Tense (grammar)

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A tense is a form taken by a verb to show the time of an action.[1] There are three main tenses:

  1. Present tense: things that are true when the words are spoken or written; or are generally true; or for some languages will be true in the future
  2. Past tense: things that were true before the words were spoken or written
  3. Future tense: things that will or might be true after the words are spoken or written

The tense can be shown in the verb. For example, am, is, and are are always present tense, and was and were are always past tense. Or the tense can be shown by adding words to the verb. In English, the words that we add to the verb are "helping verbs" or "auxiliaries", like be, have, shall, will, and so on. So we get the continuous present with is taking, the future with will take, and so on.

So, the concept of tense acts either by changing the spelling of the verb, usually the ending, or by putting one or two extra words with the verb. The first is called "morphological tense", like was and went. The second way is called "auxilliary tense" like was going or is running.

Languages vary in how they treat actions in time. Latin always used morphological tenses. Chinese and Indonesian verbs do not show tense. Instead they use context (other words in the sentence) to show when the verb happens.

References[change | change source]

  1. Concise Oxford Dictionary, 9th ed, p1436.