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Is future tense in English really a myth?

Does English really have only two tenses. It depends how you define "tense", but to most linguists, yes. All languages can mark the time when an event occurs, to any degree of specificity you want. ...
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22 votes
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Do most languages have the same basic verb tenses?

Short answer: Not at all! Some languages only have two: past and non-past (English, Japanese). Others have past, present, and future (Ancient Greek). Still others have separate "recent" and "distant" ...
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16 votes
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Example of a tenseless sentence

A common saying in linguistics is, languages don't vary in what they can express. They only vary in what they must express. In English, it's morphologically impossible to have a finite verb without ...
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14 votes
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Does a difference of tense count as a difference of meaning in a minimal pair?

Yes. A minimal pair is meant to differ in one phoneme, to demonstrate that a speaker of the language can distinguish between the two words, and therefore that the contrast is phonemic. Since the ...
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14 votes

Is future tense in English really a myth?

The argument that the English "will + infinitive" construction should not be considered a future tense is fairly complex. It is not an obvious matter, and I think the rejection of this classification ...
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13 votes

Is there really a perfect tense?

Tense vs. aspect vs. mood Let's first clarify what the different categories mean in the first place: Tense is a category that locates events on a timeline. Distinctions between different tenses are ...
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12 votes

Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

In Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, the verbs never change their form, it is the pronouns that have the tense. In Wolof there is I-which-is-now, I-that-will-be, I-that-was, ...
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10 votes
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Are there languages where the tense depends on time elapsed between events?

Having one or more remoteness distinctions in the past tense is reasonably common, particularly in Papua, parts of the Amazon and parts of Africa: http://wals.info/feature/66A (note that the map is ...
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7 votes
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Why is the Romanian tense system so "simple", compared to other Romance languages?

The short answer: centuries of use of Old Church Slavonic instead of Latin or Romanian as a written language BUT note there is a tendency towards analytic tenses in spoken languages across Europe. ...
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6 votes

Relationship between possession ("to have") and tenses ("I have seen")

Robert's answer leaves us with a puzzle. Since this construction of a perfect with "have" is so rare, it would be a very strange coincidence that it is present in French, German, English, Italian, etc....
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6 votes

Which languages conflate (imperfective) past and irrealis, and why?

For most Romance languages at least, there's a totally separate set of conjugation forms called the "subjunctive mode", used to indicate things that could/should/might be, could/should/might become, ...
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6 votes
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Why does French use “be” as the auxiliary for a few verbs?

As usual in language evolution, having two auxiliaries wasn't a goal, things just happened this way (and in fact the long-term evolution is towards a single auxiliary). There is an article in French ...
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6 votes

Suffix -ed indicating current state

"Based" here is either the past/passive participle of the verb base used in the passive construction "BE + past participle", or an adjective derived from the past participle (a departicipial adjective—...
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5 votes

Grammatical Aspect and Lexical Aspect

As luck would have it, I'm just preparing a talk on aspect at a conference. The problem, with your question is that you're looking at aspect in isolation. Your sentence (as a sequence of words) is ...
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5 votes

Have the Spanish tenses stopped evolving?

Languages change, it's inevitable. Even an almost geographically isolated language will change: maybe in a limited way, or at a slower pace, but it will. Some changes are more visible and happen in ...
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5 votes

Which languages conflate (imperfective) past and irrealis, and why?

I suspect subjunctive merged with indicative in English simply due to phonetical reasons. Look at Old English: "I ate" (indicative) - Ic æt "I ate" (subjunctive) - Ic æte or "we beat" (...
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5 votes

Imperfective aspect or Future tense?

The Max Plank Institute's Department of Linguistics has a few resources, including a questionnaire, for dealing with questions of tense and aspect. But as Dominik hinted, tense and aspect are a tricky ...
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5 votes

Is there any language where the past tense is the base form of a verb?

First, it is important to be clear on what "most basic form" as described above covers. One notion is "structurally simplest", that is, "having the fewest added things". The other is "phonologically ...
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5 votes

Example of a tenseless sentence

As Draconis explained quite clearly, English is a tense language, which requires finite verbs (in matrix clauses) to be gramatically tensed to specify its temporal conditions. And I'd like to talk ...
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5 votes

Why does Spanish have obsolete tenses?

Because language changes gradually. So for some features (in this case the mentioned Spanish tenses) there is first some alternative to express them, and this alternative becomes more frequent than ...
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5 votes
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Present perfect tense vs simple past

What the site is trying to explain is that both German and English have a simple past tense and a perfect tense and that in the not too distant past, they may have been used similarly. In spoken ...
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4 votes

Imperfective aspect or Future tense?

You need to distinguish between tense, aspect and time reference. For instance, the English present continuous combines a present time reference with an imperfective aspect. However, it is often used ...
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4 votes

How verb tenses evolve

English and French pluperfect constructions are not descended from a common ancestor The English pluperfect tense (along with all the other composite tenses made with "have") is not what is called "...
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4 votes
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Lithuanian possessive perfect

It is basically pretty similar thing to English present perfect, i.e. the auxiliary verb have + some sort of past or passive participle of a content verb to express some sort of past. But in many ...
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4 votes

Are there any known natural languages in which tense is never (or very rarely) expressed through the modification of verbs?

Chinese is the one. Like many asian-oceaninc languages, it is a modal rather than tense language. Verbs in chinese do not change according to time of the action.
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4 votes
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How can the perfective aspect apply to the present tense?

In English, at least, the ordinary simple present is imperfective; but there are genres in which a perfective use is common. In sports broadcasts, for instance: "He shoots, he scores!" describes an ...
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4 votes

Is future tense in English really a myth?

There is an argument for distinguishing morphological tenses from periphrastic tenses. The English verb “to be” has five morphological tenses: present: I am past: I was present subjunctive: (if) I ...
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4 votes

The verb to have in relation to the past

The periphrastic 'have'-perfect isn't a feature common to the Indo-European languages, but rather one that's part of the Standard Average European Sprachbund, which developed as the various European ...
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