Anyone who has studied English as a foreign language, and especially one who chose the profession of teaching English at school, Lyceum, gymnasium or College, knows that the biggest difficulty for speakers of the Russian language are «times» of the English verb. Indeed, if anyone speaks Russian as a native language knows that times three, what confusion should arouse English grammar, which States that in this language not three times, but twelve. However, recorded in grammars as a fact the existence of twelve days very rarely anyone raises the puzzling question: what else is there in the English language, in addition to the present, past and future? Try to answer it! Does not work? You can not waste time in vain. Because, in addition to these three, other times not and can not be. In any language in the world (and there are several thousand) number of verb tenses, expressed special grammatical forms, does not exceed the magic number «three.» Less than three can be. There are languages with only two forms of time (for example, «past»»last»), there are languages in General no verb tenses, but there are languages where these times would be more than three.

The name of any of the twelve English tenses begins with one of three words: Present, Past, Future. There are four species present, four past and four future which is known as the Simple, Progressive, Perfect and Perfect Progressive. In the Russian language a similar pattern, only forms less: one real (IMU), two past (was/came) and two future (I will go/come). Strictly speaking, if we accept the fact that in the English language 12 times, should speak at least five times in Russian (actually even more). But for some reason we don’t do that. Why? Yes, because we understand that and went and came — past tense. Just as English-speaking understands that I work, I am working, I have worked and I have been working — all forms of the present time.

The difficulties faced by English language learners in mastering grammatical forms of the verb (not only from a grammatical category of times, and passive voice), due to the fact that in the academic literature there is no clear theoretical understanding of the meanings and functions of verb forms which would allow a simple way to explain what is their purpose. In other words, you need to understand why language needs categories such as time, type, collateral, to clearly and simply explain the principles of operation of the respective forms. This understanding provides a cognitive approach to language as a system of knowledge representation.

In accordance with this approach, any grammatical category used to Express and preserve the language of certain knowledge. Compared with the lexicon of the grammar more abstract system, so it presents knowledge are universal in the sense that they are important for the normal functioning of society: no matter what language to communicate between members of society. This means that grammatical categories with different languages, different expression, meaningful a little than differ from each other. It is therefore possible translation from one language (for example Russian) to another (e.g., English).

For what need the category of time and species? With the help of the category of time person divides the entire world into three spheres of experience: 1) experience directly included in the scope of perceived by the senses and perceived reality, or the present (present from lat. praesens — mo that before the senses); 2) experience, persistent as the memory of that passed by our senses, or the past (past); 3) experience which is predicted on the basis of existing knowledge, or the future (future). It is very important to understand that unlike English, in Russian there is no unequivocal conformity between these concepts and the so-called forms of the verb. Consider as an example the following situation.

Dad some time ago went to business trip. Dylan in his room to teach lessons, mom in the kitchen preparing dinner. The doorbell rings. The boy opens the door and when the father happily said: «Mom, dad you came!»

In any school (not just school) grammar will be indicated that you came from (in this case) — form of the past tense perfect tense indicates action that occurred in past and completed at the time of speech. This is the traditional approach to which all speakers of the Russian language is used (moreover, it is the knowledge that none of us never in practice use it: after all, we all learned the native language, including grammar, in its infancy, when even I had no idea nor time, nor form, nor other subtleties of the grammar of science). But the study of English as a foreign language, this approach no longer suits us, as it allows to correlate what we know about our native language that we find in foreign. The cognitive approach focuses on to answer the question: «what informs the boy’s mother?» In this case, his exclamation is interpreted as: «I see dad. Starting with some point in the past, I have not seen him, i.e. he wasn’t home because he went on a business trip. Now dad is here again, so come (a logical conclusion based on background knowledge of the boy)». In other words, the meaning of the exclamation of the boy is: «Dad home again (I see again)». But it is now. In the English language, where the correspondence between temporal concepts and temporal forms of the verb are much more consistent than the Russian, is of course, the use of the present tense. Another question, which of the four possible: Simple, Progressive, Perfect or Perfect Progressive? And here comes the correct (i.e., cognitive) understanding of the category of aspect.

Using the categories of the type of man separates knowledge of their origin: we know about something, because I saw (heard, felt, etc.) it ourselves, and we know about something, because this knowledge was handed to us ready-made (someone said, read about it, learned at school, etc. — the possibilities here are very different). This distinction is important, and everyday activities we all the time take into account it at a subconscious level. We all know the proverb «Better to see once than hear a hundred times». Its meaning is that seen firsthand, as a rule, not questioned, whereas the knowledge obtained from other people’s hands, they’re not necessarily reliable. In this connection, will see what happens, if in the above situation, the boy is perfective of the verb use the imperfect: «Mom, dad has arrived!». Although technically this statement is grammatically correct, in our situation it can’t be used because it does not say. And don’t say that because you came does not indicate that at the time of utterance, the boy sees dad, while form came such instruction contains.

Unlike the Russian language from English is that in Russian this kind of semantic distinctions are very often not transmitted by the special form of the verb and the context. Compare the following examples: John smokes, despite the warnings of doctors; See Ivan’s Smoking again, despite the warnings of doctors. In the first case we are talking about what we know about Ivan, while it is not necessary that Ivan was in front of us; it can ever be in another city, even another country. In the second case we are talking about what we directly observe: this is clearly indicated by the verb see. The English language is much easier because there are these differences in meaning are special (specific) forms of the verb: Simple and Progressive, respectively. Note that the term view comes from the verb to see (which is etymologically connected with lat. videre to see and the Greek eidos — that apparently).

But we have talked about the two types of knowledge that correspond to two kinds: one is knowledge is a certain source of information (for example, the boy in the cited example), and other undetermined source (for example, saying Ivan smokes, I don’t give to understand how I know that). And forms of the English verb four. Why so many?

Yes, because a situation when we are talking about what is directly observable, can vary considerably, depending on what we see (hear, etc.). When I say, Look, Ivan smoke again, I have the opportunity to observe the process of Smoking (he’s holding a cigarette, puts it to his mouth, pulls the smoke and then releases it, the effect, generally speaking, meaningless and harmful). But if mom, meeting Ivan, he feels coming from his clothes smell of tobacco smoke and asks: have You been Smoking again?, she asks the question, based on what perceive in the moment of speech (in this case olfactory organs), and this, of course, present. But the action of Smoking she watches her perception available only to certain characteristics, saying that Ivan was Smoking. To Express this cognitive meaning in the English language has its own, special form of the verb — Perfect. This form is used when we compare what we see with what it was before (for example, in the morning from Ivan was no smell and now smell like smoke — then smoke). Finally, there may be occasions when we’re talking about directly observable action and at the same time compare what we see with what saw at some point (or some moments) before. For example, I see that John smokes now, but I have also seen him Smoking before, throughout the day. In this case, the Association is of two forms, expressing different cognitive meanings, and we have got very loved by many students form Perfect Progressive, although in reality it is not easy, but very simple.

Given (naturally, in very brief form) explanation of the cognitive content of English verb forms can be summarized in the form of a very simple algorithm that allows almost unerringly choose the correct form of the verb.

The algorithm for choosing vido-temporal verb forms:

  • Decide for yourself which time is the fact that you’re going to say (Present, Past, Future).
  • Decide for yourself what you’re going to say about what I see (saw, will see), or about what you know (knew, will know).

    • If it’s about what you see, ask yourself: «What do I see?»

      • See the action → Use the form Progressive
      • See the signs (traces) of actions → Use shape Perfect
      • See the action itself and compare what I see now with what was seen before -> Use form Perfect Progressive
    • If what you know (no matter where) → use the form Simple

This algorithm as an integral part of methods of teaching grammatical forms of the English verb is described in the textbook «English verb. New grammar for all» (Kravchenko A. V. (ed.), Irkutsk, 1999).

Moreover, the cognitive approach to English days allows you to clearly see that any so-called exceptions to the use of verbs of different groups in different grammatical forms do not exist. Thus, any verb (e.g., see, know, remember, like, etc.) can be used in the Progressive form, just need to know when it can and should be done, and when — not. Becomes clear the simple principle that determines the selection of speech passive or active voice; especially as this principle is exactly the same as in the Russian language.

In short, it turns out that there is nothing difficult and mysterious in the system of grammatical forms of the English verb is not. As practice shows, thinking person (whether a pupil, student or adult) learns the meaning and function of English tenses in a short time. The rest — a trick, training students in the use of the forms themselves and the automation of algorithm selection.