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There are only the past and the present. That’s because tense denotes time, and is morphologically based, which means construction—letters, prefixes, suffixes, etc. Take the verb to touch. In order to make it past, we would add the suffix -ed to the end of the word, forming touched.

Do you have a phone number or prefer we only contact you via email?

The rest of those twelve “tenses” they force you to memorize are really aspects: perfect, progressive, and future. To form the perfect aspect, for example, we would simply add another word—a has, have, or had — which modifies our verb to signal a certain action that has already been completed. See, we’re not changing the word itself, so it’s not a tense.

How late is too late? In terms of contacting you, I mean…

If we wanted the progressive, we would need a to be verb followed by a present participle.

What about our future? Er — the future, sorry (haha).

For the future, we simply add a will or shall in front of everything. Thus, the future is not a tense either but an aspect because again, we’re not changing the word itself, only its place in time.

So how do you know which one is which?

We always take tense from what verb form comes first in the order of the sentence, so have touched would be present tense with a perfect aspect. Will have touched is also the present (have) with a future perfect aspect (will, have). You’re very close.

Sorry, you smell nice. Like sandalwood. I think I get it.

Most people don’t get it because they’re not paying attention. But it’s still happening. Like, your heart, beating beneath this poly-cotton whatever athletic shirt you’re wearing. But if you want to really understand something, how your sentences are put together, for instance, so that we can make ourselves clear, then you must pay attention.

Oh, that heart beating thing stopped a while ago.

Then we have the rest of the sentence, but if you understand the verb, the action, the sentence will unlock. For example, my latte has gone cold. What has gone cold? My latte — there’s your subject. My latte is doing what? has gone—

I can get you a latte, if you ever come by my store. My boss doesn’t mind it when I give guys a free one, because she thinks I’m in love with them. I wore a rainbow pin on my apron one day, and so now every guy has become a subject for discussion. Not like you, though. You, Professor, would be the ultimate discussion.

Ok, but has gone — see, because we’re in the perfect aspect, the action has already been completed.

Even though the tense is present?

You got it.

That’s my fav shirt you wear, by the way. You look good in it, really.

Is there anything else you’re struggling with?

I won’t let you go.

–Lukas Tallent


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