Grammar and ESL Instructing: Previous and Current Tense


The educating of grammar as element of ESL programs is important though it is a debated issue, it has been shown that “organic learners” of second languages do not develop into proficient in the language if they do not have an understanding of the fundamental structure as delivered by grammar reports. Hinkel and Fotos (2002) notice that men and women in excess of a “vital time period” of age 15 are at danger for this difficulty, as are individuals who purchase enough of the 2nd language to be able to connect even with grammar deficiencies, and quite a few people who master English as their next language do not obtain the damaging feedback that would allow them know they are performing something mistaken that they would receive in a structured circumstance (18).

The reason of this paper is to deliver a critique of the literature to reveal the importance of extensive consideration to verbal tense.

Literature Assessment

Plotnik discusses the result of tense: just about every narrative has a base tense, one particular that moves the motion of the interaction forward. The use of the tense establishes the temper for the dialogue or the story currently being informed – past tense is ordinarily the storyteller’s medium, in which events have taken area and persons have acted out their destinies. There is a finite foundation to expired time. Current tense, on the other hand, encourages a emotion or temper of immediacy and the likely for adjust or adaptability (Plotnik, 2003).

According to Mc Carthy and Carter (2002), interaction includes relational elements and the need to categorical oneself politely and indirectly (as opposed to bluntly), usually manifests by itself in tense forms that are component of the expertise of appropriate grammatical building. These consist of verbs in a progressive context this sort of as want, like, have to and so forth. The array of tense can help people today to develop conversation with relational, interpersonal that means. The talking strategy of tense produces a romance amongst the speaker, the function and the listener that can either include or detach the contributors from the celebration and every other. Knowing and properly using the past and present tense has the potential of noticeably escalating not only successful interaction of verbal and written messages, but also of properly and proactively establishing relational aspects of functions and conditions that it is an essential component of proactive grammar instruction.

Limits in the advancement of the English earlier tense affix -ed have been nicely-documented in ESL college students across a selection of language responsibilities, which includes spontaneous conversations, elicited productions, sentence completion, sentence recall, generation of nonsense kinds, composing samples, and grammaticality judgments. Specifically, “the morphophonological element of English tense marking represents the styles youngsters require to extract from the enter in buy to deliver the numerous varieties linked with earlier tense. Precisely, small children have to master to “add -ed ” to common verb stems and acknowledge the a variety of alternative phonological processes associated in indicating the earlier tense of irregular verbs.”

There is a semantic distinction concerning tenses under three headings, locale in time, factuality and backshifting. The primary use of the previous tense signifies a condition in which “actions, situations, processes, relations, states of affairs or no matter what a clause expresses” are dynamic (in which scenario they ‘take place’) or static in which scenario they ‘obtain’…The earlier tense may be far more directly indicated by an expression which includes time these kinds of as “yesterday”, a definite time in which the subject of the sentence transpired. Use of the past tense remarks on anything that has occurred, but does not important reveal that the problem carries on into the present.

Huddleston (1984) noted that past time is an inherently relational concept the earlier tense inflection indicates that the time the scenario or even took place is previous in marriage to a different time, normally at the time the sentence is reported or prepared. The time of the circumstance in the current tense will commonly be present or potential, and might also be expressed in temporal phrases (these kinds of as now, following 7 days) or by a subordinate when clause these kinds of as ‘when she gets below, I am going to talk to her’, indicating upcoming. One particular significant use of the subordinate clause is limited to cases when the long term predicament in which the predicted party will consider put is certain – Huddleston uses the illustration “He is sick future week” as a nonsensical misuse of the current tense as opposed to the motion verb in “We depart for Paris future week” (145). This illustration reveals how incorrect usage of earlier and existing tense can not only impair communication and being familiar with, but have the possible to have an affect on the “face” of the speaker/author in social and work configurations as well.
Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartik (1995) identified 5 significant lessons of alternations applied in the generating of English earlier participles.

The 1st class contains all common verbs (e.g., cleaned, kicked, smashed) and a substantial set of irregular verbs, and is composed of people verbs whose earlier tense and previous participle sorts are identical (e.g., brought, crafted, caught, experienced, still left, kept, said, taught, thought, informed). The next course contains large frequency irregular verbs these kinds of as hit, slash, and put that stay unchanged throughout their current, earlier, or previous participle kinds. For a 3rd class of irregular verbs, the earlier participle is produced through the affixation of -en to their past tense form. This class incorporates verbs like overwhelmed, damaged, spoken, stolen. For the fourth course of irregular verbs, the – en morpheme is affixed to the current tense form (e.g., blown, eaten, taken, thrown). A last class of irregular verbs utilizes participle types that are distinctive from both their present and previous tense sorts (e.g., been, drunk, long gone, published, ridden).

Redmond (2003) notes that manufacturing of the English earlier participle calls for command of 4 sophisticated grammatical contexts: the passive, the current excellent, the earlier fantastic, and the previous modal. From syntactic and semantic views, each individual of use is regarded as advanced relative to simple lively sentences mainly because they call for speakers to coordinate several relations involving tense, voice, part, and mood in the verb phrase.

Ionin and Wexler’s 2002 study among 20 youngster ESL learners uncovered that they nearly by no means generate incorrect tense/agreement morpohology. Also, the scientists observed, “the L2 learners use suppletive inflection at a considerably larger level than affixal inflection, and overgenerate be auxiliary types in utterances lacking progressive participles (e.g., they are assist people today).
A grammaticality judgment task of English tense/agreement morphology in the same way exhibits that the baby ESL learners are considerably a lot more sensitive to the ‘be paradigm’ than to inflection on thematic verbs. These conclusions propose that tense is existing in the learners’ grammar, and that it is instantiated through kinds of the be auxiliary. It is argued that omission of inflection is owing to complications with the realization of area morphology … it is moreover prompt that 2nd language learners in the beginning associate morphological arrangement with verb-boosting and, consequently, obtain forms of be prior to inflectional morphology on in situ thematic verbs (95).


The appropriate use of tense is an significant ability for grownup ESL men and women to have and the lesson ideas made to address this right will assistance them converse correctly with co-workers and men and women in the group as to what they want and have to have, what they have had and have done and also to create their identification primarily based on their earlier historical past and future needs.

It is significant for ESL learners to find out grammar so that they are in a position to convey personalized views in the correct syntax. Productive use of syntax is crucial to exhibit diverse attitudes and categorical electricity and identification. Some incorrect varieties of grammar might even be interpreted by the listener/reader as remaining rude or impolite. The extra specifically an personal can express their ideas and meanings, the extra successful their conversation will be, and the much more potential for success they will have in their interpersonal and enterprise communications during their life.


Hinkel E. and Fotos, S. (Eds.) (2002). New views on grammar educating in 2nd language school rooms. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erbaum Associates.

Huddleston, R. (1984). Introduction to the grammar of English. New York: Cambridge College Press.

Ionin, T. and Wexler, K. (2002). Why is ‘is’ less complicated than ‘-s’?: acquisition of tense/arrangement morphology by child 2nd language learners of English. Second Language Exploration, 18(2): 95-136.

McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. (2002). 10 conditions for a spoken grammar. In: Hinkel E. and Fotos, S. (Eds.) New perspectives on grammar instructing in next language school rooms. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erbaum Associates.

Plotnik, A. (2003). Tense counts! Author, 116(10): 17-18.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., and Svartvik, J. (1995). A in depth grammar of the English language. New York: Longman.

Redmond, S.M. (2003). Kid’s productions of the affix -ed in previous tense and past participle contexts. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Sources, 46(5): 1095-109.

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