135

What is a tense? In linguistic terminology, "tense" is a part of verbal paradigm that refers specifically to the time of an utterance. It is impossible for any language to have more than three tenses in this sense, since any action is either past, present, or future. In English, we do the basic tenses this way: Present: I walk to the store. Past: I walked ...


88

This is a good example of the problems caused by lying to students in saying that will is "The Future Tense". There is no future tense in English. There is likewise no perfect tense, no progressive tense, no pluperfect tense, no future perfect tense. There are also no moods or voices. No matter what you've been taught. Sorry about that. What English has is ...


85

This was a problem with Google's optical character recognition (OCR) mistaking the long s (ſ) as an f. However, Google has since improved their OCR: When we generated the original Ngram Viewer corpora in 2009, our OCR wasn't as good as it is today. This was especially obvious in pre-19th century English, where the elongated medial-s (ſ) was often ...


75

I believe 'can' is more appropriate in a restaurant. Firstly it is quite possible that you cannot have something that is on the menu because it is no longer available. Asking if you 'can' have the swordfish is valid because the answer may be no. Secondly using 'may' implies you are asking for permission which I don't think is appropriate in a restaurant. ...


67

Use of deontic would in the protasis and epistemic would in the apodosis: “If you would all PLEASE take your seats, we would actually be able to get started on time for once.” Non-native speakers should probably not attempt this. Explanation The asker appears to be looking for a counterexample to the simplistic “rule” sometimes taught to English ...


67

In the dilemma "may" vs. "can" and which form is preferable, it depends on how old the speaker is, where they live and which dialect of English they speak. There is an age-old debate that can in requests, is asking if something is "possible", e.g. A: Can I have a glass of water? B: Yes, you can (=it is possible). Whereas may, some argue, is asking ...


46

I can think of five hundred ways to destroy him: how I would would not be a problem. Disclaimer: Not a native speaker.


40

Grammatically, you can use can't instead of can not or cannot in the majority of circumstances. There is an exception. In wh-movement, the contraction should not be expanded unless you also change the word order: Why can't I have some bacon? //OK Why cannot I have some bacon? //not OK, archaic Why can I not have some bacon? //OK again, although formal ...


34

Is "ought to" still used in modern English? Yes, it is. Quite a bit, in fact. If yes, in what contexts is it used, and is it used more in formal or informal cases? That’s an interesting question, because it turns out that ought can sometimes be quite formal, but it can sometimes be quite informal. It just depends how it’s used. Here are two examples ...


33

"Would you ever use would twice in a sentence?" "I would, but would you?" The first is mentioned but you could count it as a use. In the second case you could omit the but and have the two words consecutive with only a comma in between.


29

Rarely, must is used as a past tense. Belshazzar, by H. Rider Haggard, has we went because we must, in a prose style which is perhaps deliberately archaic to reflect the ancient Egyptian context. In this odd snippet, If Thoreau went because he would, Hawthorne went because he must, one might say the author is "playing with language". But here's Ralph Waldo ...


29

I think that there is possibly confusion here between may, can and would. It is possible that she once used to say expressions like: Can I have ... Can I get ... and was taught that it was more polite to use may rather than can in that context. Although strictly, can relates to the ability to do something, whereas may concerns permission to do ...


27

If you are issuing this statement as a warning or confrontation then the only acceptable formulation is How dare you For example: "How dare you go behind my back and talk to my boss without telling me." How do you dare is asking a question- essentially How is it possible that you dare to ... For example: "How do you dare do that? Aren't you afraid ...


27

The word "can," meaning to put in a can, has the infinitive "to can." The modal verb "can," meaning to be able, is invariable and defective, the latter meaning it has no infinitive or participle forms.


26

Your friend is correct. "I need compute ..." is ungrammatical, but "I need only compute ..." is fine, if a little bit old-fashioned and formal. Modal verbs do not use a "to". That is, you say I can do this. The verb "need" is a funny case; it is only modal in the negative. In the positive, we already have an equivalent modal verb; namely, "I must". ...


25

Almost all grammarians recognize only two tenses in English, present and past. That is because only they require a change in the finite form of the verb. Constructions such as the present progressive or past perfect are analysed in terms of aspect, although the present and past tenses express aspect too. For example, regular verbs have four forms. In the ...


25

The rule you have been told has some validity, but is too general. English speakers don't use a will with simple future meaning after if: If the plan succeeds, I will come. not *If the plan will succeed, I will come. But will can also convey intention or willingness, so with an animate subject (especially second person) will can work If you ...


25

This question appears to derive from the 'Entry Test' at the beginning of Diana Hopkins with Pauline Cullen, Cambridge Grammar for IELTS, 2007, and the answer from the 'Key' on page 223. You are invited to read Unit 14 for an explanation of the answer. If you do so you will find these among the 'rules' given there: We use must when the obligation comes ...


21

Need and dare are the English semi-modal verbs, which means that need and dare can behave like a modal (no inflections, negative contractions needn't, dassn't, subject-auxiliary inversion, to-less infinitives) only in negative contexts. The modalactivity of need and dare is a Negative Polarity Item, and operates only within the scope of a Negative Polarity ...


21

Per Wikipedia, can is a "defective verb"... For example, can lacks an infinitive, future tense, participle, imperative, and gerund. The missing parts of speech are instead supplied by using the appropriate forms of to be plus able to. So, while I could write and I was able to write have the same meaning, I could has two meanings depending on use, which ...


20

Singular: There is a problem with the car. A problem seems to be afflicting the car. There seems to be a problem afflicting the car. It seems to be a minor problem. Plural: There are multiple problems with the car. Multiple problems seem to be affecting the car. There seem to be multiple problems affecting the car. They seem to be minor ...


19

See meaning 4 of may at dictionary.com (used to express wish or prayer): May you live to an old age. It follows the same grammatical pattern as let (and is almost a synonym). Let their children grow up happy! May their children grow up happy! The usage of may in this sense is not restricted to prayers, although one could say that it's formal, if ...


19

You raise a valid concern. On the one hand, we often talk of periphrastic tenses (and other constructions); on the other, some insist that a tense should be confined to a single word. Others, again, hold that tense is a property of a sentence or clause, not of a word or phrase. Can this problem be solved at all? The short answer is: there are different ...


18

I can’t help but think this is a difficult question means that I have no alternative to thinking that this is a difficult question. I can help but think this is a difficult question is not something a native speaker would say. The combination can but is used in sentences such as You can but try, encouraging the person addressed to attempt a task whose ...


17

Once upon a time I found a nice map of English tenses. See also this variation.


17

George and Ira Gershwin have a great example for you: He'll build a little home That's meant for two, From which I'll never roam, Who would, would you? And so all else above I'm dreaming of the man I love. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGe-i7mRMes&feature=share


16

They could have the same meaning depending on the context. The second sentence is in the simple past. He did it; it's done; you are left wondering why he did it. The first sentence, could mean he did it and now you're wondering why he would have done such a thing. However, the first sentence could also mean that you anticipate that he is going to do ...


16

It is always interesting to read what individual native speakers of different English dialects think of this or that word or construction. However, even an educated native speaker with some background in linguistics can share his or her opinion that does not necessarily coincide with observable general trends/rules. To answer a question like this, one needs ...


16

Note that could is the past form of can, and might is the past form of may. Past forms of these words are used in subjunctive and conditional constructions. I can go to the cinema is a statement that you are able to go without any external conditions being in the way. (But the statement stops short of making a commitment: namely that you will go to the ...


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