In Thai language there is no past tense, at least not for negative sentences:

  • A Thai person might say "I don't go" (ฉัน ไม่ ไป) while the listener is expected to guess from the context if it means past (I did not go) or present (I don't go)
  • A present marker such as กำลัง or อยู่ could be utilized to emphasize if something doesn't or does happen presently, but it won't necessarily be used

In contrast, Thai language does have a past marker as "already" (แล้ว) for positive sentences such as "I go (went) already" (ฉัน ไป แล้ว).

That said about past; it is interesting to note that Thai language does have a future tense as with "I will not go" (ฉัน จะ ไม่ ไป) or as with "I will go" (ฉัน จะ ไป).

All of this brought me to wonder if there are human general communication languages without a future tense and if not, how can it be explained that all languages include present and future tenses but at least one lacks past tenses?

  • When you say "tendency" are you referring to what is more commonly called habitual aspect?
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 2, 2021 at 5:59
  • 1
    Many languages including Japanese and Finnish don't mark the future tense in any way on the verb, so your statement “all languages include present and future tendencies” is wrong. Besides, “tendency” doesn't seem to be a generally accepted grammar term. Those แล้ว and จะ are tense-aspect-mood markers.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 2, 2021 at 9:32
  • In my opinion, the "Thai" tag is inappropriate for this question since it isn't really asking about the Thai language. Sep 2, 2021 at 11:01
  • @curiousdannii I am not a native speaker of English nor ever studied linguistics formally, it's very hard for me to understand what is the term you referred to so all I can say now is "maybe" and anyway I meant to what reflects "I will" in English. Sep 2, 2021 at 16:14
  • @variableism Do you mean a future tense? What linguists call a tense is something different from how lay people use the term, but in the looser sense (how most people learn it at school), English has both a ‘future tense’ and a ‘past tense’. According to Wikipedia, Thai (like Chinese) doesn’t have any tenses, and the exact same phrase can be past, present or future depending on context, which seems to be the opposite of what you say in your question. But I don’t know Thai, so I can’t guess what makes your (untransliterated) examples future… Sep 2, 2021 at 17:21

1 Answer 1


Many languages have a distinction between past and non-past that doesn't explicitly mark the future. Japanese, for example:

  • 食べます tabemasu "eat, eats, will eat"
  • 食べました tabemasita "ate"

English sometimes does the same thing:

After I finish this report, I'll come to the meeting.

The "finishing" is clearly in the future, but there's no explicit marking of that. In Latin, on the other hand, an explicitly future form would be used here (fēcerō "I will have finished").

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