Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tense because of tenses.

In my previous post on the many errors in the new grammar book of the Speak Good English Movement, one Renfred Tay in a public Facebook posting objects to my use of the simple present tense 'give' in the first sentence below:

He insists that I should say '...gave me no choice...'. I would have ignored his remark if I had not seen in the Speak Good English Movement's new grammar book the same poor grasp of tenses. I thought I should address his comment more fully in this post in my own blog.

It is perfectly all right to say any of these:
All these factors give me no choice but to conclude that he knows nothing about grammar.
All these factors lead me to conclude that he knows nothing about grammar.
All these factors tell me that he knows nothing about grammar.  
I don't know what Renfred Tay has in mind but presumably, he thinks that one has to use the past tense 'gave', 'led' and 'told' because the giving, the leading and the telling would have first occurred some time in the past.

But this is not how grammar works. If I say, 'The BBC says there was an Islamic terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge yesterday', you cannot assume that I did not listen to the BBC earlier just because I use the simple present tense 'says'.

Or if late one night your wife tells you while you're both in bed, 'I hear Peter's getting a new job', you don't have to jump out of bed to see if there is anyone hiding under your bed and whispering news about Peter's life to your wife.

It is this misunderstanding of the many functions of the different tenses that causes some people to write monstrosities that can be quite hilarious. I cannot quite recall specific examples now but I'm sure I have seen some.

For a one-page list of all my blog posts on language, particularly the countless mistakes made by Singapore's Speak Good English Movement, please click here.

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