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General Characteristic

Verbs denoting actions or states are called notional verbs (actional, statal or relational). There are other groups of verbs:

- modal;

- auxiliary;

- link verbs.

Notional verbs present a system of finite and non-finite forms. The latter (the Infinitive, the Gerund and the Participle) are not conjugated. The former possess the morphological categories of person and number (in present tenses), tense, aspect, perfect, voice and mood. Its syntactical function is that of the predicate.

The category of number shows whether the action is performed by one or more than one persons or non-persons.

The category of tense expresses the relationships between the time of the action and the time of speaking. It is constituted by the opposition of the present tense, the future tense and the past tense.

The category of aspect shows the manner in which an action is performed. It is constituted by the opposition of the continuous aspect and the common aspect.

The category of perfectis constituted by the opposition of the perfectandthe non-perfect. The perfect forms denote actions preceding certain moments of time in the present, past or future.

The category of voice denotes the relationship between the action expressed by the verb and the person or a non-person denoted by the subject of the sentence.

The category of mood expresses the nature of relations of things and their properties, as well as states, events and conditions in which they occur in objective reality. The modes of relations between the thing and the property are those of necessity, possibility, contingency and impossibility.


All the present tenses refer the actions they denote to the present, i.e. to the time of speaking. The difference between them lies in the way they treat the categories of aspect and time correlation.



I. The Formation:

The Present Simple is formed from the Infinitive without the particle 'to'. In the third person singular the ending '-s' is added.

In interrogative sentences (questions) the auxiliary verb 'do' is placed before the subject.

In negative sentences the auxiliary verb and the negative particle 'not' are placed between the subject and the notional verb.

· I work.

· He works.

· Do you work?

· Does he work?

· I do not work.

· He does not work.

I. Spelling of the third person singular forms

Most verbs add –s to the infinitive: work – works, sit – sits, stay – stays, ets.
Verbs ending in consonant +y change y into i and add –es: cry-cries, hurry – hurries, reply – replies, etc.
Verbs ending in vowel +y add just –s: enjoy – enjoys, etc.
Verbs ending in –s, -z, -ch, -sh or –x add –es to the infinitive: miss – misses, buzz – buzzes, watch – watches, push – pushes, fix – fixes, etc.
Exceptions: have – has, go – goes, do - does


II. The Meaning

As a present tense form the Present Simple refers the action which it denotes to the present time in the broad sense. As a common aspect form it bears no indication as to the manner in which the action is performed (the meanings can be given to the form by the lexical meaning of the verb or by the context).

As a non-perfect form it bears no indication as to the precedence of the action it denotes to the moment of speaking, thus this tense has no connection with the moment of speaking.

We use the Present Simple to talk about things in general. We use it to say that something happens all the time or repeatedly, or that something is true in general. It is not important whether the action is happening at the moment of speaking.

I. The Use of the Present Simple.The Present Simple is used:

1) to denote permanent actions and states:

· Alice works for an insurance company.

· Her daughter is rather naughty.

2) to denote habitual or repeated actions:

· Do you often come to those parties?

· He wakes up and has a cup of coffee.

· Uncle Tom goes to his summer house every weekend.

3) to state laws of nature and general (universal) truths, including the folk wisdom expressed in proverbs and other statements made “for all time”:

· Two plus two makes four.

· Magnet attracts iron.

· It never rains but it pours.

· It snows in winter.

4) to denote actions going on now or around the present with verbs that do not have continuous forms or when the progress of the action is not uppermost in the mind of the speaker (it is the occurrence itself, the action as such that attracts the attention of the speaker and the idea of its progress becomes unimportant at the moment, but the attending circumstances (the time, the manner, the place):

· I don't understand what you mean.

· I like this wine very much.

· You leave me no choice.

· I refuse to listen to you. You talk such nonsense.

5) with the first person of performative verbs to express declarations, announcements, etc. Performative verbs both describe a speech act and express it (you do things by saying them). For example, when you promise to do smth, you say 'I promise ...', when you advise to do smth., you say 'I advise ...', etc. Common performative verbs are: accept, agree, apologize, congratulate, declare, deny, disagree, forbid, forgive, guarantee, insist, invite, order, predict, promise, recommend, refuse, swear, thank, warn, etc.

· I declare the meeting over.

· I give you my word.

· I apologise for the mistake.

6) in sports commentaries:

· Lydiard passes to Taylor, Taylor shoots – and it’s a goal!

7) instead of the imperative to give instructions (often with the impersonal you). The imperative in such sentences sounds more abrupt.

· You sprinkle some cheese on the meat and then you bake it.

· How do I get to the station? – You go straight on to the traffic lights, then you turn left, ...

8) with the verb 'say'(advise/warn), when we are asking about or quoting from books, notices or very recently received letters:

· What does that notice say? - It says, 'No parking'.

· I see you've got a letter from Ann. What does she say?

· She says she is coming to London next week.

· It says in the paper that petrol’s going up again.

9) in stage directions:

· When the curtain rises, Juliet is writing at her desk. Suddenly the window opens and a masked man enters.

10) in exclamatory, interrogative and negative-interrogative sentences:

· My dear, how you throw about your money!

· Why do you talk like that to me?

11) in the structures here comes ... and there goes...:

· Here comes your husband!

· There goes our bus – we’ll have to wait for the next one.


Note: Some fixed phrases that are used in letter-writing can be expressed either in the Present Indefinite (more formal) or in the Present Continuous (less formal).

  • We write to advise you... (Less formal: We are writing to let you know...)
  • I enclose my cheque for £200. (Less formal: I am enclosing...)
  • I look forward to hearing from you... (Less formal: I’m looking forward to hearing....)

Note: We can use do/does in an affirmative sentence to give more emphasis.

  • I do really want you to go out now!

The Present Simple is used to denote:

1) future actions in subordinate clauses of time, condition and concession after the conjunctions when, while, till, until, before, after, as soon as, as long as, once (time), if, unless, on condition (that), provided, in case (condition), even if, even though, no matter how, whenever, whatever, however (concession), etc.

· We will start as soon as she is ready.

· Send for me, in case she feels worse.

· I'll have dinner whenever it is ready.

Note 1: In object clause after 'to see' (in the meaning of 'to understand'), 'to take care' and 'to make sure' the Present Simple is used to speak about future actions.

· I'll see to it that the lady is properly looked after.

· Her husband will make sure no harm comes to her.

· He will take care that no one interferes with them.

Note 2: The conjunctions 'if' and 'when' can introduce object clauses, then any future tense according to the sense is possible.

· I wonder if/when it will stop raining.


2) future actions which are certain to take place according to a timetable, program, schedule, command or arrangement worked out for a person officially (a plan or arrangement regarded as unalterable). In this case the sentence usually contains an indication of the future time.

· We start for Istanbul tonight.

· His train arrives at 11.46.

· I start my new job tomorrow.

3) in some special questions. In such questions one asks after the will of the person addressed. Thus the tense has a modal colouring.

· What do we do next?

· What do I say when I come in?

· Where do we go now?

4) in suggestions with Why don’t you...?

· Why don’t you take a day off tomorrow?

5) in descriptions of travel arrangements:

· We leave London at 10.00 next Tuesday and arrive in Paris at 13.00. We spend two hours in Paris and leave again at 15.00. We arrive in Rome at 19.30, spend four hours in Rome, etc.


The Present Simple is used to denote past actions:

1) in newspaper headlines, cartoons captions, chapter headings (perhaps because of its brevity and dramatic vividness):

· Peace Talks Fail

· Mass Murderer Escapes

2) in an informal style to describe a succession of past events (the historic present). Past events are portrayed or imagined as if they were going on at the present time, so we give the description greater reality. Mind that in such stories the present continuous is used for “background” – things that are already happening when the story starts, or that continue through the story.

· She arrives home full of life and spirit, and about a quarter of an hour later she sits down in a chair, gasps a bit and dies.

· There’s this Scotsman, you see, and he’s walking through the jungle when he meets a gorilla. And the gorilla’s eating a snake sandwich. So the Scotsman goes up to the gorilla...

· So I open the door, and I look out into the garden, and I see this man. He’s wearing pyjamas and a policeman’s helmet. “Hello,” he says...

3) in summaries of plays, stories, etc.

· In Act I, Hamlet sees the ghost of his father. The ghost tells him ....

· Chapter 2: Henry goes to Scotland and meets the Lock Ness Monster.

· May 1945: The war in Europe comes to an end.

4) to report past events in the expressions I forget, I hear, I am told, I learn, I see, I understand. The Present Simple is used with a perfect or past meaning in the expressions.

· I hear you are getting married. (=I have heard)

· I am told she returned from France last week.

· I see there’s been trouble down at the factory.

· I hear you've come a long way.



I. The Formation

The Present Continuous is formed by means of the Present Simple of the auxiliary verb 'to be' and Participle I of the notional verb. In the interrogative form the auxiliary verb is placed before the subject. In the negative form the negative particle ''not' is placed after the auxiliary verb.

  • I am reading.
  • He is reading.
  • Is he reading?
  • He isn't reading.


II. Spelling of the –ing forms

A mute –e at the end of the verb is dropped and –ing is added: make – making, close – closing, etc.
A final consonant is doubled if it is preceded by a short stressed vowel or if a verb ends in a stressed –er, -ur: cut – cutting, begin – beginning, prefer – preferring, occur – occurring, etc.
A final –l is doubled: travel – travelling, etc.
A final –ie changes into y: tie – tying, die – dying, etc.


III. The Use of Present Continuous.The Present Continuous is used to denote:

1) actions going on at the moment of speaking.

· Look! Uncle Tom is dancing.

· You are being rude!

· My dear, you are talking nonsense.

Note 1: There are a number of verbs in English that cannot be used in the continuous forms. We use the Present Simple in such sentences.

Note 2: The Present Simple not the Present Continuous is used to denote actions which though going on at the moment of speaking are important as simple facts rather than as actions in progress.

  • Why don't you answer?
  • Why don't you listen?
  • Why don't you write? Where is your pen?


Note 3: If two simultaneous actions are in progress at the moment of speaking but only one of them is of importance from the point of view of the speaker, this one takes the form of the Present Continuous, while the other is in the Present Simple. This is often the case in radio, television, etc.

  • I stand here; the boys and girls smiling happily are moving towards the gates.

Note 4: When there are two actions one of which is in progress and the other is a habitual one, the first is expressed by the Present Continuous and the second by the Present Indefinite.

· I never talk while I am working.

Note 5: We can use the Present Continuous with the Present Indefinite to give more immediacy to a past narrative. We use the continuous for actions which form a background, i.e. they started before the actions within the narrative.

· There’s an old woman with thick glasses who’s serving the hot drinks, so I go up to her and ask.... (She started serving before the action of the narrative).

Note 6: When a continuous is used to refer to a short momentary action, it often suggests repetition.

· Why are you jumping up and down?

· The door was banging in the wind.

Note 7: Continuous forms can make requests, questions and statements less direct. They sound less definite than simple forms, because they suggest something temporary and incomplete.

· I am hoping you can lend me £10. (less definite than I hope...)

· I’m looking forward to seeing you again.

2) temporary actions that are going on now or “around now”: before, during and after the moment of speaking. Common adverbs with this form are: now, just, still and at the moment.

· How is Dartie behaving now?

· What are you reading now?

· I’ll be with you in a minute. I’m just finishing something in the kitchen.

· We are studying the writings of Günter Grass on the German course now.

· She’s staying in the Waldorf Astoria on this visit to New York, isn’t she?

· I am working in my father's restaurant this month.

· I’m feeding my neighbour’s cat this week while she’s in hospital.

3) changing or developing situations or trends.

· The new company is growing steadily.

· It is getting dark.

· More and more forests are disappearing because of fires.

· I am beginning to realize how difficult it is to be a teacher.

4) a continual process referring to all or any time. In this case the adverbs always, constantly, ever are used.

· The sun is ever shining.

· The earth is always moving.

· The Volga is for ever pouring its waters into the Caspian Sea.

5) annoying or surprising habits. In this case the adverbs always, constantly, ever are used. There is an element of exaggeration in such sentences as the structure is used to talk about things which happen very often (perhaps more often than expected), and which are unexpected or unplanned.

· She is always grumbling.

· They are always holding hands even after fifty years of marriage.

· The neighbours are forever slamming doors and shouting during the night.

· Granny’s nice. She’s always giving people little presents.

· I’m always meeting Mr Bailiff in the supermarket. (accidental, unplanned meetings)

6) in sports commentaries to describe “leisurely sports”, such as rowing, cricket, golf. This is not surprising, since in such sports it is more difficult to see the stages of the match or contest as having no duration.

· Oxford are rowing well.

· Morris is running up to bowl.

Date: 2015-12-17; view: 3022

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