Is the criteria for the present perfect tense in Warriner's textbook inadequate?

  • #1
sevensages
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10
I have looked up the definitions of the past tense and present perfect tense in John Warriner's magisterial textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Composition. To me, it seems as though Warriner's definition of the present perfect tense is inadequate.

Warriner's definition of the past tense is the following: The past tense is used to express action (or to help make a statement about something) that occurred in the past but did not continue into the present. The past tense is formed regularly by adding -d or -ed to the verb.

Warriner gives the following two different criteria for when the present perfect tense should be used:

1# The present perfect tense is used to express action (or to help make a statement about something) occurring at no definite time in the past. It is formed with have or has.

Example: Ted has waited for us often.

2# The present perfect tense is also used to express action (or to help make a statement about something) occurring in the past and continuing into the present.

Examples: We have waited for an hour. [We are still waiting.]


We have been waiting for an hour. [We are still waiting.]

These two criteria are the only criteria that Warriner gives for when one should use the present perfect tense. To me, it seems like the problem with these two definitions of the present perfect tense is that I can think of examples of sentences that I think that should be written in the present perfect tense that don't meet either of Warriner's two criteria for the present perfect tense.

The following is an example of a sentence that I believe (contrary to Warriner's criteria) should be written in the present perfect tense: I should have written the research paper yesterday.

My example sentence does not meet Warriner's first criteria to use the present perfect tense because the action occurred at a definite time in the past (yesterday).

My example sentence does not meet Warriner's second criteria for when to use the present perfect tense because the action does not continue into the present.

My example sentence actually meets Warriner's definition of the past tense. But i don't think "I should have wrote the research paper yesterday" is proper grammar.

Is "I should have written the research paper yesterday" proper grammar? Or would proper grammar for my example sentence be "I should have wrote the research paper yesterday" ?

If "I should have written the research paper yesterday" is proper grammar, does that mean that Warriner's criteria in the textbook for when to use the present perfect tense is inadequate?
 
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  • #2
"I should have written the research paper before now."
 
  • #3
The reason it doesn’t match is that it’s not the present perfect tense. “Should “ is a modal verb expressing expectation or obligation. Its past tense is formed as “should have” + past participle, hence “should have written.”
 
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  • #4
Simple response to the question posed in the thread title: yes, the criteria for [using] nearly every tense in English is inadequate. To quote a previous Latin teacher and paraphrase a semantics instructor English has two regular tenses: present tense and past tense. Other tenses are formed by adding additional and conditional terms to the sentence.

Lacking regular rules textbooks rely on examples and explanatory materials to teach English.

This irregular unstructured nature of English makes teaching difficult and learning exhaustive, but reveals a major strength: English easily absorbs terms from other languages and accretes new constructions as needed.
 
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  • #5
marcusl said:
The reason it doesn’t match is that it’s not the present perfect tense. “Should “ is a modal verb expressing expectation or obligation. Its past tense is formed as “should have” + past participle, hence “should have written.”

Where did you learn this? I have a copy of the textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Composition with me. The Warriner textbook is a huge textbook with over a thousand pages, and it does not have anything about modal verbs in it. I know because I could not find model verbs anywhere in the index. I looked up both modal, and then i looked up all the subcategories of Verbs in the index.

So "I should have written the research paper yesterday" is (correctly) in the past tense?
 
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  • #6
If what marcusl wrote in post #3 is correct (And it does seem to be correct.), I suppose Warriner's textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Conposition is not so magisterial after all.
 
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  • #7
Baluncore said:
"I should have written the research paper before now."

That is the present perfect tense. But that is not my example sentence.
 
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  • #8
sevensages said:
If what marcusl wrote in post #3 is correct (And it does seem to be correct.), I suppose Warriner's textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Conposition is not so magisterial after all.
It's probably under a different heading, perhaps conditional tenses ( or something abstract as that )
They describe the result of something that might happen (in the present or future) or might have happened but didn't (in the past) . They are made using different English verb tenses.

Anyways the modal description.
https://lingbase.com/en/english/grammar/past-modals

And conditional description:
https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/conditionals.html
 
  • #9
256bits said:
It's probably under a different heading, perhaps conditional tenses ( or something abstract as that )
No. It is not. I just checked.








256bits said:
They describe the result of something that might happen (in the present or future) or might have happened but didn't (in the past) . They are made using different English verb tenses.

Anyways the modal description.
https://lingbase.com/en/english/grammar/past-modals

And conditional description:
https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/conditionals.html
 
  • #10
While
"she has written..."​
is the present perfect tense, which differs from the past tense as described in post #1,
"she should have written..."​
is not. It is composed from
  • the past tense "should" of the modal auxiliary verb "shall" combined with
  • the past infinitive "(to) have written".
There is no "to wrote" so you cannot say "she should wrote...", and so there is only one version of the past tense, "have written" available to cover both types of past occurrence.

This applies to all modal auxiliary verbs such as can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would, and must.
 
  • #11
sevensages said:
That is the present perfect tense. But that is not my example sentence.
"Yesterday" is a relative term in the past. Its use in a text will make the statement invalid tomorrow, when the indirect "yesterday" reference ceases to exist and becomes "the day before yesterday".
"Yesterday" poisons your text example.
 
  • #12
sevensages said:
The Warriner textbook is a huge textbook with over a thousand pages, and it does not have anything about modal verbs in it.
Looking at the book right now. There is a very brief mention of this type of verbs in the very first chapter, on the parts of speech, where it talks about the verb phrase and 'the helping verbs'. Easy to miss and not particularly enlightening.
The text seems to be aimed at older children to young adults, native speakers, with the focus on improving their writing skills. As opposed to being a complete guide on grammar one might find e.g. in a book for foreign learners of English. There's a lot on composition and proper structure, sentence analysis, rooting out non-standard habits and common mistakes. The section on grammar looks short and very much not exhaustive (conditionals? reported speech?). But again, I don't think that's the aim.
 
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  • #13
sevensages said:
Where did you learn this? I have a copy of the textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Composition with me. The Warriner textbook is a huge textbook with over a thousand pages, and it does not have anything about modal verbs in it. I know because I could not find model verbs anywhere in the index. I looked up both modal, and then i looked up all the subcategories of Verbs in the index.
I should have specified, since PF emphasizes providing references. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, 2002, contains an entire chapter (Ch. 9, "Mood and Modality") on modals.

sevensages said:
If what marcusl wrote in post #3 is correct (And it does seem to be correct.), I suppose Warriner's textbook Warriner's English Grammar and Conposition is not so magisterial after all.
The Cambridge Grammar is over 1800 pages so, in a strictly literal sense, I suppose it outweighs Warriner's 1000 pages. :wink:

EDIT: To be fair, the discussion of grammar is nearly incomprehensible to a non-expert if you get far into it. Here is just one of many pages discussing should, for example
Screenshot 2024-05-05 at 10.19.32 PM.png
 
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  • #14
Warriner is not Fowler.
 
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  • #15
Bandersnatch said:
Looking at the book right now. There is a very brief mention of this type of verbs in the very first chapter, on the parts of speech, where it talks about the verb phrase and 'the helping verbs'. Easy to miss and not particularly enlightening.
The text seems to be aimed at older children to young adults, native speakers, with the focus on improving their writing skills. As opposed to being a complete guide on grammar one might find e.g. in a book for foreign learners of English. There's a lot on composition and proper structure, sentence analysis, rooting out non-standard habits and common mistakes. The section on grammar looks short and very much not exhaustive (conditionals? reported speech?). But again, I don't think that's the aim.

I meant that the Warriner book never actually uses the word modal verbs.
 
  • #16
DrGreg said:
While
"she has written..."​
is the present perfect tense, which differs from the past tense as described in post #1,
"she should have written..."​
is not. It is composed from
  • the past tense "should" of the modal auxiliary verb "shall" combined with
  • the past infinitive "(to) have written".
There is no "to wrote" so you cannot say "she should wrote...", and so there is only one version of the past tense, "have written" available to cover both types of past occurrence.

This applies to all modal auxiliary verbs such as can/could, may/might, shall/should, will/would, and must.

Your post contradicts what marcusl wrote in post #3
 
  • #17
sevensages said:
Your post contradicts what marcusl wrote in post #3
past infinitive = "(to) have" + past participle
 
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  • #18
DrGreg said:
past infinitive = "(to) have" + past participle
Perhaps I stand corrected
 
  • #19
I decided in junior high school that the temporal shorthand in English didn't really make sense. Even if they did the rules wouldn't be followed in actual usage. I should just make a good effort and not worry about it.
 
  • #20
sevensages said:
Perhaps I stand corrected
Whatever you call it, "should have" is not a simple tense, but involves some sort of condition. And should is a "modal" verb. Along with would, could, must and ought.
 
  • #21
Vanadium 50 said:
Warriner is not Fowler.
Do you think Fowler's textbook is superior to Warriner's textbook?
 
  • #22
Fowler's is a style guide in the form of a dictionary. Is that what you're looking for?
 
  • #23
Bandersnatch said:
Fowler's is a style guide in the form of a dictionary. Is that what you're looking for?

Nope. I am looking for a plain old-fashioned English grammar textbook.
 
  • #24
marcusl said:
I should have specified, since PF emphasizes providing references. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, 2002, contains an entire chapter (Ch. 9, "Mood and Modality") on modals.


The Cambridge Grammar is over 1800 pages so, in a strictly literal sense, I suppose it outweighs Warriner's 1000 pages. :wink:

EDIT: To be fair, the discussion of grammar is nearly incomprehensible to a non-expert if you get far into it. Here is just one of many pages discussing should, for example
View attachment 344613

Just out of curiosity, is studying English grammar typically part of the curriculum for English majors at universities in America?

The reason I ask is that I have the impression that most or maybe all American universities don't have courses on English grammar for people whose primary language is English. I remember looking in the course catalog for English classes at the university I used to attend, and the course were all either Composition or Literature classes (such as English Literature of the 19 Century, etc.). If most American universities don't have courses on grammar, that is regrettable because I have seen so many intelligent people with Bachelors Degrees whose grammar is atrocious.
 
  • #25
sevensages said:
Just out of curiosity, is studying English grammar typically part of the curriculum for English majors at universities in America?

The reason I ask is that I have the impression that most or maybe all American universities don't have courses on English grammar for people whose primary language is English. I remember looking in the course catalog for English classes at the university I used to attend, and the course were all either Composition or Literature classes (such as English Literature of the 19 Century, etc.). If most American universities don't have courses on grammar, that is regrettable because I have seen so many intelligent people with Bachelors Degrees whose grammar is atrocious.
Though I have been out of the universities for a long time, I bet things haven't changed. Grammar is not a subject of study. It seems the idea is that one's grammar is corrected in the course of a composition class.

What I learned of grammar came largely from classes in foreign languages. This requirement may have faded away. It certainly has in the sciences.
 
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  • #26
Hornbein said:
Though I have been out of the universities for a long time, I bet things haven't changed. Grammar is not a subject of study. It seems the idea is that one's grammar is corrected in the course of a composition class.
Yeah, but that is a false idea. I see intelligent people with advanced degrees write comma splices and write "should of" instead of "should have" all the time. English Composition I and II is not sufficient.


 
  • #27
sevensages said:
Yeah, but that is a false idea. I see intelligent people with advanced degrees write comma splices and write "should of" instead of "should have" all the time. English Composition I and II is not sufficient.
"should of" instead of "should have"

I would do that. The assignment of those sort of conjunctions is largely random anyway.

I do however draw the line at using "loose" in place of "lose."
 
  • #28
Hornbein said:
"should of" instead of "should have"

I would do that. The assignment of those sort of conjunctions is largely random anyway.
Then you would be using improper grammar. The correct grammar is should have. The word "of" is not a verb.
 
  • #29
Too much YouTube video, listening to uneducated chatter, and reading autocomplete text messages.
Insufficient reading of quality books.

To be pacific, rather than specific.
To tow the line, makes it a foot fault.
For all intensive purposes, with intent and purpose.
January is now followed by Febuary, obviously.
Solder has become soder, and is now approaching soda.
 
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  • #30
sevensages said:
Then you would be using improper grammar. The correct grammar is should have. The word "of" is not a verb.
Hmm. I should have thought elides to I have thought while I should of gone elides to I of gone. So you are right.

One of the weirder features of English is the overloading of the words "have" and "get". I have got to have to have it is correct, as is I have got to get how to get food, get it?

Another peculiarity is that "must" has no past form. Instead it's "had to". I'm used to Indonesian which is very regular in every way, so I notice these things. It's been used as the language of trade in a very polyglot area for hundreds of years, so it evolved to be easy to learn.

There's another one: "used to" has two meanings. I used to get used to it. But now I get that I don't get it.
 
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  • #31
Baluncore said:
Too much YouTube video, listening to uneducated chatter, and reading autocomplete text messages.
Insufficient reading of quality books.

To be pacific, rather than specific.
To tow the line, makes it a foot fault.
For all intensive purposes, with intent and purpose.
January is now followed by Febuary, obviously.
Solder has become soder, and is now approaching soda.
To tow the line. While non-traditional, it makes sense. I see a group laboriously hauling the heavy hawser of groupthink untruth. In some ways that's better.

I don't approve of all trends. Having literally mean figuratively is going too far. Now if I want to express that I have to write nonfiguratively.
 
  • #32
Baluncore said:
Too much YouTube video, listening to uneducated chatter, and reading autocomplete text messages.
Insufficient reading of quality books.
Even the talking heads reading the news on TV are terrible. Time was, they were educated, well spoken individuals. Not anymore.
 
  • #33
Righteous grammarians buck many linguistic trends in common language. Folksiness such as deliberately mispronouncing words and introducing archaic constructions becomes a social bridge between educated and audience.

Common street language becomes accessible to a much wider audience particularly from influential movies and series. Proper grammar and precise English in entertainment succumbs to attempts at authenticity. Fans of UK comedy and drama quickly develop an ear for class and education distinctions in spoken English. This carries over to period pieces and fantasy where royalty sound posh while common folk sound as if they stumbled off an "Eastenders" soundstage.
 
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  • #34
In his autobiography Sammy Davis Jr. wrote that Frank Sinatra hinted that Sammy's proper English was turning off the audience. ("You talk real good kid." ) SDJ began to deliberately speak wrongly. It worked.

In the autobiography of a 60's UK minor rock star (can't recall his name) I noticed he saw EVERYTHING through the glass of class. He was kind of posh -- University boy -- so he found The Kinks scary.

I've noticed that political candidates are often semi-incoherent. I guess there are a lot of voters who talk that way and hence like it. W Bush was from Maine, he wasn't brought up to talk like that. It worked for him. Smart. No wonder he was misunderestimated.
 
  • #35
Bandersnatch said:
Looking at the book right now.

Do you own a copy of the Warriner textbook, or were you at a library when you wrote this or what?



Bandersnatch said:
There is a very brief mention of this type of verbs in the very first chapter, on the parts of speech, where it talks about the verb phrase and 'the helping verbs'. Easy to miss and not particularly enlightening.
The text seems to be aimed at older children to young adults, native speakers, with the focus on improving their writing skills. As opposed to being a complete guide on grammar one might find e.g. in a book for foreign learners of English. There's a lot on composition and proper structure, sentence analysis, rooting out non-standard habits and common mistakes. The section on grammar looks short and very much not exhaustive (conditionals? reported speech?). But again, I don't think that's the aim.

What do you mean by conditionals (in terms of grammar)?

What do you mean by reported speech (in terms of grammar)?
 

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