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THE PRESENT TENSE


In the practice of perhaps all languages the idea of "now" means a time with appreciable duration the length of which varies greatly with the context. It is important only that the theoretical zero-point should fall within

137the period alluded to.
The verb-form itself does not imply the length of duration before or after the present moment covering a very wide range of meaning as well as expression of intermittent occurrences. The implied context, linguistic or situational, is all that can be considered relevant.
The multiple polysemantic essence of the present tense merits close attention as most directly relevant to the problem of synonymy in grammar.
In these terms, the present tense may be characterised by distinguishing the inclusive and exclusive present. The first will include:
1) the actual present denoting an action occurring at the moment of speaking or writing. I see an aeroplane. The teacher wants to speak to you. I love you.
Here belong also author's words, stage remarks, comments in newspapers, etc., e. g.: Goes behind the screen. Opens the door. Bell rings.
2) the neutral present used when no particular time is thought of; depending on the context it may indicate:
a) something that is always true, e. g.: The sun rises in the east (generalising present);
b) actions permanently characterising the subject, e. g.: Fleur does what she likes (qualitative present);
c) ability to do something, e. g.: She speaks three languages. (She can speak three languages).
The neutral present is also used in giving a definition or stating a rule. This may be called present of definition, e. g.: Water freezes below zero.
As a matter of fact, in such cases an action or state denoted by the present tense can be referred to any sphere of time: present, past or future. Herein lies probably the reason of the fact that the frequency value of this verbal form is considerably higher in scientific English than in ordinary use.
3) the iterative present refers to an action repeated at intervals, the repetition being usually indicated by an adjunct like every day, twice weekly, always, etc., e. g.: I get up at eight every day. This paper appears twice weekly. We always go to the seaside in summer.
In terms of modern linguistics, the present tense is often characterised negatively, i. e. as the form used when there is no positive reason for the use of the past, future, or the subjunctive or any other complex conjugation form. As the unmarked item in the conjugation of the English verb, it is then called the neutral or non-past of the verb 1. And this angle of view is not devoid of some logical foundations.
The syntagmatic meanings of the "exclusive" present may be illustrated by its use: a) with future time reference, b) with the implication of a past action, c) with imperative modal force.
This may be shown diagrammatically:
See: B. S t r a n g. Modern English Structure. London, 1964, p. 127.

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Источник: N. M. RAYEVSKA. MODERN ENGLISH GRAMMAR. 1976 {original}

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