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What kind of time is Since 2000?

Questions from teachers about English grammar and usage

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Unread postby John76 » Sat Jun 09, 2007 7:02 pm

examples:

"I have worked since 2000 at GC."

"In the past three months I worked at GC."
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Unread postby TS » Sat Jun 09, 2007 9:19 pm

John76 wrote:examples:
"In the past three months I worked at GC."


I am afraid that here Simple Past worked is a wrong tense. Can anyone around here help?
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Unread postby John76 » Sat Jun 09, 2007 11:35 pm

have been working
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Unread postby TS » Sun Jun 10, 2007 2:12 am

John76 wrote:have been working


What do you mean? You believe what I said? Simple Past worked is a wrong tense for "In the past three months"?

Can you say something and give your explanation? Why have been working and not worked?

Didn't you say that "in the past three months" is past tense? What is your new idea now?
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Unread postby John76 » Sun Jun 10, 2007 2:34 am

TS,

it's an example of what i was talking about in the other topic thread. it doesn't matter. both are correct answers; Worked and Have Been Working, when having a conversation with someone. we use both answers.
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Unread postby John76 » Sun Jun 10, 2007 2:37 am

"In the past three months I worked at GC."

past tense

"In the past three months I have been working at GC."

past and present tense
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Unread postby TS » Sun Jun 10, 2007 6:28 am

John76 wrote:"In the past three months I worked at GC."
past tense

"In the past three months I have been working at GC."
past and present tense


In this case, according to you, we should not use Present Perfect "have worked". Am I correct?
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Unread postby Ben » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:20 pm

TS wrote:
John76 wrote:examples:
"In the past three months I worked at GC."


I am afraid that here Simple Past worked is a wrong tense. Can anyone around here help?


Hi, TS

I will do my best. I believe there is a subtle difference in these descriptions of time.


"In the past three months" to me describes a very specific (approximately) 90 day period ending at the present moment. We would be talking about a three month period and what happened "in" those three months. So it is past time, and I would most commonly use the past simple to talk about things I did in that time: "I worked at GC, I went to New York City, I met my girlfriend, and I moved here." You might also use the present perfect if you wanted to be deliberately vague about details--perhaps if you were being interviewed by the police. You would then be talking about past experiences as opposed to past events. The continuous tenses with this phrase seem either very informal or incorrect to me.

"Since 2000" to me describes a period of time with a defined starting point but no definite end point. I think this is the expression of perfect time which you are addressing. The phrase conveys a sense of ongoing-ness, in that while we are describing the past, the period also includes the present moment and does not necessarily exclude the future. I believe the present perfect continuous describes this time correctly. "I have worked here since 2000," versus "I have been working here since 2000." "The trains have run on time since 2000," versus "The trains have been running on time since 2000." The present perfect describes past experiences which you still "have" with you in the present, but there is a past-time quality to these experiences. The present perfect continuous combines the past-time experience with an ongoing element which gives the impression that we are talking about something which is happening around the present moment but began at a specific point in the past.


I am still a bit confused myself, you're right: they didn't teach me this in my TEFL training! However, I hope this helps your investigation.

Cheers,

Ben
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Unread postby TS » Wed Jun 13, 2007 11:19 pm

Ben wrote:"In the past three months" to me describes..... So it is past time, and I would most commonly use the past simple to talk about things I did in that time: "I worked at GC, I went to New York City, I met my girlfriend, and I moved here."

If it is true as you say, grammars will not hide the pattern of "in the past three months" at all, will they? They will list their numerous examples, in Simple Past, to illustrate and support the 'golden rule' that Simple Past can, and Present Perfect cannot, stay with past time adverbials. However, what does the fact tell you? They hide the Past Family (the pattern of "in the past three months"), every one of them, because they cannot explain them, obviously.

Before internet epoch, I have no way whatsoever in proving the suitable tense for "in the past three months". Now if you google for it, you may see Present Perfect is the suitable tense for this pattern. If a few exceptional examples are in Simple Past, they come from such learners as you and John76.

Why the pattern "in the past three months"?
Ultimately, there will be something starting in a past time like 2000 or Yesterday, and it is not yet finished by now. English prefers to use pattern like "Since 2000" or "in the past day" to describe such unfinished actions. In these cases, the time is past, but the action isn't finished. The fact that time is different from action is pointed out in the following page:
http://www.englishtense.com/newapproach/3_1.htm#3_1_10
However, as the old grammars depend on one sentence and one tense, it is a long tradition for them to confuse tense with action as one and the same. The sentence-tense confusion is the first lesson you must learn in English tense, see more in "2.1 The beginning of confusion":
http://www.englishtense.com/newapproach/2_1.htm
People with such restriction and confusion will not see the idea that the time is past, but the action isn't finished, so they hide the Past Family.

If this year is 2007, then "in the past seven years" is another way to say "since 2007". This explains the two patterns prefer the same tense. I hope you see the hint here to define "in the past three months", and why it demands Present Perfect.

--------------------------
Ben wrote: The present perfect describes past experiences which you still "have" with you in the present

As I mention at the front page of my humble website (englishtense.com), Present Perfect cannot be explained on one-sentence basis. However, in order to say something to Present Perfect, old grammars have to first shift Simple Present to meaning like habitual action, and then steal its time definition to describe Present Perfect in something like yours in the quote. If so, what you say to Present Perfect can be word for word said again to Simple Present, and it is still 100 percent correct. For example, if there is a Simple Present habitual action "I sometimes go to swim in the beach", isn't it as you say 'past experiences which you still "have" with you in the present'?

------------------
Ben wrote: I am still a bit confused myself, you're right: they didn't teach me this in my TEFL training!

It is because they can't teach. As I have proven in this thread, grammars first hide the pattern of "in the past three month" (the Past Family), and then also hide the patter of "since 2000". As I say, grammars cope with students more than they with tense. If they really want to teach, they don't need to hide, do they?

Actually, the old approach fails at any tenses. If you still don't believe me, try to define one tense you are most sure of, and I will point out the absurdity in it.

On the other hand, I am not just questioning the old approach. I have also pointed out a simplicity in using English tense:
Our new approach to the three tenses has arrived at a simplicity:
-- Simple Past expresses past time
-- Present Perfect expresses perfect time
-- Simple Present expresses present time
"One more word to it is a mistake" — this is my promise.

You are invited to challenge such a simplicity. But why were the explanations in the old approach so complicated? It is because they were trying to explain the meanings of the sentences. On one-sentence basis, they could not escape from the omnipresent sentence-tense confusion — everything is the sentence. Is it easy to define all the meanings of sentences by way of English tense?
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Unread postby Ben » Thu Jun 14, 2007 1:13 am

Hi again,

TS wrote:If it is true as you say, grammars will not hide the pattern of "in the past three months" at all, will they? They will list numerous their examples, in Simple Past, to illustrate and support the 'golden rule' that Simple Past can, and Present Perfect cannot, stay with past time adverbials. However, what does the fact tell you? They hide the Past Family (the pattern of "in the past three months"), every one of them, because they cannot explain them, obviously.

Before internet epoch, I have no way whatsoever in proving the suitable tense for "in the past three months". Now if you google for it, you may see Present Perfect is the suitable tense for this pattern. If a few exceptional examples are in Simple Past, they come from such learners as you and John76.


Firstly, words like, "obviously," "proving," and "learners," gives me the feeling that this is less a discussion among professionals and more an argument that you are determined to win. I enjoy good discussions. However, I also like to argue sometimes. I'm not sure exactly what it is you want me to agree with though.

I did search for "in the past three months" on Google and yes, present perfect is one suitable tense to use with it. However, there were also two examples of simple past passive--presumably written or edited by native speakers like myself. These were the results from the first page:

Google wrote:As fighting in Afghanistan has intensified over the past three months, the US military has conducted 340 airstrikes there, more than twice the 160 carried ...
Livermore has experienced two significant mercury spills in the past three months.
In the past three months, at least three columnists were fired because of their dissenting opinions and President Bush warned this country that many things ...
In the past three months I have had twelve interviews and only one resulted in an offer
Iraqi And American Forces Have Received More Tips In The Past Three Months Than During Any Three-Month Period On Record.
Books -- How many have you bought in the past three months? Videotapes -- How many have you bought in the past three months?
In the past three months, three journalists in Canada have resigned after critical columns were spiked.
different times in the PAST THREE MONTHS were you injured or. poisoned seriously enough to seek medical advice or treatment?
This Cloquet, Minnesota web design service featured listing has received 375 unique visitors in the past three months.


Other than the first result which describes an ongoing process of change, all of the actions described by the present perfect are completed past actions.

TS wrote:Why the pattern "in the past three months"?
Ultimately, there will be something starting in a past time like 2000 or Yesterday, and it is not yet finished by now. English prefers to use pattern like "Since 2000" or "in the past day" to describe such unfinished actions. In these cases, the time is past, but the action isn't finished. The fact that time is different from action is pointed out in the following page:
http://www.englishtense.com/newapproach/3_1.htm#3_1_10
However, as the old grammars depend on one sentence and one tense, it is a long tradition for them to confuse tense with action as one and the same. The sentence-tense confusion is the first lesson you must learn in English tense, see more in "2.1 The beginning of confusion":
http://www.englishtense.com/newapproach/2_1.htm
People with such confusion will not see the idea that the time is past, but the action isn't finished, so they hide the Past Family.

If this year is 2007, then "in the past seven years" is another way to say "since 2007". This explains the two patterns prefer the same tense. I hope you see the hint here to define "in the past three months", and why it demands Present Perfect.


You will be delighted to know that the new face2face series of books from Cambridge includes "for three years" and "since 2001" in their explanation of the present perfect tense! ("In the past seven years" is not equivalent to "since 2000." As I said previously, one describes a period of time with a definite start and finish, and the other only marks the beginning of the time period being described. "For the past seven years" also describes a specific period of time.) However, the authors do not provide "definitions" of tenses, they tell students what the tenses are used for.

face2face Intermediate Chapter 3A wrote:We use the present perfect simple to talk about experiences in our life up to now, but we don't say when they happened.
We use the present perfect simple for something that started in the past and continues at the present.


TS wrote:As I mention at the front page of my humble website (englishtense.com), Present Perfect cannot be explained on one-sentence basis. However, in order to say something to Present Perfect, old grammars have to first shift Simple Present to meaning like habitual action, and then steal its time definition to describe Present Perfect in something like yours in the quote. If so, what you say to Present Perfect can be word for word said again to Simple Present, and it is still 100 percent correct. For example, if there is a Simple Present habitual action "I sometimes go to swim in the beach", isn't it as you say 'past experiences which you still "have" with you in the present'?


Your website is far from humble. Anyway, you are right that tenses should no longer be explained on a one-sentence basis. The same tense can be used for different purposes and different tenses are sometimes used for similar (but not the same) purposes. Their usages should be compared with other tenses to illuminate the differences. By doing this you will see that "I sometimes go to swim at the beach" and "I have swum at the beach" describe different things ("I sometimes have swum at the beach" is incorrect). The first sentence does not describe past experiences, but past actions. These actions are repeated (however irregularly) and become habitual. The present simple also implies these actions are going to continue happening. The second sentence describes a past action at an unspecified time. Yeah, I went swimming there... maybe I liked it, maybe I didn't, not really sure if I'll do it again. Habits and past experience.

TS wrote:
Ben wrote: I am still a bit confused myself, you're right: they didn't teach me this in my TEFL training!

It is because they can't teach. As I have proven in this thread, grammars first hide the pattern of "in the past three month" (the Past Family), and then also hide the patter of "since 2000". As I say, grammars cope with students more than they with tense. If they really want to teach, they don't need to hide, do they?


This is where I lose my patience. Who are you? The High King of the English Language with sole power to decree the only suitable tenses and instruction methods? You have "proven" nothing in this thread, you have noticed that it is easy to find exceptions to "hard and fast" grammar rules. I believe that describing grammar as a set of rules is very naive. English has been evolving for over 1000 years and is spoken by millions of people from hundereds of backgrounds. Rules are made to be broken, this is not an epiphany.

TS wrote:Actually, the old approach fails at any tenses. If you still don't believe me, try to define one tense you are most sure of, and I will point out the absurdity in it.

On the other hand, I am not just questioning the old approach. I have also pointed out a simplicity in using English tense:
Our new approach to the three tenses has arrived at a simplicity:
-- Simple Past expresses past time
-- Present Perfect expresses perfect time
-- Simple Present expresses present time
"One more word to it is a mistake" — this is my promise.

You are invited to challenge such a simplicity. Why were the explanations in the old approach so complicated? It is because they were trying to explain the meanings of the sentences. On one-sentence basis, they could not escape from the omnipresent sentence-tense confusion — everything is the sentence. Is it easy to define all the meanings of sentences by way of English tense?


Try to define one tense you are most sure of, and I will point out the absurdity in it.
-- Simple Past expresses past time
-- Present Perfect expresses perfect time
-- Simple Present expresses present time

You are very upset that grammarians haven't included every conceivable use of tenses in their descriptions of them and then you give us this? Other than the simple past which is actually past time and rather simple, how does this cause anything but confusion? What is perfect time? Is it for past experiences you've had at an unspecified time? Is it for something which has happened only recently? Or is it for something which hasn't stopped happening yet? When is the present? Now? Or is it now? Or is it the moment right after I say now so that the moment you realize I just said "now" is actually the moment I'm talking about? When do we talk about that moment anyway? We talk about our expectations, habits, routines and scientific facts. We use the present to talk about the future: the train leaves tonight at 10. Continuous tenses don't seem to figure in your model. What about modal verbs? What about will and going to?

The old approach does not "fail at any tenses." People have been learning and teaching English successfully for many years now. Josef Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov both learned English spectacularly well in their lifetimes. The old approach managed to supply the framework for people to understand the English tense system on their own terms. One sentence does not always supply the context necessary to understand it, so try to think about things differently. Tense doesn't give a sentence meaning without context, although advanced speakers will be able to guess context by the tense used. What grammarians have been trying to teach is which tense to use to express the meaning you want to convey. Giving every possible use of every tense on the first day of class is incomprehensible to students. Giving them bits of grammar they can practice and internalize will give them the means to make comparisons and find exeptions themselves.

You complain that grammar is not being completely and accurately described in all of its rich complexity, that things are being hidden and stolen, that people are teaching lies, and then you make three generalizations and assume they explain everything. While this approach may actually be quite helpful to students from your L1, deviod of context and posted on a general TEFL forum it is meaningless.

If you still have something you want to discuss please post it again because it has been lost in the argument. Just please tone down the pointing out of absurdities, invitations to challenge and "it is because they can't teach," and we can have a nice discussion.

Cheers,

Ben
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