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Task 10

The following time clauses are taken from the text on 'How Parliament makes new laws'. State why you think the writer chose the tense and voice that he did.

  1. On the other hand it may be passed, or there may be no vote. When this happens, it goes to the committee stage . . .

  2. When this happens it goes to the committee stage, where a small group of members (perhaps between 30 and 50), meet and discuss it in detail. When the committee has finished its work, it reports ...

  3. Then the bill is taken for its third reading, which is a debate, just like the second reading, and a vote is taken. When it is passed, it goes to the 'other House'...

  4. It is understood that the Queen will always accept bills which have been passed by both Houses. When the Queen's consent has been given, the bill becomes an act...

In general descriptions of a process, the present simple tense of the passive voice is used (e.g. First, the material is taken . . .). When the present tense is used in this way, it is often called the timeless present, because its use does not mean that the process is happening at this moment, but that it happens in precisely this way, repeatedly, and on many occasions: in other words, no specific time reference is necessary. However, when the stages of a process are written up as a report, the report uses past tenses (e.g. First, the material was taken . . .). This is because one specific occurrence of the process, at a specific (past) time, is being reported.

Task 11

Use the information in the text 'How Parliament makes new laws' to write a report of the process which the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act went through before it was passed into law.


A The following diagram shows the braking system of a car. Use the information it contains (and get further information from textbooks or experts in mechanics if you wish) to write a short text explaining how a car braking system functions. Write a text suitable for schoolchildren in the first year of secondary/high school, taking an introductory science course.

Car braking system

Foot pressure on brake pedal.

Pressure transferred through fluid to four wheels.

Pressure in pistons increased

causing brake shoes to expand.

B Find out as much as you can about a process you are interested in, and write a text explaining it so that an intelligent adult could understand it. Illustrate with a diagram if you wish. When you plan your text, consider:

  1. making the text interesting with a variety of sentence types;

  2. the need to use sequencers, and which ones to use;

  3. choices of active or passive voice, and of tenses.

Looking back

Now that you have finished this unit you should be able to write a text which sequences events in natural time order or unusual time order, using suitable time expressions, sequencers, and tenses. You should also be aware of when the passive voice might be needed.

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