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Grammar theory.doc
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III. The Meaning:

As a present tense form the Present Indefinite refers the action which it denotes to the present time in the broad sense. As a common aspect form it bears no indication as to the manner in which the action is performed (the meanings can be given to the form by the lexical meaning of the verb or by the context).

As a non-perfect form it bears no indication as to the precedence of the action it denotes to the moment of speaking, thus this tense has no connection with the moment of speaking.

We use the Present Simple to talk about things in general. We use it to say that something happens all the time or repeatedly, or that something is true in general. It is not important whether the action is happening at the moment of speaking.

IV. The Use of the Present Indefinite

1) The Present Indefinite is used to denote permanent actions and states:

  • Alice works for an insurance company.

  • Her daughter is rather naughty.

2) The Present Indefinite is used to denote habitual and repeated actions.

  • Do you often come to those parties?

  • He wakes up and has a cup of coffee.

  • Uncle Tom goes to his summer house every weekend.

3) The Present Indefinite is used to state laws of nature and general (universal) truths of the physical world, including the generalised folk wisdom expressed in proverbs and other statements made “for all time”:

  • Two plus two makes four.

  • Magnet attracts iron.

  • It never rains but it pours.

  • It snows in winter.

4) The Present Indefinite can denote events simultaneous with the present moment and normally occurs in certain easily definable contexts.

a) The Present Indefinite is used with verbs that do not have continuous forms:

  • I don't understand what you mean.

  • Do you object, Dad?

  • I like this wine very much.

  • I believe you.

b) The Present Indefinite is preferred to the Present Continuous when the progress of the action is not uppermost in the mind of the speaker. It is the occurrence itself, the action as such that attracts the attention of the speaker and the idea of its progress becomes unimportant at the moment, but the attending circumstances (the time, the manner, the place);

  • You leave me no choice.

  • I refuse to listen to you. You talk such nonsense.

c) The Present Indefinite is used to express declarations, announcements, etc. usually with the first person of performative verbs which perform the act named by actually being spoken, i.e. you do things by saying smth: when you promise to do smth, you say 'I promise ...', when you advise to do smth., you say 'I advise ...', etc. Common performative verbs are: accept, agree, apologize, congratulate, declare, deny, disagree, forbid, forgive, guarantee, insist, invite, order, predict, promise, recommend, refuse, thank, warn, etc.

  • I declare the meeting over.

  • I agree to your proposal.

  • I give you my word.

  • I apologise for the mistake.

d) In sports commentaries:

  • Lydiard passes to Taylor, Taylor shoots – and it’s a goal!

5) The Present Indefinite can be used instead of the imperative to give instructions (often with the impersonal you). The imperative in such sentences sounds more abrupt.

  • You sprinkle some cheese on the pizza and then you bake it.

  • How do I get to the station? – You go straight on to the traffic lights, then you turn left, ...

6) It is used, chiefly, with the verb 'say'(advise/warn), when we are asking about or quoting from books, notices or very recently received letters

  • What does that notice say? - It says, 'No parking'.

  • I see you've got a letter from Ann. What does she say?

  • She says she is coming to London next week.

  • Shakespeare says, 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be.'

  • Shakespeare advises us not to borrow or lend.

  • It says in the paper that petrol’s going up again.

7) In stage directions:

  • When the curtain rises, Juliet is writing at her desk. Suddenly the window opens and a masked man enters.

8) The Present Indefinite is also found in exclamatory, interrogative and negative-interrogative sentences.

  • My dear, how you throw about your money!

  • Why do you talk like that to me?

9) Note the structures here comes ... and there goes... :

  • Here comes your husband!

  • There goes our bus – we’ll have to wait for the next one.

10) Some fixed phrases that are used in letter-writing can be expressed either in the Present Indefinite (more formal) or in the Present Continuous (less formal).

  • We write to advise you... (Less formal: We are writing to let you know...)

  • I enclose my cheque for £200. (Less formal: I am enclosing...)

  • I look forward to hearing from you... (Less formal: I’m looking forward to hearing....)

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