Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 9 September 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Mastering Tenses Creatively

Olive Thambi, Ph.D.
Shanthi Nehemiah (X.Sahayarani Shanrhi), M.A., M.Phil.

Rules of English Grammar

Foreign and second language learners of the English language usually find it difficult to master and use the rules of English grammar for various reasons. The teacher's inability to show the learners the practical side of the application of the grammatical rules could be one of the reasons. Another reason is that learners are often encouraged to memorize rules, and are not given adequate practice using the same in appropriate contexts. However, there are certain features of the language that make application a bit more difficult. Tense in English is one such category.

Use of Tenses

Tense has something to do with the time of the sentence. There are three tenses: past, present, and future. To begin with, a sentence like "Mary ------------ her dog" with the form of the verb "walk" can be given to the students. They could be asked to use all the tense forms and after the exercise is over the sentences of the students can be taken up for discussion. The following sentences could be given for further clarification and explanation.

My bus to Coimbatore leaves at 10 pm.
Mallika walks her dog each evening.
Your mother tells me your plan to go to law school.
Shanthi will be sorry that she missed seeing you this evening.
If Jamaluddin studied, he could pass the upcoming test.

In the above sentences, the verb forms do not indicate their specific intended time. For example, the verbs "leaves" "walks" and "tells" are in the present form but they do not indicate a present ongoing action. The verbs, "studied", and "missed" are in the past tense but they do not indicate the past tense. So, tense does not always equate with time.

Present Tense

At the outset, students need not be told that they are going to learn tenses. If we warn them in advance, which is a good practice in most cases but not in the present context, they would begin to relate to the tense forms and formations in their first language.

Self-introduction for Present Tense Practice

To begin with, self-introduction on the first day can give more food for thought than anything else. Mostly, the present form of the tense is used while introducing oneself. There may be deviations in between, depending on the context. Given below are samples of a self-introductory session.

"I am Sabapathy. I hail from Chennai. I have great ambitions for my future. Just looking forward to a great future."

"I am Sunita. I come from Cochin. I am hoping to make friends."

"I am George. I am fond of music."

This session which does not in the least resemble a grammar class, helps the student break free of fears and inhibitions and it also gives them an outlet for their thoughts. The teacher can make a note of these sentences and take them up for discussion.

Interesting anecdotes can be used to teach tenses. They can be personal or imaginary. A news item can be brought to class. Current events in India can be used to teach the present tense.

An example is given below.

A News Item

Read the following news item from The Hindu:

Kamat reviews security after Bangalore bomb blast.

Panaji (PTI): Goa Chief Minister Digamber Kamat on Saturday reviewed the security situation here in the wake of serial bomb blast in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. In his review on the recent bomb blast in Bangalore, the Goa Chief Minister Mr. Digamber Kamat said, "The way terrorism is creating problem in our neighbourhood, they can create problem anywhere. Each state should take the precaution."

"We are ready to face any terror attack, there is no Goa specific threat but still we have intensified the checking across the state," continued Kamat . "We have decided to deploy policemen in civil dress at crowded places and also activate the criminal investigation division (CID)," he said. The state police have been working on speculation that Goa may be a terror target since the incident took place.

Derive Other Sentences!

The italicized sentences can be categorized into the following tenses: Present Continuous Tense, Present Tense, Present Perfect Tense, and Present Perfect Continuous Tense respectively. As the news item focuses on the present day scenario of a state in India, the students' interest in the subject is ignited. The student not only learns tenses but also keeps himself or herself updated about the latest happenings.

Keeping in mind the same tense, further illustrations can be given. As far as college students are concerned, their interests centre around people of their generation. So, it is better to give examples of young iconic celebrities who have captured their imagination. For instance, the current happenings revolving around Sania Mirza can be cited to teach present tense. An example is given below.


Language of Mass Media: A Study Based on Malayalam Broadcasts - A Doctoral Dissertation | Resisting Change through Individual Heroism - Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart | Social Semiotics as a Tool for Visual Literacy | Mastering Tenses Creatively | History of Growth and Reforms of British Military Administration in India, 1848-1949 | Communication and Inarticulation -
Symbols and Images in the Plays of Eugene O'Neill
| The Impact of Gender on Proficiency, Attitude and Social Class of Pre-University Students in Mysore within the Framework of Learners' Multilingualism | HOME PAGE of September 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Olive Thambi, Ph.D. and

Shanthi Nehemiah, M.A., M.Phil. (alias X. Sahayarani Shanrhi)

Department of English
Karunya University
Tamilnadu, India

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