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Verb tenses: "future" for present, "past" for present, "present" for past, "present" for future, etc

6 years ago
Hi everyone!

Even if you've only been studying English for a year or two, you've probably wondered to yourself: "Ok, so if today we're studying the 'present continuous for future plans', then why-oh-why do we call it the 'present continuous' at all, given that there's so often nothing very 'present' and precious little 'continuous' about it?!"

Don't let the names of verb tenses confuse you - sure, they're very often just random, clumsy labels which don't in fact suit the thing they're labelling (much like world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea; or Michael Jackson's song about horror movies, which he oddly called "Thriller"; or the DPRK; or the first-ever queen of the UK to use the name Elizabeth, "Queen Elizabeth II"; and so on).

Don't get hung up on wonky, inaccurate, unhelpful names for verb tenses. Just accept them as, simply, "the label we use to refer to that verb form".

TWO questions for you: What is the name of the underlined verb tense in each of the following sentences? What is the (actual, real-world) time-frame in which the action occurs? (...And for bonus points, here's question 3: which past, present and future time-frames are referencing "imaginary"/ "hypothetical"/ "unlikely" actions/events?) (The first three are already done, as examples):
1. It rains very often in London. (PRESENT SIMPLE; PRESENT)
2. If it rains tomorrow, we’ll take our umbrellas. (PRESENT SIMPLE; FUTURE)
3. The Plymouth train leaves at 9 am tomorrow. (PRESENT SIMPLE; FUTURE)
4. The Plymouth train leaves at 9 am every morning.
5. The course starts on Monday morning, so please arrive punctually.
6. The course always starts on Monday mornings unless there’s a bank holiday.
7. Mary often tells me the latest gossip.
8. Mary tells me you’ve got a new job – congratulations!
9. Sue and Steve are having their breakfast at the moment.
10. Sue and Steve are having a housewarming party next Saturday.
11. Jill’s parents are coming for lunch next Sunday.
12. Jill’s parents are coming for lunch – they’ll be here any moment now.
13. Mary and Tom were happily married for many years.
14. If Tom were a woman, he’d wear a dress.
15. It had rained all day and all night before the river burst its bank.
16. If it had rained yesterday, we would have used our umbrellas.
17. They bought a new car last weekend and they're very happy with it.
18. It’s high time they bought a new car: the one they’ve got breaks down all the time.
19. When we were kids, we would go on camping holidays. That was all a long time ago.
20. I would go to the party if I could decide what dress to wear, but nothing seems right for the occasion.
21. By this time tomorrow, we'll have been waiting for over a week for the plumber to arrive.
22. Here comes poor Eddie and he's dripping wet: he'll have been waiting for the bus in the torrential rain.
23. Tim is a creature of habit. Every morning, he'll get up at 6 on the dot, he'll shower and then he'll have his breakfast and he'll always take the bus to work. It's been his routine for years.

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