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Another Tense Question

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  • Jemineye
    25 July, 2012 at 12:43
    • Total posts: 21

    Hi guys.

    I’m brushing up on my tenses before my CertTESOL starts next month. I feel like I’m pretty confident on being able to take a standard sentence like "I work" (present simple) and reconstruct it into all 11 remaining tenses e.g.

    I work (Present Simple)
    I have worked (Present Perfect)
    I am working (Present Continuous)
    I have been working (Present Perfect Continuous)

    I worked (Past Simple)
    I had worked (Past Perfect)
    I was working (Past Continuous)
    I had been working (Past Perfect Continuous)

    I will work (Future Simple)
    I will have worked (Future Perfect)
    I will be working (Future Continuous)
    I will have been working (Future Perfect Continuous0


    when I attempt to modify ‘have’ or "be" like this, I start to go a bit hazy and my brain starts to hurt as the typical rules of "auxiliary verb (in conjunction with tense) + past participle" in the case of ‘Perfect’ tenses, don’t seem to apply as easy.

    I hope I’m making sense.

    For example, I would think that "Are you okay?" would be present simple; future simple = will you be okay; past simple = were you okay. I don’t even know if I’m right, but when it starts getting to the perfects and the continuous’, it starts getting confusing. Anyone mind clarifying?

    Cert.TESOL Qualified

    26 July, 2012 at 7:07
    • Total posts: 243

    Reply To: Another Tense Question

    Hi Jemineye

    Let’s take your example and make it an affirmative sentence rather than a question, for simplicity’s sake. So:

    Are you okay?


    I am okay.

    You’re used to thinking of the verb "be" as an auxiliary verb, which it very often is, for example in your sentences "I am working" and "I was working".

    In this sentence though, the verb "be" is the main verb and so acts as any other verb would when you conjugate it. So sometimes you need to use the verb "be" as the auxiliary verb too, in which case you get the verb "be" twice in the same sentence, once as the auxiliary and once as the main verb.

    So to change your example sentence into the other tenses, you get:

    – I’m okay.
    – I’ve been okay.
    – I’m being okay
    – I’ve been being okay

    – I was okay
    – I’d been okay
    – I was being okay
    – I’d been being okay

    – I’ll be okay
    – I’ll have been okay
    – I’ll be being okay
    – I’ll have been being okay

    Bear in mind that the verb "be" is not usually used in the continuous form, although it’s possible in certain contexts (can be a useful exercise to try and think of a context where "I’m being okay" would be used). But when you get to something like "I’ll have been being okay", although theoretically possible, it’s very hard to think of a context where this would be used!

    I’m not sure if that answers your question? Let me know if not.


    26 July, 2012 at 10:14
    • Total posts: 21

    Reply To: Another Tense Question

    I had actually been considering that this might have been the case, but every time I came upon, for example “I’ve been okay”, I would think it sounded like a present continuous. That said, that does clear up some of the mess I’d gotten myself into. I do recall that in my pre-course task, it did note that some sentences (while grammatically correct) may not be used anymore if at all. So, if I was to convert it all to “Are you okay?”, would I get the following:

    Are you okay?
    Have you been okay?
    Are you being okay?
    Have you been being okay?

    Were you okay?
    Had you been okay?
    Were you being okay?
    Had you been being okay?

    Will you be okay?
    Will you have been okay?
    Will you be being okay?
    Will you have been being okay?

    Had a slight issue with line 11. Do you reckon I could make it “Would you be being okay?”or would that change the whole future continuous prospect?

    Cert.TESOL Qualified

    27 July, 2012 at 13:53
    • Total posts: 243

    Reply To: Another Tense Question

    Hi Jemineye

    All those are correct. Do bear in mind though that such grammatical gymnastics, although useful as an exercise for checking that you’ve understood the form of different tenses, don’t have that much of a practical application. You’ll discover when you take your course that we normally look at one structure at a time, or perhaps two or three to compare the meaning. The form (which is what you’ve correctly written above for each tense) is of little use without the meaning (what is the meaning we convey by using a particular tense?).

    Anyway, as I say, these are things you’ll see on the course so I won’t go into any more detail here.

    To answer your other question, about using "would" instead of "will" – with both sentences it’s difficult to imagine a context where we would use them (as I mentioned in my first post) so let’s compare with another example:

    Will you be okay?
    Would you be okay?

    "Would" can be used for a number of different functions. In the example above, we might imagine that there is a condition involved, for example:

    Would you be okay …if I went out for a while?

    So I guess he answer to your question is yes, you can use "would", but the meaning changes… and this is why, as I mentioned above, we need to look at the meaning as well as the form when we think about a grammar item.

    Hope that helps.


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