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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,
[s] after voiceless consonants (e.g. looks, puts), and [iz] af-
ter 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 о 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

У 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 nega-
tive 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 analyti-
cally, by means of the Present Indefinite of the auxiliary verb to
do followed by the infinitive of the notional verb without the par-
ticle 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) ac-
tions in the present.

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

This use of the Present Indefinite is often associated with such
adverbial modifiers of frequency as often, seldom, sometimes, occa-
sionally, always, never, ever, every year (week, month, day), usual-
ly, once {twice, three times) a year, daily, on Sundays (Mondays,
etc.) and the like. But it may also be found without any indica-
tions 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 gener-
ally indicate continuous, uninterrupted processes which naturally
include the present moment. Such actions give a general character-
istic to the person or thing denoted by the subject. Time indica-
tions 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

I hate authority. It spoils the relations between parent and

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 differ-
ence 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 perma-
nent 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 tak-
ing 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

"Chi-Chi is in the pen. She walks over to the travelling box.

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


с) In demonstrations:

Now I peelthe apples, slicethem and putinto the dish.
Then I whipthe cream until thick and pourit over the

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 understandwhat you mean.

She sipped her coffee and pulled a face. "It tastes horrible


He wantsto see you for a minute.
"Do you object, Dad?" said the girl.

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

e.g. "I repeat, the girl has been extremely impertinent," he said.
You leaveme no choice.
I swearit to you!

I refuseto listen to you. You talksuch 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 ex-
clamatory 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 ac-
tions. 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 conces-
sion when the action refers to the future (in such cases we usual-
ly 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 lookthrough 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, un-
less, on condition {that), provided {providing)
and in case.

e.g. If you sendme a line to my club, it'll be forwarded at once.
But I must have the doctor handy, in case she feelsworse.

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 willeventually 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,

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 im-
mediate 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'tyou gohome? ("Ты плохо выгля-
дишь. Почему бы тебе не пойти домой?')

d) The Present Indefinite may be used to indicate a future ac-
tion which is certain to take place according to a timetable, pro-
gramme, schedule, command or arrangement worked out for a per-
son 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 sleepat the Globo hotel this night and startfor
Berlin tomorrow morning, (according to the itinerary)

"Can you tell me what time the game startstoday, please?"
(according to the schedule)

When doesTed returnfrom his honeymoon? {according to his
official leave of absence)

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

Note. It should be noted that this use of the Present Indefinite is not inter-
changeable 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 historicor dramatic present.

e.g. She arrivesfull of life and spirit. And about a quarter of an
hour later she sits downin a chair, says she doesn't feel
well, gaspsa bit and dies.


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