I recently learnt that the present simple can be used for timetables and schedules. I also found it is often used for itineraries. Here is a sample in "Complete English as a Foreign":

Travel agent to a customer: A guide meets the train and takes you on a city tour and then the coach leaves you at your hotel...

Some books call the use of the present simple for itineraries as "timetabled future". However, I think itineraries are different from timetables since timetables are more accurate and fixed. So I wonder whether the reason of using the present simple for the itinerary is because those actions will happen one by one like events in a timetable or just because it is more concise to use the present simple instead of the present continuous when talking about a series of planned actions.

  • Whoever named it the "timetabled future" wasn't thinking about the exact differences of meaning between timetable, schedule, and itinerary. // The two reasons you thought of both sound like reasonable explanations to me. Maybe this isn't an either-or situation. Someone deleted a helpful post about the narrative present -- maybe look up that term. – aparente001 Apr 28 '19 at 7:43

Well, my own understanding from within the English language is that they could easily be considered as falling under the generic present tense's state outside of time. The routes run over and over and over, and so one could use the simple present in the same way literature is described in the present because a book's events are outside time and new again for each reader.

Per Lieselotte Anderwald (Language between Description and Prescription, p. 52), on the other hand,

...the use of the simple present to refer to future time is occasionally mentioned in nineteenth-century grammars, although the specific circumstances that allow this use today (sometimes called the 'timetable' future...) are never mentioned. Nevertheless, something similar to the present-day constraint that Leech calls 'a plan or arrangement regarded as unalterable'... can be deduced from the nineteenth-century examples given. Thus, Wells gives as an example 'he leaves in half an hour'..., Mulligan proposes 'John WRITES to his father next Saturday. He GOES to town to-morrow. Here the action is future'..., and Rushton says that 'we must remember, that in modern English there is no distinct inflection to represent the future; and that, especially in common conversation, we employ a present tense with a future signification: as 'I go to London to-morrow,' 'He comes down next week"... All these examples are compatible with a reading of the present tense indicating a future 'plan or arrangement as unalterable'. Towards the end of the century, Whitney and Lockwood claim that we use the present to refer to the future 'when we wish to make it vivid and distinct... He enters college next year,' but surely this characterization better applies to the historic present (which they mention at the same time...)—their future example again fits the restricted context of the 'timetable' setting that is described for the futurate use of the present today.

  • Any particular reason for the downvote? – lly Apr 28 '19 at 17:30
  • There are trolls in these parts, sadly. – Global Charm Apr 29 '19 at 5:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.