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UNIT 19


THE VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS:
REAL TIME AND VERBAL TENSE. ASPECT AND MOOD.



OUTLINE

1. INTRODUCTION.

1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2. A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS.
2.1. Linguistic levels involved in the notion of verb phrase semantics.
2.2. On defining verb phrase semantics: what and how.
2.3. Grammar categories involved: open vs. closed classes.


3. AN INTRODUCTION TO VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS: TIME, TENSE, ASPECT AND MOOD.
3.1. On defining verb and verb phrase.
3.2. Major verb classes: lexical vs. auxiliary verbs.
3.3. Lexical verbs: main morphological verb forms.
3.4. The functions of verb forms: finite vs. nonfinite.
3.5. Finite vs. nonfinite verb phrase: structural features.
3.6. Major contrasts expressed in verb phrases.
3.7. The relevance of semantics: interrelated contrasts.


4. THE VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS: TIME, TENSE AND THE VERB.

4.1. Real time vs. verbal tense.
4.2. The present tense.

4.2.1. Definition.
4.2.2. Main types and uses.

4.2.2.1. For present situations.
4.2.2.2. For past situations.
4.2.2.3. For future situations.

4.2.3. Spelling, phonology and syntax.
4.3. The past tense.

4.3.1. Definition.
4.3.2. Main types and uses.

4.3.2.1. For past situations.
4.3.2.2. Special uses.

4.3.3. Spelling, phonology and syntax.
4.4. The future time.

4.4.1. Main types and uses.


5. THE VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS: ASPECT.
5.1. Definition.

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5.2. Main types and uses.
5.2.1. The perfect aspect and ‘have’.

5.2.1.1. The present perfect.
5.2.1.2. The past perfect.

5.2.2. The progressive aspect and ‘be’.
5.2.2.1. Static vs. dynamic verb senses.
5.2.2.2. The present and past continuous.

5.3. Spelling, phonology and syntax.

6. THE VERB PHRASE SEMANTICS: MOOD.

6.1. Definition: mood vs. modality.
6.2. Mood: the grammatical view.

6.2.1. The indicative mood.
6.2.2. The subjunctive mood.
6.2.3. The imperative mood.

6.3. Modality: the semantic view.
6.3.1. The modal operators.

6.4. Spelling, phonology and syntax.


7. THE VERBAL FEATURE OF VOICE.

8. THE RELEVANCE OF SEMANTIC COOCURRENCE PATTERNS.

9. EDUCATIONAL IMPLICATIONS.

10. CONCLUSION.

11. BIBLIOGRAPHY.

12. APPENDIX.

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when the action clearly took place at a definite time even though this time is not mentioned
(i.e. How did they manage to invade England?).


(2) Secondly, the habitual past is used with actions which refer to past events that repeatedly

occur at a certain moment in the past as habitual or routinary activities (i.e. He always
arrived on time), but since, unlike the simple present, this is not implied without a suitable
adverb, ‘used to’ or less commonly ‘would’ may be needed to bring out this sense by
paraphrasing (i.e. He used to/would arrive on time). We may find (a) actions whose time is
not given but which occupied a period of time now terminated (i.e. He worked in a bank for

ten years) and (b) actions whose time occurred at a moment in a period of time now
terminated (i.e. She lived in New York for a long time).


(3) Finally, the state past is used with stative verb senses to refer to a single unbroken state of

affairs in the past (i.e. I once wrote a novel). Here we may also convey the meaning of the
past by paraphrasing with ‘used to’ (i.e. Once I used to write novels).




4.3.2.3. For future situations.

The primary use of the past tense is to locate the situation in future time where there is no change in
the time of the starting: what has changed is the time at which the arrangement/schedule is said to
hold (i.e. The party started tomorrow). This use of the past tense is vastly less frequent than the
corresponding use of the present tense. Yet, most of the future constructions describe something
which is in the future when seen from a viewpoint in the past (i.e. He said he was going to give me
his address) by means of five different structures, for instance: modal verbs, be going to +
infinitive, past progressive, be to + infinitive and finally, be about to + infinitive.


(1) Modal verb constructions include the use of ‘would’, which is quite rare and only used in
literary narrative style (i.e. We knew that sooner or later he would come back).

(2) Be going to + infinitive constructions often have the sense of ‘unfulfilled intentions’ (i.e.
He said he was going to give me his address but he didn’t).

(3) The past progressive indicates a plan which was arranged in the past (i.e. Laura was
meeting her husband in York the next day).

(4) Be to + infinitive is a quite formal construction which indicates either ‘was unavoidable to
happen’ or ‘arrangement’ (i.e. We were meant to meet each other/The party was to be held
on Saturday, respectively).

(5) And finally, the ‘be about to + infinitive’ construction, which conveys the meaning of ‘on
the point of’, often with the sense of an unfulfilled intention (i.e. He was just about to fall
down).

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4.3.2.4. Special uses.

Greenbaum & Quirk (1990) distinguish three special uses of the simple past: (1) backshifting in
indirect reported speech, (2) the attitudinal past and (3) factual remoteness with the hypothetical
past.


(1) First of all, backshifting is what is known as indirect reported speech, indirect in that one
gives only the content expressed, not the actual words used. Compare ‘Jane said that James
had two cats’ vs. Jane said that James has two cats’. In the first sentence, we have a past

tense instead of the original present tense: this shift from present tense to past tense is
known as backshifting.


In the second sentence, by contrast, there no backshifting. The difference is then that in the
first sentence the state of James’s having two cats is temporally related to a point in the past
whereas in the second sentence, it is temporally related to a point in the present, the time of
one’s utterance. The term ‘indirect reported speech’ is actually too narrow, for backshifting
occurs equally in the report of feelings, beliefs, knowledge, etc.


(2) Secondly the attitudinal past is optionally used to refer more politely to a present state of

mind (i.e. Did you mind to talk to me?).

(3) And finally, the hypothetical past (or ‘actual remoteness’ according to Huddleston) which

makes reference to subordinate clauses, especially conditional clauses (second type)
introduced by if, as if, as though, it is time, if only, wish, would sooner/rather, etc so as to
convey the idea of an unreal past and the opposite to the belief, expectation or wish of the
speaker (i.e. If you knew him, you would be surprised/I wish I had more money).


The tense difference thus signals a difference not in time, but in the speaker’s assessment of
the likelihood of the condition’s being fulfilled: the past tense presents it as a relatively
remote possibility in contrast with the present tense which shows an open possibility, that
is, past vs. present tenses have a contrast between unreal vs. real conditional constructions.
The factual remoteness meaning of the past tense is not restricted to unreal conditional
constructions. It is also found in subordinate clauses after wish or it + be time (i.e. I wish/It
is time they were here). In main clauses it occurs only with modal operators.



4.3.3. Spelling, phonology and syntax.

We shall make some comments on spelling, phonology and syntax related to the simple past tense.
Thus, first of all, regarding morphology, the regular spelling of the past tense and –ed participle
suffixes is –ed or –d. The latter spelling is found when the verb ends in mute –e (i.e. bake-d, love-d,
move-d).

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10. BIBLIOGRAPHY.


- Aarts, F., and J. Aarts. 1988. English Syntactic Structures. Functions & Categories in Sentence
Analysis. Prentice Hall Europe.

- B.O.E. RD Nº 112/2002, de 13 de septiembre por el que se establece el currículo de la Educación
Secundaria Obligatoria/Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

- Bolton, D. And N. Goodey. 1997. Grammar Practice in Context. Richmond Publishing.

- Council of Europe (1998) Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common
European Framework of reference.


- Downing, A. and P. Locke. 2002. A University Course in English Grammar. London: Routledge.

- Eastwood, J. 1999. Oxford Practice in Grammar. Oxford University Press.

- Greenbaum, S. and R. Quirk. 1990. A Student’s Grammar of the English Language. Longman
Group UK Limited.

- Greenbaum, S. 2000. The Oxford Reference Grammar. Edited by Edmund Weiner. Oxford
University Press.

- Hymes, D. 1972. On communicative competence. In J. B. Pride and J. Holmes (eds.),
Sociolinguistics, pp. 269-93. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

- Huddleston, R. 1988. English Grammar, An Outline. Cambridge University Press.

- Huddleston, R. and G.K. Pullum. 2002. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language.
Cambridge University Press.

- Nelson, G. 2001. English: An Essential Grammar. London. Routledge.

- Palmer, Frank R. 1981. Semantics: A New Outline, 2nd edn. New York: Cambridge University
Press. (1st edn, 1976).

- Quirk, R & S. Greenbaum. 1973. A University Grammar of English. Longman.

- Sánchez Benedito, F. 1975. Gramática Inglesa. Editorial Alhambra.

- Thomson, A.J. and A.V. Martinet. 1986. A Practical English Grammar. Oxford University Press.

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12.APPENDIX

Appendix 1. Major verb classes: lexical vs. auxiliary verbs.



LEXICAL VERBS



Those verbs which constitute the principal part of the verb
phrase: read, think, consider, play, jump, sleep, hear, etc


Modal Auxiliaries




CAN, MAY, MUST, SHALL, WILL
DARE, NEED, OUGHT (TO), USED

(TO)



DO

auxiliary of
periphrasis

and
auxiliary of
emphasis


HAVE



auxiliary of the
perfective aspect









AUXILIARY

VERBS






Primary
Auxiliaries




BE

Auxiliary of the
progressive aspect

and
auxiliary of the
passive voice

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