with the original. Note down any differences which seem to you to be significant. Think about: length, formality, degree of repetition, atmosphere, effect on the reader. What do your findings suggest to you about writers' reasons for using participle clauses?

5

Reading. • David Brazil, A Grammar of Speech (OUP, 1995). An innovative and very readable analysis of the grammar of spoken English, largely ignored by other writers. Chapters 7 to 10 deal specifically with verb grammar, but these really need to be read in the context of the whole book which is, in any case, fascinating. Self-study materials: • Rod Bolitho & Brian Tomlinson, Discover English, second edition (Heinemann, 1995). • David Maule, The Naked Verb (Macmillan, 1991). • Scott Thornbury, About Language (CUP, 1997).

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