Learning the Logic of Natural English Grammar-Part 3
The Structure (The 8Formulas)
A brief recapitulation of Part 1 and Part 2.
The tense of a verb indicates absolutely NOTHING. Nothing is nothing. All attempts to make something of nothing are useless and is simply a waste of time. Of course, we can let the show go on and learn a lot more about ‘tenses’ in the years to come, or alternatively, we can take a fresh, closer look at the grammar of the English language and see at last that the English Verb System has a NATURAL clearly visible, coherent and complete structure. It is simple, logical, easily understandable and describable without even mentioning the word ‘tense’.
Incidentally, it is amazing that one click is enough for the term ‘Tenses’ to disappear from the English language! Tenses disappear automatically along with their mysterious complexity, confusing terminology, misunderstandings, disputes, and such surrounding them — not a trace left behind. With the burden off its shoulders, English grammar instantly becomes much more simple and comprehensible. It is like we get a modern speedy car instead of an old creaky cart.
In fact, the two seemingly minor changes we have made are revolutionary ones. “… to rid the teaching of English, including grammar, of its accumulated formalism and ineffectiveness — to make it genuine instruction instead of a pedantic and meaningless routine. And how is this revolutionary aim set forth? By a meticulous and merciless splitting of hairs, a gigantic manufacture of classifications and sub-classifications, a colossal display of professorial bombast and flatulence! I could cite many other examples. Perhaps, after all, the disease is incurable.” Grammarians and Their Ways, H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921 Chapter 9. The Common Speech. 1. Grammarians and Their Ways. Mencken, H.L. 1921. The American Language
We see now (after almost 100 years !!!) that the disease is CURABLE. The virus has been detected, and we know how to get rid of it.
In point of fact, the action names like Present Perfect Tense, Past Simple Tense, etc. have been the most harmful and noxious for English grammar brainchildren of the careless linguists and grammarians. It is those “harmless” names’ fault that a great number of ESL/EFL learners have been wasting years of their lives being bored out of their minds trying to understand what English sentences grow out of, all in vain.
1. They were waiting for us. = Active Continuous Past
2. It was the third time he had jogged since making the decision on Tuesday.
was = Active Simple Past
had jogged = Active Perfect Past
making = Active Simple Gerund
3. A sixth sense warned him that he was being watched.
warned = Active Simple Past
was being watched = Passive Continuous Past
4. What should be taught in our schools?
should be taught = Passive Simple Modal
5. He asked her pardon for having deceived her.
asked = Active Simple Past
having deceived = Active Perfect Gerund
6. They will have chalked up 40 years of marriage this summer.
will have chalked up = Active Perfect Future
7. A peer review system is being introduced to help teachers who are experiencing difficulty.
is being introduced = Passive Continuous Present
to help = Active Simple Infinitive
are experiencing = Active Continuous Present
8. Help me. = Active Simple Infinitive
9. It would be interesting. = Active Simple Modal
10. The article will have been finished by Friday noon. = Passive Perfect Future
11. I will have finished the article by Friday noon. = Active Perfect Future
12. Have you finished the article yet? = Active Perfect Present
13. The article has not been finished yet. = Passive Perfect Present
14. The article could have been finished by Friday, if… = Passive Perfect Modal
15. It’s (Active Simple Present) important to take (Active Simple Infinitive) control of how you’re perceived (Passive Simple Present) online, and avoid (Active Simple Infinitive) jeopardizing (Active Simple Gerund) your chances of being hired (Passive Simple Gerund). = It’s important to take control of how you’re perceived online, and avoid jeopardizing your chances of being hired.
It is clearly seen that common to ALL English sentences features are only VOICE and ASPECT. (Do you remember how many times you’ve seen things like “Tense and aspect are closely related and are combined…” in various coursebooks and on numerous websites? All of them turn out to be elaborate lies.)
Going further… to the very core of English grammar. It is exactly here that an abstract perception of a certain real life situation starts turning into an audible or visible meaningful unit — a Sentence.
VOICE and ASPECT are inseparable like “body and soul”, or one is indivisible from the other, because they can do the job they are programmed/coded to do by Life and Language only when one immediately follows the other.
The VOICE+ASPECT pair is a bridge from LIFE to LANGUAGE.
Voice+Aspect together make a very special combination in the English language , which I call a Formula.
4. There are EIGHT (8) FORMULAS in English. (Do you remember? — the question of questions “How many tenses are there in English?”)
They are a set of building tools used to construct and understand sentences.
This toolkit of the eight formulas is the only thing that the English language uses to describe everything that happens in Life, however complicated a situation may seem, — any newly invented Formula “9” turns any English sentence into absurd.
THE FORMULAS’ NAMES (without grammatical adjuncts*) are:
1. Active Simple
2. Active Continuous
3. Active Perfect
4. Active Perfect Continuous
1. Passive Simple
2. Passive Continuous
3. Passive Perfect
4. Passive Perfect Continuous
*Neither VOICE (Active, Passive) nor ASPECT (Simple, Continuous/ Progressive, Perfect, Perfect Continuous/Progressive) has anything to do with grammar — they are simply the names of groups, which innumerable real-life situations are divided into by grammar. This means that there is nothing ‘to learn’ here. Instead, we have to pay more attention to a correct assessment of the situation we want to describe. Anyone can do it without learning or using any grammatical terms and rules.
The formulas’ names with the basic grammatical adjunct (Infinitive):
The formulas ready for usage with their original names
Roughly speaking, in terms of the English language, Life is divided into only eight parts.
“We can laugh to express amusement, happiness, or disrespect, we can smile to express amusement, pleasure, approval, or bitter feelings, we can shriek to express anger, excitement, or fear, we can clench our fists to express determination, anger or a threat, we can raise our eyebrows to express surprise or disapproval, and so on, but…” What is language?, https://www.uio.no/studier/emner...
We have nothing at our disposal but these eight verb chunks to describe everything we feel and do, as well as everything that is happening to and around us in Life.
How it works:
we (1) assess the situation we want to describe (it can only be one of the eight probabilities), then (2) find the formula (VA) to match it (among the formulas ready for usage), then (3) make the formula grammatically correct for the situation (when it stops being “infinitive” and becomes something that we need at this very moment: V A Past, V A Present, V A Future, V A Modal,
V A Gerund, V A Participle; when needed, we can use V A Infinitive (original) too), and (4) put it in the sentence.
In other words, the eight formulas serve as the only one, permanent and indisputable, guide for constructing and understanding absolutely all sentences in the English language.
Of course, it is only a part of the system. A large number of other important things have not yet been mentioned (Mood, primary and secondary verbs, etc.). I think I had better stop here to allow you time and possibility to ponder on what you have just read. Perhaps some of you may find it challenging to probe deeper into the issue without my rants.
The one thing I am certain of is that if you want to get to grips with how this natural system works, and keep thinking logically at that, it will take some of you a few minutes, some may need a couple of hours, some - a few days at the most, but not months and years, to do it.