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The Present Indefinite

§ 9. The Present Indefinite is formed from the plain stem of the verb. In the third person singular it has the suffix -s/-es which is pronounced [z| after vowels and voiced consonants (e.g. plays, opens), [s] after voiceless consonants (e.g. looks, puts), and [iz] after sibilants (e.g. closes, places, teaches, wishes, judges).

In writing the following spelling rules should be observed:

a) Verbs ending in -s, -ss, -sh, -ch, -tch, x and -z take the suffix -es (e.g. passes, pushes, watches). The suffix -es is also added to verbs ending in î preceded by a consonant (e.g. goes).

b) Verbs ending in -y with a preceding consonant change the -y into -ies (e.g. study — studies, try — tries, fly — flies). But if the Ó is preceded by a vowel, the suffix -s is added (e.g. play — plays, stay — stays).

The affirmative form of the Present Indefinite is a synthetic form (e.g. I work, he works, etc.). But the interrogative and negative forms are built up analytically, by means of the auxiliary verb do in the Present Indefinite and the infinitive of the notional verb without the particle to (e.g. Do you work? Does he work? I do not work. He does not work, etc.). In spoken English the contracted negative forms don’t and doesn’t should be used.

The Present Indefinite may have a special affirmative form which is used for emphasis. This emphatic form is built up analytically, by means of the Present Indefinite of the auxiliary verb to do followed by the infinitive of the notional verb without the particle to. The auxiliary verb is heavily stressed in this case (e.g. I ‘do insist on it. He ‘does insist on it).

§ 10. The Present Indefinite is used in the following cases: 1) When it serves to express recurrent (a) or permanent (b) actions in the present.

a) We find recurrent actions with terminative verbs. They are, as a matter of fact, point (instantaneous) actions repeated a number of times. This series of recurrent actions may include or exclude the actual moment of speaking.

This use of the Present Indefinite is often associated with such adverbial modifiers of frequency as often, seldom, sometimes, occasionally, always, never, ever, every year (week, month, day), usually, once {twice, three times) a year, daily, on Sundays (Mondays, etc.) and the like. But it may also be found without any indications of time.

e.g. He wakes up around six o’clock and has a cup of coffee.

He doesn’t usually ring up early in the morning.

«Do you often come to these parties?» inquired Jordan of the girl beside her.

The charwoman comes in daily.

b) We find permanent actions with durative verbs. They generally indicate continuous, uninterrupted processes which naturally include the present moment. Such actions give a general characteristic to the person or thing denoted by the subject. Time indications are not obligatory in this case.

e.g. Her son works near here and so, after her husband’s death,  she came down to live here and he boards with her.

That old man gave me a surprise. He’s seventy-five, and he doesn’t walk, he runs.

I teach English and History at a college, and I live with my parents.

I hate authority. It spoils the relations between parent and child.

Like all young men, he sleeps like a log.

As is seen from the above examples, the difference between the two main uses of the Present Indefinite rests on the difference in the lexical character of the verb. In many cases, however, owing to the context or situation, the difference appears blurred and it becomes difficult to define the lexical character of the verb. In other words, we are dealing with marginal cases in this instance — a permanent characteristic is given through recurrent actions.

e.g. I always talk too much when I’m nervous.

I sometimes play the piano for five hours a day.

 He usually walks to the corner with Phil.

Edith always gets away with things.

Note. The Present Indefinite is often said to express a general statement or a universal truth. In this case it also denotes either a recurrent action or a permanent process and thus it does not differ in principle from the two above described uses of the Present Indefinite.

e.g. Domestic animals return to their homes.

Romance only dies with life.

Still waters run deep. (a proverb)

A mother’s love means devotion, unselfishness, sacrifice.

2) When it is used to express a succession of point actions taking place at the time of speaking. In this meaning it is used in stage directions or by radio and TV commentators in describing sports events, public functions, etc. That means that this use of the Present Indefinite is stylistically restricted.

e.g. a) In stage directions:

REV. S. Good night. (They shake hands. As he passes Vivie he shakes hands with her also and bids her good-night.

Then, in booming command, to Frank)  Come along, Sir, At once.

b) In comments (here on a TV film about Chi-Chi, the giant panda, who returns home after her stay in the Moscow)

Zoo): «Chi-Chi is in the pen. She walks over to the travelling box.

Chi-Chi climbs on the rock. The crowd moves closer to Chi-Chi.»

c) In demonstrations:

Now I peel the apples, slice them and put into the dish. Then I whip the cream until thick and pour it over the apples.

3) The Present Indefinite is sometimes used to express a single action going on at the moment of speaking where normally the Present Continuous is used. This occurs in two different cases:

a) The use of the Present Indefinite becomes obligatory with stative verbs. (For the list see «Verbs», § 2.)

e.g. I quite understand what you mean.

She sipped her coffee and pulled a face. «It tastes horrible tonight.»

He wants to see you for a minute. «Do you object, Dad?» said the girl.

b) The Present Indefinite is also used for an instantaneous action which takes place at the moment of speaking but it is not viewed in its progress. The speaker just names the occurrence itself, the action as such.

e.g. «I repeat, the girl has been extremely impertinent,» he said.

You leave me no choice. I swear it to you!

I refuse to listen to you. You talk such nonsense.

«Where shall we have our meal?» «Anywhere you like.» «I choose the kitchen then.»

«You’ve always treated me badly and now you insult me,» Maurice shouted in his turn.

This use of the Present Indefinite is also often found in exclamatory and interrogative sentences.

e.g. My dear, how you throw about your money!

She said: «How swiftly the years fly!»

 «May I help you to wash the baby?» «It is very kind of you. Ah, how he kicks! Has he splashed you?»

Why do you talk like that to me?

4) The Present Indefinite may be used to express future actions. This occurs in four different cases:

 a) Its use is structurally dependent (see «Verbs», §8), i.e. compulsory, in subordinate clauses of time, condition and concession when the action refers to the future (in such cases we usually find the Future Indefinite, or modal verbs, or the Imperative Mood in the principal clause).

Clauses of time referring to the future may be introduced by the conjunctions when, while, till, until, before, after, as soon as and once.

e.g. Will you wait while I look through the manuscript? She won’t go to bed till you come. I shall have a look at his paper when I get it.

Clauses of condition are introduced by the conjunctions if, unless, on condition {that), provided (providing) and in case.

e.g. If you send me a line to my club, it’ll be forwarded at once. But I must have the doctor handy, in case she feels worse.

Note. In clauses other than those of time and condition, the Future Indefinite is used even if these clauses are introduced by the conjunctions if and when.

e.g. I wonder if the tape recorder will eventually replace the record player.

The important thing to know is when the book will come out.

Clauses of concession are introduced by the conjunctions even if, even though, no matter how, whenever, whatever, however, etc.

e.g. Even if he hates me I shall never do him any harm.

I’ll have dinner whenever it’s ready.

b) Its use is lexically dependent in object clauses after to see (to), to take care and to make (be) sure.

e.g. I’ll see that the lady is properly looked after.

Her husband will look after her, and make sure no harm comes to her.

He will take care that no one interferes with them.

c) The use of the Present Indefinite with reference to the immediate future is structurally dependent in some special questions.

e.g. What do we do next? (‘Что будем сейчас делать?’) Where do we go now? (‘Куда сейчас пойдем?’) What happens next? (‘Что сейчас будет?’)

You look ill. Why don’t you go home? («Ты плохо выглядишь. Почему бы тебе не пойти домой?’)

d) The Present Indefinite may be used to indicate a future action which is certain to take place according to a timetable, programme, schedule, command or arrangement worked out for a person or persons officially. In this case the sentence usually contains an indication of time.

e.g. «Is Mr Desert in?» «No, Sir. Mr Desert has just started for the East. His ship sails tomorrow.» (according to the timetable)

Our tourist group sleep at the Globo hotel this night and start for Berlin tomorrow morning, (according to the itinerary)

«Can you tell me what time the game starts today, please?» (according to the schedule)

When does Ted return from his honeymoon? {according to his official leave of absence)

You see, in six weeks his regiment goes back to the front, (according to the command)

Note. It should be noted that this use of the Present Indefinite is not interchangeable with the Present Continuous. (See «Verbs», § 11.)

5) The Present Indefinite is used in literary style to describe a succession of actions in the past, usually to make a vivid narrative of past events. This application of the Present Indefinite is often called in grammars the historic or dramatic present.

e.g. She arrives full of life and spirit. And about a quarter of an hour later she sits down in a chair, says she doesn’t feel well, gasps a bit and dies.

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