English for Everyone

<b>English for Everyone</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Learn Some Tenses

Learn the past tense and the past perfect tense.

The past tense referes to an action in the past. The past perfect tense also refers to an action in the past, but there is a twist in that the action can indicate the sequence of past actions.

e.g. He lived in South America before he came to the United States. (a fact that he came from South America)

e.g. He had lived in South America for many years before he came to the United States. (indicating a period of time)

e.g. The patient had died before the doctor arrived.(it was too late for the doctor to come)


e.g. I have called the police. (I called the police some time ago, and NOW you don't have to call the police again)

e.g. I called the police half an hour ago; they should be on their way.

e.g. I had called the police before you came back. (both actions took place in the past; calling the police took place BEFORE coming back)

You use different tenses according to the sequence of actions or the meaning attributed to your sentences.

Stephen Lau

Effective Writing Made Simple

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Learn Some Tenses

Learn the present perfect tense: it indicates an action in the past, but with a present effect.

Compare the following sentences:

e.g. I reported to the police. (past tense)

e.g. "Why don't you call the police?" "I have reported to the police."(present perfect tense)

In the first example, the action took place in the past, e.g. "yesterday."

In the second example, the action also took place in the past, but the past action has a present "implication" or "effect"; that is, "I don't have to report to the police NOW, because I already REPORTED yesterday. So the present perfect tense is: past action + present effect.

e.g. The patient has died.(it's TOO LATE to call the doctor)

e.g. He has messed up our plans. (that is why everything is a mess NOW)

e.g. I have watched that movie. (I don't want to see it AGAIN)

e.g. The crime rate has gone up in Chicago. (the crime rate is STILL GOING UP)

Compare the following:

e.g. Many people die from cancer. (present tense, indicating a FACT)

e.g. He messes up our plans. (i.e. he is a trouble maker all the time)

e.g. My dog watches the door at night. (it stays close to the door every night)

e.g. Food prices go up with inflation. (food prices and inflation go hand in hand)

Next time, I'll talk about past tense and past perfect tense.

To learn more about tenses, read my book Effective Writing Made Simple.

Stephen Lau

Friday, March 14, 2014

Learn Some Tenses

Tenses play a pivotal role in effective writing: they highlight the time sequence of events. In other languages, for example, the Chinese language, there are no tenses; time sequence is indicated simply by using adverbs (words that describe or modify the verbs in sentences), such as "today", "tomorrow", "now" , "last week" , "soon" and "later."

First of all, learn the present tense and the present continuous tense.

Use the present tense to indicate an action that is factual or habitual. Examples of the present tense are as follows:
  • I like hamburgers. (factual)
  • He eats like a pig. (habitual)
  • She enjoys ballet. (habitual)
  • Obama is the President of the United States. (factual)
  • They go to that church every Sunday.(habitual)
  • We love Italian food. (habitual)
Use the present continuous tense to indicate an action that is happening or going on at this moment, or an action that will happen very soon. Examples of the present continuous tense are as follows:
  • He is eating like a pig. (now he is eating like a pig, although this may not be his habit of eating)
  • She is enjoying the ballet; don't disturb her! (she is paying all her attention to the ballet at this moment)
  • They are going to that church right now. (they are ready to go now, or they are already on their way to that church)
Notice the difference in the following two pairs of sentences:

We shall leave when we are ready. (the action is in the future)
We are leaving soon. (the action is also in the future, but the present continuous indicates "very soon")

She plays the piano. (she is a pianist, or she can play the piano)
She is playing the piano (she is at the piano right now)

To learn how to write better, read my book Effective Writing Made Simple.

To learn about tenses, come back for more.

Stephen Lau