The Uses of Grammar

By Judith Rodby; W. Ross Winterowd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Verbs: Tense, Auxiliary Verbs,
and Modals

CHAPTER PREVIEW
Verbs can be defined notionally (on the basis of meaning), formally (on the basis of the changes they undergo when they are used), or functionally (on the basis of what they do in sentences).
Traditional grammar lists six tenses: present (Father works), past (Father worked), future (Father will work), present perfect (Father has worked), past perfect or pluperfect (Father had worked), and future perfect (Father will have worked).
The eight “basic” sentence patterns in English are determined by whether the verb is transitive (has one object or more than one: Jack sees Jane; Jack gives Jane candy), intransitive (no object: Spot barks), or linking (Dick becomes obstreperous).
In the analysis presented in this book, there are only two tenses, present and past.
Tense is a function of grammar and does not necessarily correspond with the idea of time. The following sentence is in present tense, but it talks about the future: My sister graduates from med school next June.
The auxiliary verbs are be, have, and do and all of the modals. (The words be, have, and do are also main verbs.)
The most common modals or modal auxiliaries are can, could, may, might, must, shall, will, would, and ought.

Here is a fact about knowledge: that which you use repeatedly becomes part of your repertory at hand; that which you do not use frequently is often not readily available, and you must refresh your memory. Throughout this book, you will be applying basic concepts again and again, and as you do so, you will make them readily available.

We feel that rote memorization is not productive. In subsequent chapters when you encounter problems regarding such matters as tense and modals, you should refer back to this chapter and to Chapters 6 and 7 for help. Ultimately, the system will be part of your analytical tool kit, at hand whenever you need it.

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