1. Welcome to Gramorak’s Blog.

Hello and wecome

If you are interested in the grammar of English, need to learn something about it, or have a question to ask or comment to make, this blog will be the place.

With EJ’s help I hope to create a place where teachers (and students) of EFL/ESOL/ELT who are interested in the grammar of English, need to learn or share something about it, or have a question to ask or comment to make, will feel at home.

We have only just started – if there is nothing here for you yet, make a suggestion and/or come back in about a month. If you find it useful – tell others; if you don’t, tell us.

Happy TEFLing


ps: Don’t forget to visit my new website at www.gramorak.com. It already has a few articles on the English Verb, with more in the pipeline.

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5 Responses to 1. Welcome to Gramorak’s Blog.

  1. Fritz says:

    Hello, Gramorak

    Are you in operation yet? If so, I have one question.
    My trainer on my CELTA course says, following is a first conditional, but I think it is zero. What do you think?

    If you don’t wash, you will smell.

    Thank you.


    • gramorak says:

      Hi, Fritz
      Welcome to the blog.

      The form of your sentence , with a present tense in the if-clause and what is often referred to as the future simple in the main clause, is the form of what is often called a first condition(al). This type of conditional sentence refers to a real future possibility, as in:

      If it rains tomorrow, we’ll cancel the match.

      So, if the person who uttered your sentence is pointing out that ‘you’ need to wash in order to avoid (future) body odour, then it is a first condition.

      However, if the person used the word ‘you’ to mean ‘people in general’ , then the meaning is similar to: ‘It is a characteristic of people who do not wash that they smell’. This type of utterance, often referred to as a zero or general condition(al), is usually formed with a present tense in both the if-clause and the main clause, as in:

      If you heat ice, it melts.

      In your sentence, with this second meaning, you will smell is not a future tense form. Will is simply a modal verb conveying what Geoffrey Leech (2004) calls ‘predictable or characteristic behaviour’.

      Your question reminds me of two points about grammar that concern me; both lead to some of the problems that learners encounter with conditional sentences:

      1. ‘Labelling’ of forms (as in first, second, third, zero, mixed condition(al) can be useful, but it can also be restrictive. EFL course books frequently present the five types just noted but, as Mario Rinvolucri once remarked, there there are actually more than fifty types of conditional sentences! It is no wonder that learners get confused.

      2. Many writers claim that will forms the future simple tense in English. It doesn’t. English has only two true tenses, the so-called present simple and past simple, as grammarians from Wallis (1653) to Leech (2004) have pointed out.
      There are five common ways we refer to the future in English; none of them is a ‘future tense’

      1. The Present Simple: Emma flies to Prague tomorrow.
      2. The Present Progressive (or Continuous): Emma is flying to Prague tomorrow.
      3. BE + Going to: Emma is going to fly to Prague tomorrow.
      4. WILL + infinitive: Emma will fly to Prague tomorrow.
      5. WILL + progressive infinitve: Emma will be flying to Prague tomorrow.

      If learners are told that will forms the English future tense, they will be unhappy when they encounter it with non-future reference.

      Wallis, John (1653) Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae, Oxford
      Leech, Geoffrey (2004) Meaning and the English Verb (3rd edn), Harlow: Pearson Longman

  2. Fritz says:

    Thank you for your reply. I am now cnfused about the tense thing. In my last oserved TP lesson I used the course book “Fast Track to FCE”. In there are listed eight future tenses, which are the five you give, and even three more. You say, there are two tenses, neither of them is future, and the course book says, there are eight future tenses. What should I tell to my students?

  3. gramorak says:

    I referred in my last response to the problem of labelling. Most linguists and teachers would probably agree that the eight constructions listed in your course book refer to the future. These eight constructions are:

    1. Future simple: will + bare infinitive
    2. going to
    3. Present Continuous
    4. Present simple
    5. Future continuous: will be + ing
    6. Future perfect: will + have + past participle
    7. due to
    8. be about to

    Some writers feel that 1, 5 and 6 are future tenses. I do not but, so long as we (as individual teachers) are consistent with our students, this may not be important. To call 3 and 4 future tenses is to confuse form with function. These two forms may well be used with future reference, but they are present tenses.

    Similarly, while be going to is very often used to refer to future time, we should not label as a future tense a form that is actually the present (progressive) of the verb GO.

    To call such phrases as be due to and be about to tenses is to stretch the meaning of that word far beyond what is normally accepted. They are no more tenses than be about to, be able to, be bound to, be certain to, be due to, be likely to/that, be meant to, be obliged to, be supposed to or be sure to.

    If you are interested in my ideas on the future, I am building a website, with the help of EJ, to upload a series of papers I have written, including: Ways of expressing futurity in English. Once it’s up and running, I’ll announce it in this blog, and also let you know direct.

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