The category of Mood — страница 3

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The grammatical meaning of 'tense' is an abstraction from» only three particular tenses: the 'present', the 'past' and the I future*. b) Lexically a period of time is named directly (e. g. on Sunday). The grammatical indication of time is indirect: it is not time that a verb like asked names, but an action that took place before the moment of speech. c) As usual, the grammatical meaning of 'tense' is relative. Writes denotes a 'present' action because it is contrasted with wrote denoting a 'past' action and with will write naming a 'future' action. Writing does not indicate the time of the action because it has not tense opposites. Can has only a 'past tense' opposite, so it cannot refer to the past, but it may refer to the present and future (can do it yesterday is impossible,

but can do it today, tomorrow is normal). N o t e. By analogy with can, must has acquired the oblique meaning of 'present-future' tense, but sometimes it refers to the past. It is usual to express the notions of time graphically by means of notions of space. Let us then imagine the limitless stretch of time – a very long railway along which we are moving in a train. Let us further suppose that the train is now at station C. This is, so to say, the present. Stations A, B and all other stations passed by the train are the past, and stations D, E and all other stations the train is going to reach are in the future. It would seem that the present is very insignificant, a mere point in comparison with the limitless past and future. But this point is of tremendous importance to the

people in the train, because they are always in the present. When the train reaches station D, it ceases to be the future and becomes the present, while station C joins the past. In reality, and accordingly in speech, the relation between the present, the past and the future is much more complicated. The present is reflected in speech not only as a mere point, the moment of speaking or thinking, but as a more or less long period of time including this moment. Compare, for instance, the meanings of the word now in the following sentences: 1. A minute ago he was crying, and n o w he is laughing. 2. A century ago people did not even dream of the radio, and now we cannot imagine our life without it. The period of time covered by the second now is much longer, without, definite

limits, but it includes the moment of speaking. In the sentence The Earth rotates round the Sun we also deal with the present. But the present in this case not only includes the present moment, but it covers an immense period of time stretching: in both directions from the present moment. Thus the 'present' is a variable period of time including the present moment or the moment of speech. The 'past' is the time preceding the present moment, and the 'future' is the time following the present moment. Neither of them includes the present moment. The correlation of time and tense is connected with the problem of the absolute and relative use of tense grammemes. We say that some tense is absolute if it shows the time of the action in relation to the present moment (the moment of

speech). This is the case in the Russian sentences: Он работает на заводе. Он работал на заводе. Он будет работать на заводе. The same in English: He works at a factory. He worked at a factory. He will work at a factory. But very often tense reflects the time of an action not with regard to the moment of speech but to some other moment in the past or in the future, indicated by the tense of another verb. E.g. он работает на заводе Он сказал, что он работал на заводе он будет работать на заводе он работает на заводе Он скажет, что он работал на заводе он будет работать на заводе Here the

tenses of the principal clauses сказал and скажет are used absolutely, while all the tenses of the subordinate clauses are used relatively. The present tense does not refer to the present time but to the time of the action сказал in the first case and скажет in the second. The future tense он будет работать does not indicate the time following the present moment, but the time following the moment of the action сказал in the first case and скажет in the second. The same holds true with regard to the past tense. In English such relative use of tenses is also possible with regard to some future moment. he works at a factory He will say that he worked at a factory. he will work at a factory. But as a rule, this is impossible with